Let’s Play: Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines – Introduction

Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines logo

Since it is October, it seems like an appropriate time to start on a Let's Play of one of my favorite games of all time: Vampire the Masquerade - Bloodlines.

If you never heard about this game, the short of it, is that it is an RPG based on the tabletop RPG called Vampire: the Masquerade. In Bloodlines we play a fresh created vampire, in the modern day world,  that gets caught up into a power play between some older vampires.

If that sounds interesting to you can buy the game in Steam or GOG.com. If you buy it on Steam or have the original disc, I highly recommend to install the Unofficial Comunity Patch. It will make the game run in the more modern versions of Windows as well as allow higher resolutions than the original version did. It also fixes a ton of bugs.

If you have the GOG version you don't need to install the patch as their version already comes with it pre-installed.

I recommend to not install the Plus version of the patch that restores some of the cut content. At least for a first playthrough. That cut content doesn't add all that much, in my opinion, and the game is just enjoyable as it is.

A few notes about the game development

I think I should mention this too since it explains a lot of its flaws.

One of the problems is that the game was developed with an alpha version of the Source 2 engine (the same one used for Half-Life 2 and other Valve games). This in part explains a lot of the bugs and the crazy physics.

The other problem is that it went through some development hell (source). This shows into the later part of the game where it starts to lean more and more into combat to get the story moving along. While in the first 2/3 of the game it tries to give different options to solve problems. Those options aren't there just for fun but  also because it gives us different roleplay opportunities.

That is a shame because where Bloodlines shines is in those options on how to tackle problems, each with their own consequences. Although the combat in this game isn't terrible it isn't great enough to carry the game on its own either.

To make this even more tragic at the time of release the game didn't perform as well as expected and it ended up being the last game developed by Troika. They were a pretty good company that developed some pretty good (if flawed) RPGs.

I think the only companies that can match the kind of games they did nowadays, in terms of roleplay and gameplay depth, are Obsidian, Larian and CD Projekt Red. And Obsidian might drop off that list depending if they get bought by Microsoft and what happens to the company then.

Character Creation

Although in every RPG the character creation is a pretty important decision, I'd say that in Bloodlines it is even more important due to one choice: your clan. Without going into a huge lore dump about the clans in Vampire: The Masquerade, the simplest explanation I can give for them is that they are kinda like a flavour of vampire. Each clan has their own history, weaknesses, starting Disciplines (think of it as vampire super-powers) and even preferences over who they turn into a vampire.

In the tabletop game there are 13 total clans **. But in Bloodlines we can only choose among 7 of them for lore reasons.

In Bloodlines it matters not only because of the Disciplines you have available to you but also because it can affect some choices in the story. For the majority of the clans these differences in choices are minor. But for Malkavians and Nosferatus it changes the game in significant ways. So much that I'd recommend choosing them for a second (or later) playthrough.

The game gives us two choices on how to start character creation. We can answer a series of questions and then it suggests a clan for us to play. Or we can skip straight into Character Creation and just pick the clan there. I chose the later.

As for my pick of clan, as much as I'd like to play Malkavian (they are pretty fun) or Nosferatu I'd decided to go with something else. Just to not give some possible first-time players the wrong impression of this game.

Of the choices left I decided to go for Ventrue. They are the aristocrat vampires, the ones that tend to go for positions of leadership. Their weakness is that they can only gain sustenance from drinking certain types of blood. In Bloodlines it means they can't drink "lower quality" blood like the ones from homeless people or prostitutes. If they do they have a chance to vomit. Blood from rats also don't give any sustenance to them.

Honestly Ventrue are among the bottom of my list of favorite clans. But I chose them for this playthrough for one reason: their Dominate discipline. As the name implies it is one that allows mind-control and it should give some interesting dialogue choices. 🙂

Description of the Ventrue clan

Nigel Ethelbert character sheet
And yes, I did put my first Discipline point in fortitude instead of Dominate. Dominate 1 will get me through the game for now. Fortitude 2 on the other hand will help me survive some of the first battles.

I won't go into details of my choices of stats and skills as there isn't much a reason for it. All I will say is this, in a tabletop game I'd choose them based on  the character concept I have in mind. Since this is a computer game though this puts a lot of restrictions on what to pick if we want a character that can get to the end of the game. So my choices for character creation and development will be based on that.

As for the choices in the game itself, my philosophy with it will be to try to do what I think will be more interesting for this Let's Play. This means that some of those choices might be terrible things, some might be for the LULz, and some might be for options that aren't entirely obvious for a new player. Some I might even go for the XP, because again, this is a computer game and I'd like to stack the odds of surviving in my favor.

Oh, and I will be playing a male character called Nigel Ethelbert. :p

Credits of the Vampire: the Masquerade - Bloodlines logo to the Wikimedia Commons.

** Depending on the edition you may find the 13 clans description in the base book. In some editions though it only has the 7 camarilla founding clans and the other six are described in source books.

3 thoughts on “Let’s Play: Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines – Introduction

  1. Mailvaltar

    It's one of my all time favourite games too.

    The late game being overwhelmingly combat-focused, as you mentioned, is one of only two gripes I really have.

    The other one is the horrifically unbalanced state of the disciplines. I assume they just hadn't the resources to develop even more different solution methods for all quests, but as it is disciplines like Obfuscate are just plain useless in my opinion, as you can complete every quest and every encounter in the game without it.
    This wouldn't be such a problem if you didn't have to effectively give up a potentially much stronger discipline for it. I aborted my Malkavian playthrough because I just couldn't stand the combat as early as Chinatown. Knowing that much tougher battles were still ahead of me I just said no way.
    Whereas with a Brujah you can just grab a sword, activate Celerity and Potence, and hack your way to the end without even breaking a sweat.

    And yet, as I said, it's one of my favourite games ever. I guess it speaks a lot for a game's qualities when one is willing to overlook such glaring flaws (and all those bugs and hiccups you mentioned too).

    Reply
    1. Rakuno

      I agree that the game is pretty unbalanced. I disagre about Obfuscate being useless though. It make some parts of the game much easier. For example, being a Nosferatu and doing the Ankharam Sarcophagus part with Obfuscate makes it a lot easier. Same for the museum part.

      Malkavian I didn't feel were that much harder in terms of combat in the late game. I don't remember if it was because I abused Dementation or I just endured it. It has been a long time since I played with a Malkavian so my memory is pretty fuzzy. All I remember is they were the most fun character I played with. XD

      Agreed about how much it speaks volumes about the game's qualities. Which just makes it so more tragic that they couldn't have spent more time polishing it. If we ever get lucky and get another Vampire (or even from another World of Darkness core book, like Werewolf) hopefully they will take some notes from this game and it can be even greater than this one.

      Reply
      1. Mailvaltar

        Dear god, the museum. That one is a pain without either Celerity or Obfuscate, I have to agree. 🙂

        I'm hoping for another game in that universe too. Whoever is going to develop it really should take a good look at what made Bloodlines great.

        Reply

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