After 15 years, we’re finally getting a sequel to VAMPIRE THE MASQUERADE: BLOODLINES.

This announcement took the RPG community by storm, stunning people like me who assumed the franchise was dead.

However, many were left scratching their heads, wondering what all the fuss is about. Why are so many people raving about a janky RPG from the mid-2000s? Well, that’s a question I aim to answer.

So what’s the big deal with VAMPIRE THE MASQUERADE: BLOODLINES? What makes it such an important game? Why should we care about the sequel? Well, let’s take a look!

What Is VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE?

VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE is more than a video game. It began in 1991 as part of WORLD OF DARKNESS, a series of fantasy tabletop games.

In WORLD OF DARKNESS, wizards, werewolves, and vampires hide in plain sight. It’s a world where modern culture clashes with ancient magic. A world where secret societies desperately try to keep the supernatural a secret. It’s the epitome of modern fantasy, and it quickly became a staple of old school RPGs.

As the name suggests, VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE is about vampires hiding among us. “The Masquerade” is a widespread campaign to suppress the existence of vampires, something that has become increasingly difficult in the modern age. If vampires were exposed to the world, humanity would quickly rise up against them. As such, most vampires support the Masquerade. A union of vampire clans, known as The Camarilla, enforces the Masquerade, keeping the clans in relative peace.

VAMPIRE THE MASQUERADE BLOODLINES 2
What a happy family! (Image courtesy of White Wolf)

The tabletop game centers around the intrigue, politics, and conflicts surrounding the Masquerade. Players find themselves as newly risen vampires, caught in the middle of ancient political struggles and an unforgiving hierarchy of blood-sucking fiends.

How BLOODLINES Revolutionized RPGs

In 2004, the series evolved, taking its first steps into the world of video games.

BLOODLINES is an action-RPG based on the tabletop classic. The game is outdated by today’s standards, but at the time it was revolutionary. BLOODLINES is a near perfect fusion of classic RPG systems and modern game mechanics. The world feels dense and the player can explore it at will. It uses real-time action combat, enhanced with the stats and abilities of an RPG. The game is accessible enough for almost anyone to get into, even without any knowledge of tabletop games.

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This is actually pretty simple for a full-fledged RPG. Trust me, it’s easy to get into, and offers a ton of depth. (Image courtesy of White Wolf)

Most importantly, the game offers a plethora of choices and consequences, making it a paragon of modern RPGs.

Choices That Matter

One of the first choices you make is which clan to join. These clans are the eponymous “bloodlines” of the game. Which clan bites you determines what kind of vampire you’ll become. In terms of gameplay, each clan radically changes your experience throughout the game. There are seven clans in total.

For example, let’s say you join up with the Toreador. These guys are essentially the “sexy” vampires of BLOODLINES. They’re beautiful, artistic, social, and, above all, vain. Playing as a Toreador gives you massive bonuses to charisma and mind control. However, they’re so obsessed with beauty and pleasure that they easily become captivated by even the most mundane things.

Your experience completely changes if you join the Nosferatu. These guys are so obviously inhuman that their mere presence can break the Masquerade. Because of this, Nosferatu spend their time in the shadows, hiding in the sewers and gathering intelligence from other clans. Many are also skilled hackers, hiding their grotesque forms behind a computer screen.

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Seen here: literal internet trolls.

Playing a Nosferatu essentially turns BLOODLINES into a stealth game. While a Toreador solves problems through dialogue and NPC interaction, a Nosferatu avoids people altogether.

It Just Gets Deeper

It doesn’t stop there. Clan Tremere has access to magic, adding a unique mechanic to the game. Malkavians are both psychic and insane. This radically changes the dialogue in the game, with your player spouting prophetic, often comical, nonsense.

Remember: all of this stems from a single choice made at the beginning of the game. One of the many choices you’ll make throughout. This single choice cascades into hundreds of unique experiences. On top of your clan choice, there are multiple solutions to quests, entire areas to explore full of secrets and side quests, and branching paths based on your decisions.

This is the beauty of BLOODLINES. It offers a level of choice, consequence, and expression that every RPG should strive for.

So, What About the Sequel?

Well, aside from a flashy trailer, we really don’t know much about BLOODLINES 2. The game is still in its early stages and we’re left wondering exactly how it will live up to its namesake.

So far, we know the game takes place in Seattle, Washington. The original game takes place in Los Angeles and ties in deeply with the culture of the city. WORLD OF DARKNESS has a habit of merging real-world culture, fashion, and social issues with supernatural themes. According to the lore, Seattle has always been a haven for the kindred. It’ll be interesting to see how they incorporate the unique history and culture of Seattle into the world of BLOODLINES.

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Seattle: a city that runs on blood. (Image courtesy of Paradox Interactive)

The developers promise that the game will continue the series’ legacy of deep choices, branching paths, and player-driven experiences. At the same time, the developers seem very enthusiastic about the new combat system. Combat was always the weakest aspect of the game, and the developers seem determined to improve it. Supposedly, combat is both fast-paced and deep, designed to make you feel like a superhuman monster.

But other than that, we really don’t know much. So far, all signs point to a studio that is passionate about the franchise and has the talent to execute its vision. Only time will tell.

The Point

Modern RPGs can learn a lot from BLOODLINES. Whenever someone tells me that we shouldn’t expect depth from modern RPGs, this is the game I point to. Whenever people say I’m too hard on games like SKYRIM or FALLOUT 4, this is my point of reference.

BLOODLINES is the bar by which I judge modern-style RPGs. Sure, it’s not perfect, and every RPG has its own vision, but if a niche franchise from a middling studio could make a game like this, imagine what a modern AAA studio could do. I don’t want every RPG to be a carbon copy of BLOODLINES. I want them to be made with the same depth and fervor.

This series proves that with enough talent and passion, you can have a modern, accessible, “big” feeling game without sacrificing depth, choice, and diverse gameplay. We should expect this level of quality from any RPG that boasts “choice” and “player expression.” In fact, a game from 2004 should be the bare minimum.

Hopefully, BLOODLINES 2 continues to raise the bar, inspiring other studios to follow in its footsteps.

3 Comments

  1. Eclair

    April 23, 2019 at 3:40 am

    if you listen closely you can hear people downloading the game to play it again. speaking of which i think its time for another playthrough since they did release a new patch and all

    Reply

    • Whelp

      April 23, 2019 at 5:14 am

      *Sigh*. Yep, time for another playthrough I guess. 15 years later and I still haven’t done Gangrel…

      Reply

    • psychotrip

      April 24, 2019 at 1:43 pm

      After writing this article I immediately booted up the game again. Hope you liked the article!

      Reply

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