cwaff's Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines (PC) review

A Flawed Gem

The game begins with you deciding which race you want to play of which there are 6 and each of them has their own unique playstyle.

Tremere - Warlock like vampires who specialise in "Blood Magic".

Toreador - Traditional seductive vampire, good for a first playthrough.

Nosferatu - Best for advanced players due to their sneaking nature which means they have to use the sewers for transport around cities to avoid unwanted attention.

Dancing Malkavian
Malkavian - Vampires who have become psychotic, hilarious dialogue and a generally different experience than the others, recommended for a second playthrough.

Brujah - Thuggish vampires known for their temper which can lead to frenzies more often.

Gangrel - Vampires in touch with their inner beast, focused heavily on melee combat.

Ventrue - Upper class vampires who are generally more accepted in the kindred society.

The combat system of VTMB is rather unique from other games. Melee combat is done in the third person view and firearms are done in the first person view. This gives you a choice of which way you would like to play the game. Unfortunately this is where the game falters most. While the combat is satisfying it can cause you problems. If you go down the melee path you are likely to struggle at some points in the game which are obviously meant for firearms. For example a sniper battle nearing the end of the game. The firearms then sound like a clear choice? No.

When using firearms I felt that something was missing, perhaps I should have trained a little more on firearms but what I did find was the damage that was done to enemies was rather random. I would shoot someone in the chest with a shotgun for 30 damage, then take another shot for 4…
There is also a lot of blood in the combat which made it feel very satisfying. Just hitting someone with a baseball bat as blood splattered the ground and walls made you feel ecstatic in a strange and demented way...

What I did like however was the levelling up system, you don't get experience from killing enemies in most RPGs but where you do get them is from completing quests. This encourages you to do sidequests and search them out rather than ignore them. Each side quest seems to have a story which keeps you interested and when you finish them you feel like you really accomplished something.

There are many memorable characters throughout the game including Jeanette and Therese Voerman who run The Asylum nightclub in Santa Monica as well as Nights Rodriguez, leader of the anarchist movement and Prince Lacroix.

Overall the storyline is great, it is filled with twists and turns of which you would never see and it has 5 possible endings which will arise depending on who you were loyal to during your playthrough.

I played VTMB over 4 years after its 2004 release and I have to say that it has aged fairly well. For its time it seemed to have excellent graphics complete with lip syncing and facial expressions which gives the characters much more depth. The areas look presentable and  fit well into the setting they have given us of a night-time Los Angeles.

The soundtrack for the game is excellent, there are many tracks which have been recorded especially for the game. I found the song "Isolated" from The Asylum stuck in my head for quite a while afterwards. The sound effects in the Ocean House are great, the ghostly whispers, screams and footsteps add to the eeriness of the area. The voice acting is consistently good throughout and you never feel like you are talking to a model rather than a person.

Malkavians have rather strange dialogue options.

The thing that made VTMB for me were all the little things. The working radios which run letting you hear a midnight radio show. I found myself taking breaks from the main quest and just stopping to listen to some hilarious topics. The TVs also show a news channel which lets you see what else is going on in LA. Another thing I liked was how each clan brought about a very different playthrough, especially the Malkavian which changed the dialogue options to coincide with their insanity.

So far the game sounds rather perfect… but unfortunately it does have some significant problems.
It is extremely buggy throughout. I found more bugs towards the end of the game rather than the start and it did begin to annoy me towards the end. In the final chapters of the game I had problems with teleporting AI which was able to annihilate me quite quickly and I had to finish the game on a trial and error basis quicksaving and reloading every minute or so.

If you plan on playing the game be sure to patch it with the official patches up to v1.2 and then with the community patches which are currently at v6.0. This will minimise the bugs that you see however it will still not be perfect.

Final Statement

Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines is an amazing game and if you can look past the flaws in the combat system and the occasional bug here and there you will have an enjoyable time playing through it and if you are like me you will play through it numerous times.
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