Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 is as Choice Driven as I Hoped It Would Be
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 heavily relies on player choice in both dialogue and combat.
I was shocked when I first learned that Hardsuit Labs and Paradox Interactive were reviving Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines with a sequel. As a cult classic immersive sim RPG from a time when the genre wasn’t popular, I believed that Paradox would just be looking forward with their White Wolf IP and ignore Troika’s classic. Fortunately, this was not the case and Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 is arriving next year as part of a welcome wave of choice heavy games like The Outer Worlds, Cyberpunk 2077, and Dying Light 2.
Even among its peers, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 is still able to stand out despite some rough edges because of its intriguing world, mature take on the vampire genre, and variety of choices in both dialogue and combat. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 was already one of the 2020 games I was looking forward to most, and its E3 2019 showing only strengthened my confidence and anticipation for the game.
The portion of the game I saw was an extended version of the scenario featured in the game’s E3 trailer. In this early game mission, the player is still a Thinblood and is looking for a Nosferatu named Slugg in order to get data and gain favor with one of the factions led by a woman. Even from this first conversation, it became clear that choices were just as varied and interesting as the first game and exactly what players expect out of first person immersive sim RPGs like this. Choices and the subtitles that come with them matter, something that become even more obvious latter on in the demo. Our character agreed to find Slugg, which took him across town to the Seattle Underground.
While motion blur muddied some of the fast-paced gameplay, movement options seemed varied, especially when players are in the Chiropteran discipline that can glide, and Seattle’s nightlife seemed captured really well. Of course, players still have to be healthy and can’t spam powers or bite people out in the open as the masquerade has to be kept up. If the masquerade is broken, players will have to fend off both normal and supernatural forces; luckily, DualShockers didn’t have to deal with this in our demo. After learning that Slugg was in a homeless spot called The Jungle when in the underground, we set off to find him.
Along the way we ran into some thugs and were able to test out the Chiropteran’s Bat Swarm ability on them. It was immensely satisfying seeing a swarm of enemies take down adversaries, and this kind of creative power trip applies to most of the disciplines available in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2. My personal favorite was the Thaumaturgy, which basically allows players to bloodbend, either summoning a large spike made out of blood or outright blowing up enemies from the inside with Blood Boil, turning them into a bloody pulp. Hardsuit Labs stressed that they are aiming to make a more adult-oriented vampire game with Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, and that clearly shows throughout the gameplay as well.
The aforementioned variety in dialogue carries over to gameplay as well. The two disciplines I mentioned are only the tip of the iceberg, as there are many more disciplines and abilities depending on the clans players join. Even within objectives, there are varied ways to solve any situation. You can go in stealthily, tear through enemies with your vampiric powers, or smooth talk through most situations. Even though a lot of the animations in this early build still look a little janky, the pure variety of well-balanced options at a player’s disposal at any given time is certainly impressive and is exactly the kind of game fans of the original Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines are looking for.
Eventually, we tracked down Slugg in the Jungle and tried to sweet talk our way into getting the data. While we chose and option that seemed nice, we actually let on that we knew more than Slugg thought, causing him to freak out and summon other enemies to fight for him. This is just one example of the subtleties in the game’s dialogue system. Even though things do look like they get overwhelming in situations like this, the developer playing our demo even died here, it is only one route players can decide to go down and they will have a lot of options if they do. After beating all of Slugg’s enemies and killing him, we found the data in a nearby tent. Unfortunately, this data won’t be there for players to sneak in and find on their own, but the choices to reveal its location were impressive nonetheless.
After bringing the data back to the faction that sent us on this mission, we actually decided not to hand it over, damaging our reputation with that faction but giving us crucial data to bargain with later as well. Of course, this is only one of various routes this quest could have taken, as I’m sure some of you have seen from other gameplay videos and previews. The massive amount of choices at the player’s disposal is exactly what make games like Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 great, and even with motion blur and some janky animations in combat, the writing was still good and faithful to both the tabletop game and Bloodlines 2’s predecessor.
Even in a year where many Vampire: The Masquerade games and choice heavy RPGs are coming out, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 still emerges as one of my most hotly anticipated titles of 2020. It may lack the polish, at least at this point in development, of games like Dying Light 2 or Cyberpunk 2077, but Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2’s world is both grimey and engaging and the story and gameplay are hitting all of the right notes as a follow up to one of the 2000s best cult classic RPGs.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 releases for PC, PS4, and Xbox One in early 2020.