Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is a deliciously suave and glamorous vampire homicide thriller that succeeds in navigating straightforward blood-thirsty predator tropes to ship a decidedly mature and cerebral role-playing expertise. It’s one of the crucial shocking video games of the 12 months – to this point – that unshackles itself from being billed as a well timed RPG-heavy VTM top-up whereas Paradox Interactive kinds out the Bloodlines 2 mess.
And, what a premise to begin us off. Step apart, Mr. Icke: shape-shifting reptilian monarchs and heads of state don’t rule the world. As an alternative, a cabal of vampires shapes civilizations from the shadows. These aren’t feral fang-bearers however puppet masters working in a codified world with chains of command, protocols, traditions, and underhand politics to increase their affect and safeguard the masquerade.
Their attain extends far. Take veganism: a dietary fad promoted by vampires to enhance the standard of human blood. Wars? Local weather change? The vamps are someway concerned. Then there are blood bars serving up costly vintages, concocted from a mix of experimental medicine fed to not-so-willing mortals. It’s such a compelling and cohesive world that it’s powerful to not be solely sucked in, even for these detached to the cult tabletop recreation.
Three’s a Crowd
Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong throws you into this world within the position of three vampires sure to the Boston courtroom, tasked with fixing a ugly bloodbath by means of detective work and hard-fought conversational skirmishes to extract very important data from reluctant or downright harmful characters.
We have now the stone-cold and persuasive elder courtroom henchman Galeb; Emem, a vibrant and likable go-between for the town’s many rival factions; and Leysha, a mom troubled by premonitions and fragile psychological well being typically manipulated by the Council. They really feel actual and nuanced, every with private motivations, allegiances, doubtful morals, and preoccupations that form and propel Swansong ahead with a reputable human contact.
It’s a real pleasure to discover and information their particular person tales because the homicide thriller premise quickly unravels into an existential menace that considerations all of Boston’s invisible vamps. Leysha’s story, specifically, shines by means of for its depiction of abuse and psychological sickness, tackling it in a manner that highlights the oft-difficult process of separating the fabrications of a lapsing thoughts from actuality.
Choices, Choices, Choices
Every character comes with their very own set of skills to discover Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong’s numerous chapters, which is the place the extra numbers-based RPG elements play out.
Relying on how effectively you navigate its interactions and secrets and techniques, every accomplished chapter nets you a inventory of factors you could dish out into expertise and disciplines. These vary from bodily attributes that mean you can blink throughout vertiginous gaps to psychological aptitudes corresponding to rhetoric and psychology. There are additionally extra purposeful expertise, corresponding to the power to hack know-how and locks.
Company is a key theme right here. You construct up and form these characters’ skill-sets as you see match. A lot of your time is spent placing these into play as you decrypt homicide scenes and sift by means of paperwork for treasured clues, all in preparation for Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong’s show-stealing phrase duels. The way you go about doing that is as much as you.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong’s Phrase Dueling
Each resolution feels weighty and impactful, typically leaving you questioning whether or not you made the precise name. Killing off a personality has results that ripple all through the remainder of a play-through. Upgrading a specific talent over one other simplifies an environmental puzzle however could complicate a tricky dialog. Lacking an important piece of data cranks up the problem of the subsequent chapter. You get the thought.
Not like many different branching path video games, your decisions don’t calcify into an immovable narrative finish, nor does every state of affairs have to play out primarily based on an outlined set of steps. It’s ripe for a number of play-throughs and having accomplished the sport as soon as, there’s a way Swansong has loads extra to supply.
The psychological sparring provided by Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong’s conversational confrontations are a delight. They’re a check of wits the place the flawed reply or a botched digital cube roll can have your vampire fumbling within the face of an NPC’s psychological would possibly. You’ll additionally have to handle sparse focus and starvation factors, feeding on unwitting mortals away from prying eyes to replenish your shares however not draining these blood vessels a lot as to lift suspicion. It’s fantastically intense and rewarding.
Pen and Paper
Whenever you’re not fielding sharp barbs and toiling over hefty choices, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong places you head to head with some tough previous puzzles. Whereas dialogue operates inside a well-defined interface, the sport’s puzzling and problem-solving are much more open.
You’re free to comb by means of flats, workplaces, and rival hideouts to amass a mix of data drip-fed by means of experiences, Polaroids, work, audio logs, and sticky notes. These all carry clues to revealing hid rooms, deciphering passwords, and monitoring down narrative-important NPCs. One, specifically, has you evident at a four-piece unfold of Oedipus-inspired work, jotting down the instructions the mother-wedding Greek lad’s pointing in direction of to finest a bookcase puzzle.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong throws a variety of data your manner in that sense and is finest performed alongside a pocket book to jot down doubtlessly precious particulars. It’s a recreation for the affected person, for many who get pleasure from immersing themselves in lore, and those that just like the gratification of wielding logic and curiosity to progress.
Other than the odd fast time occasion and an exciting late-game encounter with a sure feral beast, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is basically freed from fight and heart-rate elevating motion. It’s violent, bleak, and grisly, although most of this doesn’t come from a flurry of deft button combos however easy interactions and cut-scenes.
Whereas Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong environments and settings are lavishly detailed, the identical can’t be stated for the character fashions and animations. Many drag themselves round with an unmistakably synthetic gait, bearing stiff, at occasions, gormless facial animations. Although these initially detract from the laborious work on Massive Dangerous Wolf’s half to current a trendy and plausible world, they’re shortly forgotten and excused as an endearing quirk due to the standard of the voice performing performances and powerful writing.
Although you’re unlikely to come across any efficiency points throughout a play-through of Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong, we did locate the occasional difficult development block. For instance, doorways failing to open after brief cutscenes and narrative-crucial NPCs lacking interplay prompts. These often disappeared with a reload or, at worst, restarting the chapter, however we’d prefer to see Massive Dangerous Wolf patch these up in time for launch.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong Conclusion
Feeling like a mix of Disco Elysium, Deus Ex, LA Noire, and Detroit: Develop into Human with an excellent dose of Telltale’s narrative-driven design, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong provides an oddly human depth to a vampiric energy journey by means of the World of Darkness. It convincingly ports the gothic intrigue and freedom of an engrossing late-night pen-and-paper session.
Every chapter is a wealthy showdown of wits and sleuthing expertise, efficiently granting gamers a stage of company that few different video games do. It gained’t be to everybody’s style. However for these blissful to slip into the footwear of a gang of conflicted bloodsuckers and expertise a gripping story punctuated with twists and turns, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is one thing actually moderately particular.