Vampire the Masquerade - Redemption - Review

Filling up on Vitae

By: Metus

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 9
   Plot 8
   Replay Value 3
   Visuals 10
   Difficulty Hard
   Time to Complete

30-40 hours


Vampire: The Masquerade

   The recently released Vampire: The Masquerade RPG has been doing pretty well, having some of the highest pre-orders ever taken with Electronics Boutique. Produced by the software group called Nihilistic and released by Activision, this is one game that certainly brought an interesting (albeit old) concept to the table; playing as a vampire. I remember viewing it on my latest trip to E3 and chatting with some of the makers, and they helped the game give off an even more positive impression then it already had. (Even snagged me a cool poster of it ;) One thing I would like to notify everyone of is that I have played and beaten this game WITHOUT the new patch, which makes a few notable changes to the system. However, the core of the gameplay (and story) is still the same.

   Combat in this game is completely real-time. Something worthy of noting is that in the aforementioned patch, they added the ability to pause during combat, which allows a more tactical approach. Yet there are no set turns or anything along the lines of that. The setup is a point-and-click interface: left-click to move and attack. You can hold down the left mouse button on your target to continually attack it, but because the enemy is constantly moving, it's very ineffective. There are three bars displayed, those being health, blood and frenzy level, in that order. Your frenzy increases with the amount of damage you take, or if an enemy vampire increases it using a discipline, and if it hits max your character goes psycho (with accompanying facial animation) and attacks/bites/kills anything near him or her, including allies.

   Every character can achieve disciplines, which are different categories each containing unique abilities. Animalism allows you to change into a wolf, and protean allows you to change your hands into claws, ripping into your targets and causing extreme damage. To activate a discipline requires blood, which plenty of enemies are full of. You can suck someone's blood until it kills them (with vampires turning into dust, a very cool looking death), but if you kill an innocent townsperson, you'll take a humanity hit. If you lose all humanity, you turn into a raging beast and lose the game. Something that should be mentioned is that in the un-patched version, you could only save at save points (which you console players are very familiar with) or when entering a new area. However, it caused a major uproar in the player base, and so the patch allows you to save anywhere at any time.

Two out of three agree: This is not the greatest spot to be in.
Two out of three agree: This is not the greatest spot to be in.  

   Navigating among the world is fairly easy, and if your mouse pointer touches the side of the screen the camera floating above will rotate in that direction. A few people I know didn't particularly like that and thought it to be unwieldy, but I believe it helps to immerse the player into the world by not crowding the screen with interface bars, which could detract from the experience. I felt that everything was user-friendly and laid out appropriately.

   The music in this game is outstanding, with it being one of the main high points. Even though I've beaten it, I still pop in the music CD and jam to some tunes (the collector's edition comes with a soundtrack). The present day background music is my favorite. Nihilistic even hired a certain band (whose name eludes me at the moment) to perform a few of their songs. I felt that the music was fitting, very well done and obviously made by highly skilled professionals. The sounds are adequate, with everything in that department being as it should. I would like to point out the voice acting, because like the music, it was also done by professionals. In fact you might recognize Christof's voice; it was the same guy who did The Brain in the cartoon show "Pinky and the Brain". Although he's a famous actor who's done lots of bits, that actually hurt the game for me, simply because every time I would hear him I would envision a large mouse walking around. But I don't want to discredit him or any of the other cast, because the man is skilled. All of them successfully convey the emotions and personalities of the characters they represent.

   I've tried thinking of any other RPG that focuses on being a vampire as the main character, but none come to mind. This game was of course inspired by the live RPG, Vampire: The Masquerade, but that's an evident connection. It brings a lot of new elements to the table, and you have to start worrying about getting enough blood and avoiding holy water among other things. Taking everything into perspective, I would have to give this game a high originality score, because I've never played anything with the theme and specific style that is present.

   The main character's personality and life are developed nicely, but sometimes it feels as if the other NPCs are just there to help with combat; more time should have been spent delving into their characters. Mixed feelings arise about the plot. On one hand, the story is excellent and during the whole time I was playing, the main motivation factor to continue would be to see the progression of things. An extremely cool aspect, as promoted on the back of the box, is surviving as a vampire across 800 years. I want to see one other game be able to say that. On the other hand, it can start to become increasingly tedious because of all the dungeon crawls, and believe me when I say that there are a LOT of dungeon crawls. The entire game has a certain pattern it follows, which is storyline plot, dungeon crawl, storyline plot, dungeon crawl, etc, etc. Don't get me wrong, fighting as a vampire and using disciplines and such is fun, but there is so much that it can get overwhelming. Plus, I know there are usually tons of baddies in the standard RPG, but for some reason when I finished the game I felt as if I had fought and killed the entire population of a small country.

Nothing beats a good party...except a better one.
Nothing beats a good party...except a better one.  

   Once you beat V:tM, there's no real reason to replay it. As I've said, the main motivation for me was furthering the storyline, but as soon as that's gone, all there is left are those tedious dungeons. There are three different endings, but you can see all three of them if you do the proper things five minutes before the end. Although there may be no replay value for the single player part, there are multiplayer games you can join. You can even host your own "chronicles" and go to all the locales you've played in and populate them with whatever you want. You can create your own multiplayer character, picking your vampire clan and distributing points for your skills and abilities. Besides standard games being run, there are social bars where you can go to with your character to do some pure role-playing. Don't get too excited about online play though, because the majority of players don't role-play, and some just want to go on to kill everything they see. However, if you got a proper game set up with proper players, it could turn out to be very entertaining.

If there's something that no one can disagree about, it's the graphics. Quite simply, they are astounding. Each city has beautiful backgrounds, from run-down apartment buildings to huge cathedrals. The FMVs might not be the most exciting ones ever, but graphically they're up to par. The monsters look sharp, the characters look detailed, the disciplines look great and the weapons look nice. Basically, it's all good. ;)

Most of the people I know who played this game became discouraged at some point because they were killed so easily. I was pretty lucky because I was well prepared for most of the situations I encountered, but there were a few enemies who I don't know how I actually defeated. In the patch, they mentioned making one person easier, because if you didn't stake him right at the beginning he would eliminate your party with ease. Unfortunately, your party being eliminated could happen lots in this game. The NPC party AI can be atrocious, and it got to the point where I would tell the three others to wait around while I went and cleared out a place by myself. Even the most common enemy can be extremely powerful given the right circumstances. All that plus the fact that there is no difficulty setting can make V:tM one of the hardest games you've ever played. There are things you can do to work around the difficulty, but most of them are considered bugs.

You don't look so scary!
You don't look so scary!  

I beat this game close to 35 hours, and I knew what I was doing. If it's your third or fourth time playing (although I don't see why, given the replay value) then you could probably skim by at 30. If it's your first time playing and you're not using a strategy guide and trying to do everything, I'd say it would take about 40 hours. Whether I came off positive or negative with this review, I am definitely glad I got to play this game. I might not want to play it over again mind you, but on my first way through it was fun, exciting and had new ideas and new concepts. One event that happens in the game is one of the coolest experiences I've had in an RPG, and I won't be forgetting it any time soon. Overall I would say that if it sounds interesting, and you plan on checking out the multiplayer part, it's well worth your money. If you have doubts or you're not impressed with it, then I would hold off until it went down in price a bit.

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