Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines
Vampire - The Masquerade – Bloodlines Coverart.png
Developer(s)Troika Games
Publisher(s)Activision
Director(s)
Producer(s)
Designer(s)
  • Brian Mitsoda
  • Chad Moore
  • TJ Perillo
  • Jason D. Anderson
  • Leonard Boyarsky
Programmer(s)Andrew Meggs
Writer(s)
  • Brian Mitsoda
  • Chad Moore
  • TJ Perillo
  • Jason D. Anderson
  • Leonard Boyarsky
Composer(s)Rik Schaffer
EngineSource
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows
Release
  • NA: November 16, 2004
  • EU: November 19, 2004
Genre(s)Action role-playing
Mode(s)Single-player

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is a 2004 action role-playing video game developed by Troika Games and released by Activision for Microsoft Windows. Set in White Wolf Publishing's World of Darkness, the game is based on White Wolf's role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade and follows either a male or female character who is killed and subsequently revived as a fledgling vampire. The game depicts the fledgling's journey through the early 21st-century Los Angeles to uncover the truth behind a recently discovered relic that heralds the end of all vampires.

Bloodlines is presented from first- and third-person perspectives. The player assigns their character to one of several vampire clans—each with unique powers, customizes their combat and dialog abilities and progresses through Bloodlines using violent and nonviolent methods. The selection of clan affects how the player is perceived in the game world, and which powers and abilities they possess; this opens up different avenues of exploration and methods of interacting with or manipulating other characters. The player is able to complete side missions away from the primary storyline by moving freely between the available hubs: Santa Monica, Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles, and Chinatown.

Troika's 32-member team began development of Bloodlines in November 2001, as an indirect sequel to the previous year's Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption. Troika used Valve Corporation's Source game engine, then in development, which was being used for Valve's own Half-Life 2. The game's production was turbulent, as the design's scope exceeded the available resources, and the team were left without a producer for nearly a year until Activision appointed David Mullich to the role, where he found designs and levels unfinished or abandoned. After three years in development with no end in sight and running over budget, Activision set a strict deadline for completion, and Bloodlines was released incomplete in November 2004.

Released in competition with Half-Life 2 and several other titles, Bloodlines sold fewer than 80,000 copies during its initial release, which was considered a poor performance. It divided critics at the time; although they praised the game's writing and scale of choice, they criticized its technical flaws. It was Troika Games' last production before its failure in early 2005, when it was unable to secure additional projects. The game has a cult following as a rarely replicated example of gameplay and narrative, and contemporary reception recognises it as a flawed masterpiece. Since its original release in 2004, Bloodlines received post-release support from fans, supplying unofficial fixes and re-adding unused content.

Gameplay

Bloodlines is an action role-playing video game optionally presented from the first- or third-person perspective.[1] Before the game begins, players create a male or female vampire character by selecting a vampire clan and configuring available points in three areas—Attributes, Abilities and Disciplines (vampiric powers)—or by answering questions, which create a character for the player.[1][2] The player can select one of seven vampire clans:[3] the powerful Brujah, the decadent Toreador, the insane Malkavian,[4] the aristocratic Ventrue,[3] the monstrously-deformed Nosferatu, the blood-magic wielding Tremere,[5] or the animalistic Gangrel.[6]

The player builds their character by spending acquired points to increase their ratings in the three areas. The points spent on Attributes and Abilities combine to determine a player's success or effectiveness in performing tasks such as using firearms, brawling, and lock-picking; for example, determining how accurate or how far the player can shoot, or if they can hack a computer.[7][8][9] Attributes are represented by physical (strength, dexterity, and stamina), social (charisma, manipulation, and appearance), and mental (perception, intelligence, and wits). Abilities are talents (such as brawling and dodging), skills (such as firearms and melee) and knowledges (such as computers and investigation).[9] The player is initially assigned points to spend in the three areas, with the amount they can spend determined by clan; for example, the Brujah can spend the most points on physical and skill attributes. During character creation, each upgrade costs one point. The upgrade cost increases as the game progresses.[6] Each ability can be raised from zero to five, and it is impossible to accrue enough experience points to complete every skill (allowing the player to specialize or balance their character).[1][7] Experience points are gained by completing quests, finding items or unlocking secret paths, rather than killing enemies, and are used to increase or unlock the character's statistics and abilities.[10][11] The game features a main story, and optional side quests that can be completed at any time; the player is able to move between the available areas at will to revisit locations, characters, or merchants.[12]

The player's clan affects their skills and powers. Although the attractive Toreadors receive bonuses for seduction and persuasion, opening additional dialog options, they are physically weak; the Nosferatu are forced to travel in the shadows or through sewers to avoid alerting humans, but receive bonuses to their intelligence and computer skills, which enables access to more information. The Malkavians have separate dialog options, reflecting their inherent insanity.[8] Upgrading some skills provides additional dialog options; attractive and charismatic characters seduce to get their way, aggressive characters threaten, and others persuade their targets to cooperate.[3][13]

Bare-chested character with an axe in an open space
From the third-person perspective, a Malkavian wields a melee weapon. The interface shows character health and weapon on the left, with available blood and Disciplines on the right.

Firearms combat is first-person, with character points assigned to the firearms skill determining the shot's accuracy and how long it takes to target an opponent.[14] Melee combat is third-person,[1] with access to weapons such as katanas and sledgehammers for melee combat,[15] or pistols, crossbows and flamethrowers for firearm combat.[16] If a player sneaks up on an opponent, they can perform an instant kill; weapons provide unique instant kill animations.[15] The player can block attacks manually or automatically, by leaving their character idle.[17] They can use stealth in missions by sneaking past guards and security cameras, picking locks, and hacking computers to locate alternative routes.[1]

Each clan has specific Disciplines, which can be used in combat and to create approaches to quests.[1] Although some powers overlap clans, no two clans share the same three Disciplines.[18] More physical vampires can enhance themselves to become fast and lethal killers or summon spirit allies to attack their foes; others can mentally dominate their targets to force their cooperation or render themselves invisible to hide from detection;[1] and others can boil their opponent's blood from afar.[5] Some Disciplines, such as Auspex (which boosts perception, highlighting other characters' auras through obstacles) and Blood Buff (which temporarily upgrades strength, dexterity, stamina and lockpicking), are common to all vampires.[19] Several abilities can be active at the same time.[20] Blood is a primary currency in Bloodlines, used to activate Disciplines and abilities. It is drained with each use, and can be replenished by drinking from rats, visiting blood banks or drinking from humans by attacking or seducing them;[1][5] the player can feed on enemies during combat.[21] Drinking from innocents for too long can kill them, costing a character humanity points.[5]

Players are penalized for using certain vampiric abilities in front of witnesses; exposing their existence loses masquerade points, although additional masquerade points can be earned with quests and other actions. Violating the masquerade five times draws the ire of vampire hunters and loses the game.[5][15] The player has humanity points, representing the vampire's humanity. Some actions cost humanity points; a low humanity score alters available dialog options to become more aggressive, and increases the chance of entering a frenzied state and embarking on a killing spree, when the vampire's blood is low. This frenzy can also be triggered by a large amount of damage. Like masquerade points, losing all humanity points ends the game, with the vampire becoming a mindless beast.[5][17] Some areas, known as Elysium, prevent the use of Disciplines or weapons.[20] Players can recruit a female ghoul, Heather, as a customizable servant who gives them blood, gifts, and money.[22]