Fifteen years is a very long time. We’ve gone by three presidents, ten iPhones, and video games – each when it comes to story and design – have developed by leaps and bounds. After I realized that Paradox was working with Hardsuit Labs on a follow-up to 2004’s Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, I used to be stunned and greater than a bit intrigued. I bought to see a prolonged stay demo of the sport and communicate to a few of its artistic crew earlier than its reveal at GDC 2019, and I used to be thrilled to see that Bloodlines 2 appears to be like prefer it may give even the most important, most anticipated RPGs of the following few years a run for his or her cash.
The core features that made up the unique are nonetheless there, in fact – you play as a newly-minted (or “embraced”) vampire, making an attempt to outlive the key world of vampires, werewolves and different issues that go bump within the evening which you’re now part of. Concurrently, you’re additionally making an attempt to keep up a grasp of your humanity, which might develop into tougher and tougher the extra you feed on people or give in to your newfound beastly urges. Lastly, you’ve bought to handle all of this whereas holding it hidden from human sight – sustaining the titular “Masquerade” – to make sure that the world your vampiric masters have labored so onerous to create isn’t all of the sudden thrown into chaos. So, sure – Bloodlines 2 is undoubtedly the successor to the unique that it claims to be, nevertheless it undoubtedly doesn’t appear like a recreation primarily based on one thing from 2004, both.
Hardsuit Labs’ rendering of present-day Seattle appears to be like nice, it’s modern-gothic aesthetic making a dreary but vibrant world that I’m excited to probe for myself. The demo I noticed took us by not solely the foggy streets and alleyways of Pioneer Sq., which serves as one of many recreation’s explorable hub areas, however down by the sewers and Seattle’s creepy underground metropolis and – in a enjoyable nod to the unique’s opening in Santa Monica – the waterfront district, full with a ferris wheel on one in every of its piers.
“The wonderful thing about the World of Darkness IP,” in accordance with Brian Mitsoda, Narrative Director for Hardsuit Labs (and story lead for the unique Bloodlines), “is that you just go to any metropolis, and there are a thousand tales you may inform. For us, it’s trying on the battle of our personal metropolis – of Seattle making an attempt to have a look at its identification. The outdated, the traditional concept of Seattle, and the brand new company tech aspect, with trillion-dollar firms. It’s altering the town proper in entrance of our eyes, and so this got here very simply to us.”
This notion of coming to phrases with one’s identification is current all through the sport, however is very prevalent in the case of character creation and the way you’ll progress by the story. On the onset, you’ll select a background in your character, who they had been of their pre-vampiric life. Relying on this selection, you will expertise completely different alterations on the planet as you discover. For instance, when you select the “Cop” background and go to a police station, there is a good likelihood somebody on responsibility will acknowledge you. Alternatively, you can choose the “Barista” background, and nobody will keep in mind you or provide you with a re-assessment. The world is reactive to your character and your selections, the crew says – and the results of these selections will be far-reaching story penalties or one thing so simple as what pronoun NPCs seek advice from you with.
In one other shift from the start of the unique, Bloodlines 2 not begins you off as a member of a selected clan with a locked set of particular skills (aka “Disciplines”). Moderately, you start the sport as what’s referred to as a “Thinblood,” a vampire who’s pure skills are considerably restricted because of the dilution of their bloodline over the course of centuries.
It will likely be as much as us as gamers to resolve later in our journey which clan we wish to be a part of and which Disciplines we wish to study.”
“They’re form of appeared down upon in vampire society, which is form of a foul place to begin from, a vampire perspective,” says Mitsoda – however Christian Schlutter, Paradox’s lead producer on the challenge is fast to level out that, “from a participant perspective, it presents development. You begin out small, however now you may really develop as a vampire.”
Powers can nonetheless be obtained, however will probably be as much as us as gamers to resolve later in our journey which clan we wish to be a part of and which Disciplines we wish to study. Your beginning skills will let you select one in every of three vampiric powers that additional improve your mobility and fight effectiveness. The Chiropteran skill means that you can float, and even fly, some may say bat-like, for brief to medium distances. Nebulation, the facility we noticed the least of however by far the one I’m most interested by, let’s you flip into mist and sneak by air ducts or shock your enemies (or simply some actually unlucky mortals), and eventually there was Mentalism, which appears to principally simply be one other phrase for telekinesis – you may work together with and manipulate bodily objects with out really touching them. I bought an opportunity to see these skills utilized in each traversal and fight, and I used to be glad to appreciate I did not really feel like I might be at an obstacle ought to I “select wrongly.”
Fight in Bloodlines 2, like many of the recreation, is nearly fully locked in first particular person. I primarily noticed fights resolved in melee, although there was a great, gooey run with a 12-gauge in there, too – and each gunfights and fisticuffs gave the impression to be centered on expelling ahead vitality and energy in opposition to your opponents. The digital camera will often pull out to third-person – à la the rebooted Deus Ex – for choose maneuvers like rolling over an enemy or scaling a wall then pouncing onto an unfortunate goal. In line with the crew, the selection was made to make sure gamers felt drawn into the world by their characters eyes whereas exploring and socializing. Third-person, they are saying, permits for actions that may really feel uncomfortable in first, and to let gamers benefit from the beauty selections they’ll make all through the sport. Additionally, in accordance with Andy Kipling (Hardsuit’s co-founder and CEO), “it appears to be like actually cool.”
For my cash, although, the good (or, at the very least essentially the most attention-grabbing) side that I noticed of Bloodlines 2 was what it known as Resonance. As a vampire, you will should feed to maintain your vitality up. Whereas there’s a “bagged” choice, in accordance with our early-game vampire information Dale, the apparent selection is to hunt for contemporary blood. That is, as you will have anticipated, a massively necessary element to Bloodline’s narrative. In the event you select to outlive off rats alone, so be it – however mortal people will at all times provide essentially the most bang in your buck. The one problem is that when you give in to your newfound bestial vampiric nature and feed too deeply, killing your sufferer (as opposed, I suppose, to easily scarring them for all times), you lose part of your Humanity. It is your Humanity stage that retains you from going mad, giving in to The Beast, and turning everybody round you into human Capri-Solar pouches.
As you construct up over time, you develop an acquired style.”
All that out of the best way, Resonance makes the act of selecting your victims extra numerous, and feeds again into the all-important development loop. Whereas stalking mortals from the shadows, you should use your Heightened Senses (assume vampire Detective Mode) to deal with the blood in potential close by targets. Every particular person can have a sure aura, a shade wrapping round them (and their scrumptious blood) to point what their present emotional state is – pink for anger, violet for worry, yellow for want and so forth. That is the resonance their blood accommodates. Whenever you feed on somebody in a selected emotional state, you will earn momentary buffs for skills that correspond to that feeling. In the event you feed on somebody who’s indignant, you may even see a lift to your melee injury or intimidation talent. Drain somebody who’s feeling amorous and you may possible discover it simpler to seduce or persuade folks in dialog.
“Each is aligned with various kinds of play kinds,” says Kipling, “and as you construct up over time, you develop an acquired style.” These ‘acquired tastes” are referred to as Deserves, and are everlasting perks that you will earn when you constantly feed off of sure resonances. It is a mechanic that builds properly on the attention-grabbing themes at play in Bloodlines 2. How am I purported to retain my humanity, to maintain management, when provided so many alternatives to develop into extra highly effective? I do not know a lot in regards to the over-arching story, nevertheless it’s this side that I feel I am going to discover most fascinating. There’s apparently a sequence of sidequests that focuses on the struggles of different newly-formed Thinbloods, written by Cara Ellison, that I am trying ahead to exploring – to see how my transformation stacks up in opposition to others who met an analogous destiny as myself.
There’s so much in Bloodlines 2 that is bought me desirous to see extra, and I do know I am not the one one. The builders are properly conscious of how invested the fan group is in returning to White Wolf’s World of Darkness. “This is without doubt one of the greatest cult video games ever made,” Mitsoda says, “so we all know that the primary query the followers are going to ask is ‘Is that this actually Bloodlines, or did you simply slap ‘2’ on one thing that doesn’t really feel like Bloodlines?’ And an important factor, for us, is to say ‘No, it’s Bloodlines.’”
Primarily based on what I’ve seen to date, Bloodlines 2 is each bit the worthy follow-up it may very well be, whereas additionally having the potential to be a wonderful tackle the fashionable RPG. I am going to sit up for seeing what else is revealed alongside the highway to its launch, and what how the group, new and outdated, reacts.
JR is IGN’s Senior Options Editor and actually hopes John DiMaggio returns in Bloodlines 2. He’ll discuss extra about tabletop-turned-video video games on Twitter.