A gripping story despite modest flaws

gif: Big Bad Wolf Studio / Kotaku

Any video game bearing the title Vampire: The Masquerade has much to do. Inheriting the legacy of cult favorite Hot Sausage bloodlinesand the AWOL status of bloodlines 2, many VtM fans (my colleague relationship) have an everlasting hunger to finally properly execute this classic environment in a video game. The newest contender is Big Bad Wolf Studio Vampire: The Masquerade – Swan Songwill be released Thursday for all major consoles and PCs via the Epic Games Store.

From the team behind 2018 The Council, swan song is like a Telltale game, a Quantic Dream adventure (in a good way), and maybe life is strange all strung together, with a decent narrative RPG system in which you take control of three different vampires amid typical ones VtM-style intrigues. With the Prince of Boston on alert, the protagonists must investigate, clean up, and play vampiric politics under cover of the night. You will sneak around crime scenes and vampire dens, elicit information from NPCs, solve puzzles and uncover mysteries. Activating your powers increases your hunger, requiring you to feed on people in safe areas – preferably without killing them – which means there’s a bit of resource management involved. So, this latest digital trek is a classic world of darkness to have the experience that many of us have been hoping for?

Silhouettes of people surround Leysha and her daughter Halsey in a deep red hallucination of padded space.

screenshot: Big Bad Wolf Studio / Kotaku

After a few game nights on PC and Steam Deck, that’s clear Vampire: The Masquerade – Swan Song stumbles and disappoints in certain key areas. But before we act too quickly and condemn this one ultimate death before the vampiric court of the camarillaallow me to argue that based on my time so far, this is perhaps one of a’s smartest and most intriguing video game adaptations world of darkness RPG in recent memory.

Let’s get a few things out of the way first. That’s a lot a Vampire: The Masquerade game, but if you don’t know yours Malkavian from your tremereand not sure what separates one Embrace of a blood bond, don’t fret too much. During VtM draws on a highly detailed, privatized vocabulary of this world’s specific treatment of vampiric horror, swan song is more than helpful in providing definitions for its in-world language, with on-screen pop-ups every time a character says a keyword, along with an inviting storyline that naturally engages players familiar with the language and lore of the franchise may not be as familiar.

Leysha answers a riddle from her daughter Halsey.

screenshot: Big Bad Wolf Studio / Kotaku

This is a nice 101 course for VtM. Veterans of tabletop games will feel right at home – indeed, I think VtM Fans might just find this a must-have game for anyone interested in the tabletop experience and this fictional world in general. As a world of darkness Experience seems to make exceptional use of its source material, with a charged story about power, identity, memory and society: all things we’re related to come back vampire to the.

As a video game swan song has some serious rough edges and is often not as helpful as it could be in defining its mechanics. They also tend to run around in circles feeling “Where the hell am I going now?”.

Additionally, it’s best to scan the first few tutorials because I can’t find any in-game help to my life that repeats how hunger and willpower work. Sure, I’m familiar with tabletop terminology, but this game borrows language from the 5th edition of Vampire: The Masquerade and easily adapts it to that narrative RPG style that the game is aiming for. It works in practice. Really good even. I feel like I’m playing at the table VtM both as a player and as a storyteller, but I wish I could be reminded of how some of its rules work.

Galeb is debating discussion options with an NPC.

screenshot: Big Bad Wolf Studio / Kotaku

For a boldly ambitious game that focuses so much on character interaction and exploration, that’s a shame swan song slips so often in execution. Some characters look very wooden; Facial expressions are…interesting. Hair moves strangely, clothes clip through character models in the wrong places. Running animations, movement speed and restrictive environments at the beginning make the game feel a bit too restrictive at times. I would have liked a little more freedom, especially in the opening areas. Despite those flaws, this is a lush, dark, inviting, and frightening world full of rooms a veteran knows teller could describe a table packed with players. Accompanied by a perfect soundtrack, mostly excellent voice acting and a story worthy of its source material as a VtM It’s hard for a fan not to find this all pretty exhilarating.

The resulting experience centers on drama (there is always drama vampire) about compelling characters, written in a way that doesn’t just lazily rely on standard vampire clan clichés. Each of your three avatars, which you take turns controlling, is a unique individual forced to grapple with the unique political and philosophical complications of being a vampire in perpetual masquerade. Nowhere is this more evident than in the treatment of his Malkavian character, Leyscha. At first I was concerned that their behavior might fly too close bloodlinesJeanettewho was funny at times but often continued weary and damaging portrayals of female personality disorders and mental illness.

Leysha sneaks into another vampire's home and cloaks herself in vampiric powers.

screenshot: Big Bad Wolf Studio / Kotaku

In contrast, Leysha is a remarkable figure who must survive in a wider society where she would be killed for who she is while acting on behalf of a political organization more intent on using her, than to accept her as she is. I find her struggle to know what is real, her inability to trust her own perceptions or knowing if she can truly trust others, a very compelling aspect of the Malkavians and this setting. And with TTRPGs, the ability to explore these themes is precisely why we see so many queer and trans people testifying to gaining insight into their own identities at the table.

Leysha was the first character I choose in each new scene and for me is the main character of this story. But I don’t want to underestimate the other two characters, because they are really outstanding too. The way their individual narratives intersect with the broader story is really compelling and bodes well for the rest of the game.

Video games based on TTRPGs can easily simulate combat systems. just look up Baldur’s gate or, to be honest, any turn-based RPG out there. Aside from damage and hitpoints, however, most struggle. Cyberpunk 2077 might capture its genre and source material well enough in some of its side quests, but as in the last few Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthbloodit fell into the trap of centering combat as the primary reason for leveling up and engaging with its world. Vampire: The Masquerade – Swan Songas well as 2020s Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Heart of the Forestare TTRPG video game adaptations interested in the Miscellaneous Part of the tabletop experience focused on immersing you in a rich story and dense world of lore with intriguing characters.

It might be messy in a lot of ways, but I think swan song will prove to be a major milestone for video game adaptations of tabletop storytelling games that I hope will set a new precedent and provide inspiration for more ambitious titles to come. A gripping story despite modest flaws

Curtis Crabtree

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