Almost A Classic is a series wherein I take a look at an older game that had all the potential to really make a mark and be remembered. But, for whatever reason, fell short.
Is it far to call it a series when there is only this one right now?
Sure, why not?
Today I take you back to 2004, the game: Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines.First, some history. Bloodlines is based in the World of Darkness (WoD) universe, which was developed by White Wolf Inc for their series of tabletop roleplaying games. Which includes: Vampire, Werewolf and Mage, among a few others. It’s an excellent universe that could be the subject of numerous articles in and of itself (Someday?). For the time being it’s enough to know that Bloodlines, like many of the greatest RPG, has strong roots in tabletop and the mighty D20.
WoD games exclusively use D10s.
Who’s the nerd now?
History Note #2. Bloodlines was developed by Troika Games. A company founded by Tim Cain, Leonard Boyarsky and Jason D. Anderson who are easily best known for their work on the original Fallout.
One of the few things we agree on is that Fallout is frickin brilliant.
Troika released 3 games before going out of business in 2005: Arcanum, Temple of Elemental Evil (neither of which I’ve had the chance to play) and the game we’ll be talking about today: Bloodlines.
Bloodlines has the distinction of being the first 3rd party game to be released using Valve’s Source Engine.
Oh god I’m so bored. 200 words in and you haven’t even gotten to any sort of point yet.
Game good, has flaws?
Nope, that’s it. You’re done. Zaltu’s taking over this intro.
Bloodlines was an amazing RPG. No surprises, you could expect no less with a pedigree like Fallout, right? The game was buggy on release and that hurt it’s original launch and sales which sadly helped lead to the developers going under before they could release enough patches to get the game cleaned up.
Join me while I outline some of the highlights of this RPG gem.
*Drop Mic*OK, yeah, that was pretty good.
To steal a line from your most annoying friend, you just got BOOM SUCKA’d
Not a verb.
Your FACE isn’t a verb. BOOM SUCKA’d!
So, Bloodlines. I remember installing the game for the first time on my roommates PC (I was sans gaming PC at the time, a sad couple of years in my life). I remember it because the original game came in one of those larger CDROM cases on 4 CDs.
Ah, the days of insert CD2 to continue install. DVD and digital download you spoil us. Why do you suppose you always had to reinsert CD1 to finish the last 10% of the install?
When you create your character you have your choice of 7 different vampire clans. These come directly from the pen and paper game and are most analogous to “classes” from your more tradition RPGs, although the system is more skill based and clans really just determine which skills you have the most affinity for. Clans also have the potential to change the game from slight to large degrees, particularly the Malkavian and Nosferatu, more on that later.
Playing out in 1st (or 3rd) person with real time combat, the first thought would be to compare Bloodlines gameplay to Morrowwind or Oblivion, but that isn’t quite accurate.
For one, the combat is not near as smooth as in those games (and that’s saying something)
And for two, combat is much, much less important. You don’t receive experience from combat, only completing quests. Bloodlines also shows off it’s Fallout ancestry by offering multiple ways to solve each quest, with the non-combat options often offering more experience than their combat counterparts.
I, for one, miss this level of options in quest completion. Fallout: New Vegas got closer than Fallout 3 (which I still loved), but neither came close to matching the number of options of the original Fallouts and Bloodlines carries the torch nicely.
I’m not going to go into details on the story itself, except to say that it’s well worth your time. I will also say that Bloodlines contains the single best Haunted House section of any game I’ve ever played. I was legitimately scared during my playthrough.
Yeah, it awesome. You got up and turned the lights on. I was cool though.
This was years ago, and you didn’t even exist at the time. I hadn’t yet had the nervous breakdown from which you spun off. You’re a relatively new delusion.
Keep telling yourself that chief.
Part of me wants to keep meandering around on various happenings within the game itself but I’m think I’m going to wrap it up with a quick rundown of how the different clans can add a lot of replay. Notable the Nosferatu and Malkavian.
The Nosferatu are your hideous and deformed vampires. Your monsters. While they are by no means more feral or violent than any of the others their appearance prevents them from interacting with normal society.
Because of this, playing through as a Nossy offers up a new experience due to the limitations. You have to travel through the sewers and alleyways, you can’t talk to most humans (and thus you are actually blocked from some quests).
It’s not perfect, there are some points that are required for the main quest where the NPC will just make a comment about your “skin condition” but that’s a minor gripe.
NOOOO! MY IMMERSION!!
The Malkavians, the put it as simply has possible. Are batshit insane. The gimmick of this particular clan is they all have some sort of mental illness: Schizophrenia, Paranoid Delusions, etc.
Playing through as a Malk you get access to completely “new” dialogue options.
Stress the quotes around new reallllly hard.
Yes, well, the Malk dialogue tends to be hard to follow. It’s full of Non sequiturs, sudden tone changes and just outright bonkers imagery.
What? It’s a good word. I’m going to say it again. Bonkers.
Because of this the Malk playthrough can be quite entertaining for awhile. Unfortunately, the NPCs rarely seem to give more that a superficial reaction to your strange diction and upon closer examination it appears that the dialogue choices aren’t so much new, as they are just a replacement of other clans dialogue options (different words, exact same result).
In all fairness, I’m not certain how else you’d do it without creating a whole new game just for the Malks.
Alright, wrap it up or I’ll wrap it up for you.
Bloodlines is actually remembered very fondly nowadays by those that have played it. My understanding is that has done very well with it’s Steam re-release and there is still a rather strong mod community some 8 years later.
If you’re a fan of Deus Ex, Fallout 1 & 2, and the like and you haven’t given Bloodlines a try, I’d suggest an immediate download.
Also, Happy Halloween, I guess