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Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines

Vampire - The Masquerade - Bloodlines (Logo)
Developer(s): Troika Games
Publisher(s): Activision
Director(s): Leonard Boyarsky
Jason Anderson
Producer(s): Thomas R. Decker
David Mullich
Designer(s): Brian Mitsoda
Chad Moore
TJ Perillo
Programmer(s): Andrew Meggs
Tim Cain
Composer(s): Rik Schaffer
Engine: Source
Release date(s): NA November 16, 2004
EU November 19, 2004
Genre(s): Action role-playing
Rating(s): PEGI: 18
ESRB: M
Distribution: Optical disc, Download
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is a 2004 action role-playing game set in White Wolf's World of Darkness; it was developed by Troika Games and released by Activision for Microsoft Windows. Based on White Wolf Publishing's role-playing game Vampire: The Masquerade, Bloodlines follows a newly created vampire who seeks to uncover the truth behind a recently discovered relic that heralds the end of all vampires.

The universe is detailed and filled with lore, based on the role playing board game set in the World of Darkness game line by White Wolf Publishing. It is set in modern Los Angeles, and California in general. The "world" is divided into four central hubs, Santa Monica, Downtown LA, Hollywood and Chinatown, with special locations appearing on the map during certain quests. The entire game takes place during night hours, and rain falls often.

Gameplay

Bloodlines is a role-playing game with the choice between first person and third-person perspectives. The player character's ability to overcome obstacles is in many cases a mixture of player and character abilities, with character stats determining the effectiveness of actions, and player abilities determining whether or not the actions succeed. For example, the ability to move silently and avoid being detected is heavily influenced by the character's Dexterity and Stealth ratings; however, if the player does not stay in the shadows while sneaking past enemies, the character can still be detected.

The player character increases in power dramatically during the course of the game through the expenditure of earned experience points on attributes, skills, and vampire abilities called "Disciplines". A multitude of items, weapons, and skill books can be found or purchased to make the player character even more powerful. melee and ranged weapons exist in equal numbers, although only in the later stages of the game.

How the player interacts with the game world varies depending upon which clan the player character belongs to. Differences range from different dialogue options becoming available to certain quests becoming available or unavailable. The most notable gameplay differences are experienced by those who play as Malkavian (due to their insanity, dialogue options are often non sequiturs, making it difficult to conduct conversations and negotiations; Malkavians also encounter numerous bizarre moments during gameplay, such as television sets and stop signs speaking to them) and Nosferatu (who, in order to avoid Masquerade violations, are prohibited from speaking to humans and who do not have access to any gameplay options involving seduction).

Unlike most role-playing video games, the experience needed to increase stats and skills is not awarded for killing enemies. Experience points are awarded solely for completing quests, no matter how many creatures the player eliminates in the process (though the quest objective often involves killing). This encourages the player to complete quests in creative ways and significantly increases the game's replay value.

The game invokes two other unique penalties and rewards for certain behaviors in the game's non-quest (i.e. non-combat) areas. Players are penalized for exhibiting vampiric abilities in front of humans by the loss of Masquerade points, which can also be reinstated by performing actions to protect the Masquerade. If the player loses 5 Masquerade points, the game ends. Also, the player is able to gain and lose "humanity" points, which have an impact on how well the character can be controlled when his or her blood supply is low. This can potentially cause the character to go into a feeding frenzy at the wrong time which in turn can lead to Masquerade violations.

Humanity points are awarded for acts of kindness, such as finding alternatives to killing certain NPCs. They can be taken away if the player character kills a human outside a combat zone (or even sometimes within a combat zone if the human is a noncombatant), intentionally or not, or if the character commits an unethical deed such as stealing money from a charity. Unlike Masquerade points, the game does not end if the player humanity level drops to minimum (3 by default), but the player's character is almost certain to enter frenzy when it is this low (and they are hungry, or take damage), and some dialog options may change. Experience points can be used to purchase humanity points. Having a very high or very low humanity affects some conversation options.

Synopsis

You remember the stories of vampires, werewolves and ghosts told to young children around campfires... You thought they were just stories until tonight. You went to a seedy nightclub on the Sunset Strip and met the person who would change your life. It's all a blur now, but you somehow ended up in a two-bit motel. You didn't care about anything at all until the moment it happened. The Kiss. It was a sharp pain at first, but it quickly turned into pleasure as warm feelings flowed over your body. As the warmth began to fade, you felt something else. A liquid being poured down your throat. Warm and salty, it began to invigorate you. It began to change you. And within a short time, you were reborn... as a vampire.
―Synopsis from the manual

Characters

Main article: Characters

Backstory and Setting

Los Angeles and its surroundings are faithfully reproduced as they exist in the Gothic-Punk World of Darkness, including major elements of the metaplot like the Kuei-jin invasion and the collapse of the Anarch Free State. Characters from the pen and paper game appear, most notably Beckett, and all the vampire sects are depicted as nasty, with the player free to choose an allegiance. LA itself is divided into four main regions (Santa Monica, Downtown, Hollywood and Chinatown) that you progress through – once you reach a new region the previous regions and quests are still available.

The nature of the Kindred is also true to the pen and paper game, as are the problems of living in a Camarilla controlled city; the player must not only worry about losing Humanity, but also about breaking the Masquerade, at least in public areas. Wisely, the game only introduces those details which influence the game.

Most of the clans are mentioned, though the player is restricted to choosing from the seven clans of the Camarilla.

Plot summary

The player's character is a newly Embraced vampire whose Sire did not seek the local Prince's permission; both sire and childe are sentenced to be executed, but following a protest by Anarch "leader" Nines Rodriguez, Prince LaCroix spares the player's life as a calculated move to preserve a state of non-aggression between the two groups. In return, the player is expected to serve the Prince faithfully, and is set a task to prove their usefulness and loyalty. A supposed Sabbat attack interrupts the introduction to Kindred lore being given to the player by Smiling Jack, and they must continue on alone.

As the game progresses, it becomes apparent that an ancient artifact known as the Ankaran Sarcophagus is at the center of recent tensions between the Camarilla, Sabbat, Anarchs and Kuei-jin of the West Coast. The player must decide which faction – if any – they can trust, and determine the secrets of the Sarcophagus before it causes all out war amongst the Kindred.

The storyline is non-linear; though most events will be encountered regardless of the character's choices, there are numerous optional quests and five distinct endings. However, while the game does give players great freedom, the overall plot line does not change no matter what you do, and all the core missions still need to be completed. For example, if you decide to side with the Anarchs, you will still need to obey Prince LaCroix, as you are told to act like you are still loyal. Similarly, if you try to refuse a mission given to you by the prince, he uses the Dominate Discipline to ensure your obedience.

  • In the Camarilla ending, which can be followed through with the Tremere primogen, the character destroys both Ming Xiao and LaCroix's sheriff, and Prince LaCroix is presumably sentenced to death. The Sarcophagus is stored away in a warehouse. The dialogue for this changes slightly, depending on the player's clan and certain side quests.
  • Choosing Kuei-jin path means that the player character doesn't have to fight Ming Xiao. Instead, they head directly to Venture Tower to fight the Sheriff and confront Prince LaCroix. However, after besting them and seizing the sarcophagus for the Kuei-jin, they are betrayed. To stop any of Caine's descendants from gaining whatever power is hidden in the sarcophagus, Ming Xiao dumps it into the Pacific Ocean with the player strapped onto it, unable to free themself.
  • Allying with Prince LaCroix, the player character convinces him that they did not sabotage his alliance, and he sends them to kill Ming Xiao and retrieve the key of the sarcophagus. Upon doing so, the Prince, elated, names the protagonist his right-hand man, and asks them to open the sarcophagus. Inside is a large quantity of C-4, and a farewell note from Smiling Jack, the Anarch from the beginning of the game. LaCroix descends into mania as the penthouse explodes. Far off, Jack, along with Messerach, a normal mummy that had been inside the sarcophagus, watch the explosion, and the cab-driver, standing in the shadow, reiterates to the player as he walks off into the night that "the blood of Caine controls our fate… farewell, vampire".
  • If the player character chooses to side with the Anarchs, they briefly reunite with Nines Rodriguez, before going off to the Kuei-jin stronghold to kill Ming Xiao and retrieve the key to the sarcophagus. Then they make a final assault on LaCroix's tower, killing the sheriff and confronting LaCroix himself. After confronting him, the protagonist slashes his throat and promptly leaves. Shortly afterwards, LaCroix opens the sarcophagus, and the ending proceeds as for the LaCroix ending. Alternatively, the player can choose to open the sarcophagus personally, hoping to gain the power themselves; however, they make the same discovery and are subsequently killed with LaCroix in the explosion.
  • The personal path causes the character to side with no one. Other than omitting the meeting with Nines Rodriguez, this ending is mostly the same as the Anarch ending.

Vampires and Society

Vampires, also known as Kindred and rarely Cainites, are the undead. vampires can't walk in the daylight, be killed with normal weapons and firearms, and are not affected by holy water, crosses, or garlic.

In order to become a vampire, one Kindred must "Embrace" a Kine, or human. An Embrace is a process in which a vampire willingly (or unwillingly) transforms a human into a vampire. Simply biting or feeding on the human will not suffice; the Kindred first drains the kine of their blood, then gives some of their own blood instead. The vampire who gave the human the dark gift is known as the sire, and the human becomes the "childe" or fledgling. Each clan has specifics when choosing humans for the Embrace. Brujah choose fighters and those who try to make a difference in human society; Gangrels choose fierce and brave people; Ventrue chooses people from the ruling classes; Toreador choose artists, and so on. Should a vampire sire a human without permission, both the sire and the childe face death penalties by the order of the Camarilla.

If the sire leaves a childe on their own without telling them anything of Kindred rules or society, that childe is known as a Caitiff (from the French Norman word for coward) or clanless. This vampire is despised by Kindred society, as Caitiff know nothing of the Masquerade or otherwise. A similar occurrence are Thin Bloods, those so far removed from Caine that they exhibit very little vampiric powers, and are able to reproduce and walk in daylight. Thin Bloods are usually Caitiff, and are thought to be a sign of Gehenna, the vampire version of apocalypse.

Caine is the biblical first murderer and brother-killer. The Book of Nod, a collection of vampire legends and myths, describes Caine's fall from grace and his journey eastwards. The third generation of vampires, Caine's grandchildren, are known as the Antediluvians. These are among the most powerful vampires in existence and they can sleep away whole ages. It is said that during Gehenna these powerful and terrible avatars will wake up and walk the earth, and in their great hunger they will devour their own progeny as well as mankind. There are many who fear this prophecy as well as many who ridicule it: the Camarilla dismisses the existence of Antediluvians.

The Masquerade is a code, or law, that prohibits vampires from alerting mankind of their presence. No vampiric powers that would show physical signs like super speed or strength are allowed to be publicly displayed, and the Nosferatu aren't even allowed to be seen at all. Should someone break the Masquerade, the Sheriff of a town is sent after them.

Each major city has a Prince and Sheriff. The prince is usually a member of the Ventrue clan, unless the prince in question is an Anarch "Baron" who is opposed to the Camarilla. The Sheriff's duties are to follow the Prince's orders under any circumstance as well as uphold Kindred law.

Combat

Main article: Weapons

Weapons are categorized as melee and ranged. Melee weapons are divided into blade and blunt — blunt weapons are effective against humans and gargoyles, while blade weapons are used in a more general sense.

Weapons have different values associated with them like combat requirement, lethality, feat adjustment, base damage, etc.

  • Melee Combat Requirement — The amount required to use a weapon effectively, inflict normal damage. This amount is determined by your combat feat. For example, if a melee weapon has a combat requirement of 4, and your character has 3 strength and 3 melee, your combat feat for melee weapons would be 6, satisfying the requirement.
  • Ranged Combat Requirement — Same as melee, but for ranged weapons.
  • Feat Adjustment — The difference between your combat feat and the melee/ranged combat requirement. If a weapon has 3 in the combat requirement and you have a combat feat of 5 then the feat adjustment would be 2. This difference will be directly added to a lethality of a weapon.
  • Lethality — How difficult it is for enemies to defend against your attacks.
  • Base Damage — The absolute minimum amount of damage a weapon will inflict.
  • Damage Potential — The maximum amount of damage a weapon will inflict.
  • Fire Rate, Range, Reload Speed — Exclusive to ranged weapons, rather self-explanatory.

Development

Troika Games officially began work on the game in November 2001, but the nearly three-year-long production cycle was plagued by many problems.[1] Because Valve's work on opponent AI was not completed in time for Troika to show Bloodlines at a press event, Troika wrote their own AI routines, which never worked as well as the code that Valve eventually developed. Early attempts by Troika to create a multiplayer mode and levels working were unsuccessful and eventually the feature was abandoned. The original writing team was replaced midway through the project, causing most game levels and dialogs to be completely revised.

When Troika had not completed a playable Santa Monica hub with combat and Discipline usage that met Activision's satisfaction after more than two years of development time, the publisher took several steps to bring closure to the troubled project. First, Activision increased the budget to add Troika's second development team to the project in March 2004, after they had completed work on The Temple of Elemental Evil. Next, it sent the game's Activision producer and two testers to work on-site at Troika's offices until the game was completed. Finally, it set a deadline of September 15 for Troika to produce a Code Release Candidate.

Patches

Despite the imminent shutdown, Troika managed to release an official patch raising the game's version number to 1.2. This patch addressed the largest problems but many remained. Additional patches were planned but cancelled as Troika was shut down.

As a result of the missing technical support, combined with the fandom the game managed to acquire, several community-driven patch programs quickly emerged. The series of patches simply known as Unofficial Patch, originally started by Dan Upright and soon taken over by Werner Spahl, quickly established itself as a de facto standard and is still being worked on to this day, not only fixing huge amounts of problems but also restoring and adding content to the game. Another comparably popular patch targeted at purists who only want bug fixes without any further additions is the True Patch by Tessera.

Music

Main article: Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines Soundtrack

Release and Reception

Troika delivered the Code Release Candidate on the required date, though it left the development team in low morale. Due to the game's size and complexity, the Code Release Candidate took three weeks to test, but on October 4, 2004, Bloodlines went Gold as Version 1.0. Since contractual obligations with Valve would interdict Bloodlines to be released before Valve's debut of the Source engine in Half-Life 2, Activision did not publicly announce that the game had gone Gold and instead gave Troika an additional week to polish the game, after which Bloodlines Version 1.1 underwent another three weeks of testing.

Publication Score
1UP B
Allgame 3.5/5
GameSpot 7.7/10
IGN 8.4/10
MetaCritic 80/100
GameRankings 80.57%

Tom McNamara of IGN opined that the visuals and in-depth RPG elements were of high quality but the combat and especially the AI were lacking, and called it a "grand RPG but a flawed gem of a game". Computer and Video Games praised the game for its execution and flair, but resented it (and Activision) for the number of bugs and the discontinuation of technical support immediately after the game's release, calling it "the best buggy game ever". Kieron Gillen of Eurogamer admired the accomplished and "effortlessly intelligent" script, claiming that "no other game has come close. Nothing's even tried." However, he criticized the game for becoming repetitive in its final third, and for sporting a large amount of bugs on release. Lewis Denby of HonestGamers overlooked these flaws, stating that the game "may not be polished and may end with a sigh instead of a shout, but for its ambition alone it deserves stream after stream of compliments."

Despite generally favorable reviews, Bloodlines sales underperformed in the first few weeks, selling 72,000 units ($3.4 million). In early 2009, the game experienced a significant revitalization, thanks in particular to its re-release on the Steam development service. Retrospective articles by Rock Paper Shotgun and Eurogamer praised the title as "a clever, multi-faceted RPG."

System Requirements

Minimum system requirements are as follows:

  • Graphic card: 3D hardware accelerator card required – 100% DirectX(R) 9.0c-compatible 64MB video card and drivers
  • Processor: 1.2 GHz Athlon(tm) or 1.2 GHz Pentium(R) III processor or higher
  • Memory: 384MB of RAM (512MB of RAM recommended)
  • System: Microsoft(R) Windows(R) 98/ME/2000/XP
  • ODD: Quad-Speed CD-ROM drive (600 K/sec sustained transfer rate) and drivers
  • HDD space: 3.3 GB (plus 1.4 GB for Windows(R) swap file)
  • Sound: 100% DirectX(R) 9.0-compatible 16-bit sound card and drivers
  • Controller: 100% Windows(R) 98/ME/2000/XP-compatible mouse, keyboard, and drivers
  • DirectX/OpenGL: DirectX(R) 9.0c

Gallery

Images

Videos

Trivia

References

Navigation

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines
Characters
The Protagonist BrujahGangrelMalkavianNosferatuToreadorTremereVentrue
Major AndreiBeckettCab DriverDr. Ingvar JohansenGrünfeld BachMing XiaoNines RodriguezSebastian LaCroixSmiling JackThe Sheriff
Supporting Bertram TungGary GoldenHeather PoeIsaac AbramsMaximillian StraussMercurio
Minor Adam DunsirnArthur KilpatrickAsh RiversBarabusBishop VickBoris CheckovBrother KankerBruno GiovanniCarsonChastityChristopher GiovanniCopperDamselDavid HatterDennisDorisDr. Alistair GroutEEdEd Jr.Fat LarryFlynn BoyleGinger SwanGomezHannah GlazerIgorImaliaJezebel LockeJi Wen JaJuliusJumblesKent Alan RyanKerriKikiKnox HarringtonLilyLu FangMalcolm St. MartinMaria RosseliniMcGeeMike "Muddy" DurbinMira GiovanniMistiMitnickMr. OxNadia MillinerOcean House VictimOfficer AndersonOfficer ChunkOfficer HeinzOfficer MarshPattyPaul AndersonPhilPishaRomeroRosaSamanthaSimon MilliganSkelterSouthland SlasherStanley GimbleSweeperTawni SessionsThe CathayanThe Chang BrothersThe Deb of NightThe MandarinTherese and Jeanette VoermanTiffanyTin Can BillTommy FlaytonTrina St. MartinTripVandal CleaverVelvet VelourVenus DareVictor GiovanniWong HoYukieZygaena
Locations
Santa Monica Beach HouseDevil's Brand TattooFoxy BoxesGallery NoirGimble's ProstheticsKilpatrick's Bail BondsMedical ClinicOcean House HotelPawnshop LodgingsSanta Monica SuitesSanta Monica PierSunCo GasolineSurfside DinerThe AsylumTrip's Pawnshop
Downtown Abandoned HospitalConfessionEmpire Arms HotelsHallowbrook HotelNocturne TheatrePlague-bearer sewersSkyeline ApartmentsThe Last RoundTremere ChantryVenture Tower
Hollywood Abrams Golden Age JewelryAsian TheaterAsp HoleCavoletti CaféGround 0Hollywood Forever CemeteryHotelLuckee Star MotelMetalhead IndustriesNosferatu WarrensRed SpotSin BinVesuvius
Chinatown Fu SyndicateGlazeGolden TempleKamikazi ZenLotus BlossomRamen ShopThe Red DragonThe White CloudTseng's Herbal RemediesZhao's Imports
Other 609 King's WayElizabeth DaneGiovanni StrongholdGrout's MansionMuseum of Natural HistorySociety of Leopold Monastery
Music
Albums Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines Soundtrack
Songs "Bloodlines" • "Come Alive" • "Cain" • "Swamped" • "Isolated" • "Needle's Eye" • "Pound" • "Lecher Bitch" • "Smaller God"
Archives
Terminology AnarchAnarch Free StateAnarch RevoltAnkaran SarcophagusAntediluvianArchbishopBaronBaronyBeastBishopBloodBlood BondBlood DollBlood HuntBlood PoolBloodlineBook of NodCainiteCaitiffCamarillaCathayanChantryChildeClanClan CurseCleopatraCourtDiablerieDisciplineDomainElderElysiumEmbraceFinal DeathFledglingFrenzyGehennaGehenna cultGenerationGhostGhoulHavenHumanityHumanHunterJyhadKindredKineKissKuei-jinMasqueradeNeonateNoddismPrimogenPrinceRegentRegnantSabbatSchreckNetSectSheriffSireThin BloodsTraditionsVampireVitaeWerewolf

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