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‘Vampire: The Masquerade — Swansong’ lacks teeth: NPR


Leysha, a vampire with psychic powers, is on the case.

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‘Vampire: The Masquerade — Swansong’ lacks teeth: NPR

Leysha, a vampire with psychic powers, is on the case.

big bad wolf

new video game Vampire: The Masquerade – The Swan Song puts you in the shoes of three vampiric investigators who uncover a conspiracy in modern-day Boston. It’s the latest in a series of smaller franchise titles awaiting the huge Lines 2a long-delayed sequel to the 2004 cult classic. But at the same time swan song offers a more dynamic game than the previous one Coteries of New Yorkhe is unlikely to whet a fan’s appetite for long.

Swansong immediately immerses you in the heady factional politics of an elite vampire that rules Boston from the shadows. Once a new boss becomes the target of an assassination, you must deduce the person (or people) behind the attacks from the perspective of three different characters, each sporting fangs and supernatural powers.

Those hoping for the bustling open world of Lines have to look elsewhere. swan song is a largely linear experience that plays out much like developer Big Bad Wolf’s The board. It’s a role-playing game, but behind the character stats and skill tests, it’s more of an adventure title.

‘Vampire: The Masquerade — Swansong’ lacks teeth: NPR

The three vampiric protagonists of “Swansong”: Emem, Galeb and Leysha.

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‘Vampire: The Masquerade — Swansong’ lacks teeth: NPR

The three vampiric protagonists of “Swansong”: Emem, Galeb and Leysha.

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The best example of what the game has to offer is played from the perspective of Galeb Bazory as he poses as an FBI agent. His quest led him to investigate the death of a man who had information about the ruling vampire council. Galeb must find out why the man was killed and get five documents he kept relating to members of Boston’s most bloodthirsty clique. This sees you interrogating the man’s roommates, interviewing the police at the scene, and looking for clues, all without blowing your cover as an FBI agent.

Your detective work will often come up against obstacles. The NPCs of swan song can be incredibly stubborn, and not everyone will fall prey to your tricks. However, you are a vampire, so you don’t always have to be charming. If your presence stat isn’t impressing an NPC into spilling the beans, you can use powers like Dominate to force them out.

There is a catch to this, however. Using your vampiric traits will increase your hunger and eventually you will have to suck blood to recharge your batteries. In the building, you can bewitch the investigating policemen in isolated areas to feast. However, if you get too greedy, you’ll end up killing them, which can affect the story.

‘Vampire: The Masquerade — Swansong’ lacks teeth: NPR

Vampiric superpowers are only available if you fortify yourself with the blood of unsuspecting humans.

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‘Vampire: The Masquerade — Swansong’ lacks teeth: NPR

Vampiric superpowers are only available if you fortify yourself with the blood of unsuspecting humans.

big bad wolf

You see, you’re still acting within the central conceit of the game – the masquerade. Although vampires can easily overpower a single human, they fear detection by the human population that vastly outnumbers them. To avoid exposure, they maintain rigid rules that prevent them from displaying their powers. Breaking the Masquerade will not result in a game ending for the player, but it will have consequences and will influence which of the game’s multiple endings you get.

This tension underlies the game’s approach to problem solving. For example, Galeb can stealthily and thoroughly examine the building, acquire the documents, and slip away undetected. Or if you’re feeling reckless or impatient, you can intimidate the weak-willed and kill everyone – Masquerade be damned. Guess which option I chose?

The game’s reliance on random dice rolls can test your enjoyment of its story. Each vampire has stats and a skill tree, all of which influence your ability to navigate difficult conversations. NPCs have their own stats to counter you, and the ensuing concessions can hamper your ability to get into character. I found myself wishing that each of the three protagonists had preset stats and skills that matched their personality. Instead, I found myself defaulting to the option with the best chance of success rather than the option that felt most natural to the character.

‘Vampire: The Masquerade — Swansong’ lacks teeth: NPR

Conversations take tact, brute force, and dumb luck to navigate.

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‘Vampire: The Masquerade — Swansong’ lacks teeth: NPR

Conversations take tact, brute force, and dumb luck to navigate.

big bad wolf

There’s not much flash and high-speed gameplay for Vampire: The Masquerade – The Swan Song, so I’m a bit disappointed that the visuals aren’t better. I didn’t expect it to compete with big budget games like Forbidden Horizon West, but the stiff animations certainly don’t sell the drama. When much of the gameplay focuses on minute character interactions and nuanced conversations, compelling movement and expressions are absolutely essential, and that’s not what I found here.

The immersion is not helped by pedantic internal monologues. I’m always annoyed when the devs feel the need to fill every silence with a player character’s commentary. These ideas make more sense in Swansong than in Forbidden Horizon West, where Aloy nearly ruins every puzzle by saying the solution out loud. But it’s still a weak narrative device that has little justification outside literature, where sometimes you have to tell instead of show.

That said, I enjoyed Vampire: The Masquerade – The Swan Song much more so than the franchise’s recent visual novels. If you like thrillers, you’ll like this. However, those hoping to embark on a true Gothic epic will not find their happiness here.

Brittany Vincent has been writing about games for 14 years and loves collecting retro games and consoles. Follow her on Twitter: @MolotovCupcake.



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