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Feature Article

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 Is A Revival Of The Cult Series For The Modern Age

Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It's fun to be a vampire.

After several teases on online, Paradox Interactive and Hardsuit Labs have finally revealed Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2, the sequel to the original 2004 RPG. With Bloodlines 2, releasing in 2020 for PC and consoles, several key members from the former studio Troika Games, along with some new blood at Hardsuit Labs, are looking to pick up where the bleak yet off-the-wall original left off. Just before its reveal, we had the chance to get an early look at GDC 2019, while also speaking with Bloodlines 2 lead narrative designer Brian Mitsoda and senior writer Cara Ellison about the making of the sequel.

As an adaptation of the table-top game series from White Wolf Publishing, the first Bloodlines focused on the shadowy underworld of Vampire society in modern-day Los Angeles. Starting out as a newly converted vampire, you were drawn into centuries-long quarrels amongst elite vampires, all the while coming to grips with your new and unusual circumstances. While much of the first game hasn't aged too well, its in-depth role-playing and social gameplay are enduring achievements. Showing shades of immersive-sims like Deus Ex and System Shock, it possessed an impressive amount of complexity with how you could use your vampiric abilities to navigate the complex web of conspiracies within the secret society.

The game's original developers, Troika Games, drafted up concepts for a follow-up, however, low sales and a lack of projects after Bloodlines' launch forced the closure of the studio. In the years since its release, a dedicated online community has kept the game active, slowly turning the obscure PC RPG into an underground hit.

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Echoing the beginning of the original game, the new protagonist of Bloodlines 2 is suddenly thrust into their new life as a vampire. Taking place in the city of Seattle, the new fledgling faces a tribunal held by the Camarilla--the union of different vampire factions. Recalling their final moments alive, and subsequent rebirth at the hands of another vampire, the meeting comes under attack, forcing you to make a quick exit. From here, you'll slowly work your way up the Vampire hierarchy, dealing with returning factions like the Tremere, and embrace your newfound life as a creature of the night.

For the sequel, the developers expressed that they wanted to maintain the same level of agency and detail from the previous game, while also focusing more on the strange and lesser-known aspects of living a new life as a vampire. This on-boarding process, as seen in the opening of the game, also highlights the new abilities that come with being a Vampire. In addition to taking on different disciplines, you'll also have a suite of vampire skills to use, such as levitation, telekinesis, and even a mist-form--allowing you to pass through objects. Eventually, you'll be able to unlock access to higher-end abilities, like conjuring up sharp objects made of blood and slowing down time to easily evade enemies.

During the demo, Mitsoda--who served as the lead writer on the original game--talked about bringing the series back after 15 years, and how they wanted to make it accessible for fans and newcomers.

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"There's something exciting about the player discovering this world that is right under our noses," said Mitsoda as he elaborated on the world building of the game. "A big part of what we wanted to do with Bloodlines 2 is to make sure that people who are fans of the first one will immediately feel like, "This is Bloodlines. This feels like Bloodlines." Then the people who are coming into it fresh are going to going to have the same feelings of what is this all about? I'm a vampire. What do I do now? So, we want people to go out there with the expectations of they don't know anything now, but they're going to be discovering everything that's going on in Seattle."

Just like in Bloodlines 1, you'll be able to freely explore various open hubs and far away locations while tackling missions with other key-characters. In addition to exploring locations like Pioneer Square, Pier 55, and other areas of downtown Seattle, you'll follow leads into the city's underground ruins. These sections are said to be inspired by the real-life locations that were paved over after intense fires during 1889, and the ruins house a number secrets pertaining to the lost history of Seattle, and how vampires played a part in it.

According to the developers, Bloodlines 2 will shed light on the various vampire cultures and their power structures. Just like in the original game, the sequel also leans heavy on socializing. You're often pushed into high-pressure situations with humans and vampires alike, where you'll need to make a choice that could compromise relationships. Siding with one faction can put you at odds with another. However, you're totally free to break away from a side at any time. These social situations can also highlight the mundanity of living life as a Vampire. Shortly after making it back to your apartment, you encounter a fellow vampire named Dale, who volunteers to be your information broker and to help with your transition. It was an oddly relaxed conversation--especially considering this came after surviving several attacks from humans and other undead.

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While explaining their approach to balancing the absurdity of vampirism with the more grotesque aspects of being undead, senior writer Cara Ellison spoke about what it was like working on the game's tone, and how humor is a bit of a coping mechanism for the vampires in Bloodlines.

"I'm kind of in charge of looking at the game as almost like vampire puberty, like where it's a transition from leaving humanity behind," Ellison said. "I think you might be surprised at how funny it is to be a vampire, in a weird way. It's quite a dark game, but we manage to show it as an absurd existence, and you might encounter some people who were weathering their situation in an interesting or maybe in a slightly dark and humorous way. That really connects to me, because I'm British. Everything bad is funny to us, like Brexit is weirdly funny. [...]There's a lot of complexity in there to explore. It's pretty fun to write."

Since you're a vampire, handling your business and exploring the city--even in the evening--can be a challenge. This is where the series' signature Masquerade gameplay comes in. According to series lore, The Masquerade is a code of conduct that vampires must follow in order to prevent exposing their existence to humanity. Though you are a vampire, you still look normal enough to pass as human while in public. However, when you use your supernatural powers in front of unsuspecting humans, you'll break the Masquerade and draw attention to yourself and to the larger vampire society. Police and common criminals can still pose a threat, however, and causing too much havoc will alert elite vampires that will hunt you down.

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Bloodlines 2 carries over the complexity of the original game, allowing you to overcome obstacles and events in different ways by using your vampiric skills or social charms--like seduction, for instance. However, there will come a time where you'll need to defend yourself, which includes several conventional weapons and supernatural abilities. In one section taking place in a back ally in Pioneer Square, there's an opportunity to break up an attempted mugging. While watching this bit of gameplay, we saw the main character use several of these skills one after another. First, they used their heightened senses to highlight the key targets, and took advantage of their heightened physicality to make high-jumps across the roofs to get into position and perform a series of takedowns on the unsuspecting muggers.

Though you'll have plenty of tools to use, melee combat will have a larger focus, which the developers stated is something they wanted to improve from the original. During combat, you'll be able to launch pre-emptive strikes against human enemies, and even counter their attack with instant-kills that will drain their blood. Blood is a resource that you'll constantly need to keep track of, powering your various abilities. While it's not possible to do a no-kill run through the game--you still have to feed after all--the developers stated that you can play as a "humane" vampire to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.

How you advance your character can set the tone for what's to come. This even comes into play by the type of human blood you feed on. If targets are angry, especially during a combat encounter, then you'll feed on blood filled with anger resonance. If they're frightened, then they'll be highlighted with the fear resonance. Feeding on a specific type of blood for too long will have you favor a particular type, opening up access to certain skills. But if you choose to forego your humanity, and kill indiscriminately for too long, your character will dip further into the vampiric-side. According to the developers, if this happens, your character's social skills will be affected, making certain situations--like socializing or going out in public--more difficult, but inversely, you can acquire more vampiric abilities as a result.

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Some of my favorite moments from the previous game where seeing just how far you could push social or combat situations in your favor. Though often times they didn't work out in ways that I intended, I ended appreciating the events that occurred, most of which was very odd. From this early look, Bloodlines 2 looks to be a faithful restart for the series, keeping up the adaptive, and incredibly bizarre storytelling. It'll be interesting to see what passes for strange in the eyes of the developers, fifteen years after the original game's release.

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192 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for lionheartssj1
lionheartssj1

Always meant to play the first game, but my Nvidia TNT2 was starting to show its age by the time it came out so I never struck when the iron was hot. Guess I have at least another year to squeeze in a run.

Avatar image for Bamda
Bamda

I am getting the game, no matter what. Too few titles in this sub-genre to worry about minor crap others are crying about.

Avatar image for lonesamurai00
lonesamurai00

The graphics look sumptuous and as mentioned on a Twitter feed, the PC version will have all the bells and whistles, Ray-tracing, Nvidia DLSS support, official modding support. and more. so it looks like it's going to be an excellent PC experience.

Avatar image for V3rciS
V3rciS

The Masquerade was a game that I always wanted to play but never played.

Avatar image for santinegrete
santinegrete

@V3rciS: it is on Steam if it helps.

Avatar image for totto210
totto210

.. i miss this game

Avatar image for proceeder
proceeder

I really hope the game offers a 3rd person perspective and a character creator.

I hate the Thief reboot. Would hate to see the same thing happen to Bloodline.

Avatar image for alex33x
alex33x

@proceeder: They said the character creator is very robust, with tons of options so that you can create the character you want. How ever they announced in twitter the game is first person only, with no third person option. We have a petition going for the inclusion of 3rd person, the game plays like Deus Ex where you see your character during cutscenes and sometimes when traversing the world, which means the 3d model is there it just needs a camera change.

https://www.change.org/p/hardsuit-labs-convince-paradox-interactive-to-add-3rd-person-view-for-bloodlines-2

Avatar image for gamingdevil800
gamingdevil800

@alex33x: Lmao 34 signatures.

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stalin_ksa

Nothing beats that moment when you have a discussion as a Malkavian with the TV anchor.

Avatar image for kanekan-slaugh
kanekan-slaugh

I'm not even kidding, the moment I saw this my pp got hard.

Avatar image for kanekan-slaugh
kanekan-slaugh

@kanekan-slaugh: in all seriousness I don't care if there's pre-order bonuses this will be one of the few games I'll ever pre-order in my life.

Avatar image for mdinger
mdinger

A sequel to one of the best modern RPG's ever made? Yes.

Avatar image for xantufrog
xantufrog

It's shocking to me how many people "hate" 1st person RPGs and would just refuse to play a game because of it.

Personally, I 1) don't have a strong preference one way or the other for RPGs in a general sense, and like to experience the world the way the artists envisioned.

2) I think those visions clearly favor different gameplay perspectives (rather than following some hard "you couldn't pay me to touch that" rule). Immersive sims... Sneaking around and exploring in 3pp would just ruin the immersion for me. Whereas crpgs like Baldur's Gate of course the opposite is true - they are built around party management and tactical planning, so a FPP would mess that up.

Moderator
Avatar image for alex33x
alex33x

@xantufrog: You may wan to to check this out then, if you havent already.

https://www.change.org/p/hardsuit-labs-convince-paradox-interactive-to-add-3rd-person-view-for-bloodlines-2

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@alex33x: 100 signatures. As suspected, a minuscule amount of irrelevant people.

Avatar image for alex33x
alex33x

@Thanatos2k: yesterday it was a 34, so 66 in signatures in 24 hours is not bad. But to each their own.

Avatar image for xantufrog
xantufrog

@alex33x: ok? I'm glad people who want a TPP are asking them for one. I won't be playing the game in TPP, but I never said I don't want others to play the way they want

Moderator
Avatar image for gns
GNS

@xantufrog: in my opinion, third person is better, because you have a larger field of view (in first person, your field of view is that of a horse with blinders on), plus generally, you can utilize the cover mechanics (you can see when you are in cover (in first person mode it's hard to do that). But that's just me.

Avatar image for xantufrog
xantufrog

@gns: have you played the original Thief games? IMO they are the best stealth games ever, and they show off beautifully how immersive and well executed FPP stealth can be!

Also there's nothing preventing a Deus Ex HR/MD approach to dynamic TPP cover mechanics if you really value those for stealth

But I'm not here to change your mind - our preferences are what they are

Moderator
Avatar image for proceeder
proceeder

@xantufrog: I hope you realize no one is demanding for the genre of the game to be changed to their liking, I for one am asking for the option of having a 3rd person view.

And admittedly, it's much harder to animate a fully playable character model than it is to show a pair of arms and, maybe, a gun.

The games would undoubtedly be better with additional options.

Just don't switch to 3rd person if you don't like it.

Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines offered a 3rd person cam.

How would Battlefield fans feel if DICE one day announced that Battlefield would be a 3rd person game or a puzzle game from now on?!

Avatar image for xantufrog
xantufrog

@proceeder: I'm not advocating against 3rd person - where did I say that?

And yes, there are people below demanding just that.

I'm scratching my head about people flipping their chairs over and storming off that the devs made this 1st person.

I'd wholeheartedly support a 3rd person toggle for people who want it

Moderator
Avatar image for proceeder
proceeder

@xantufrog: Thanks for understanding.

I guess "no one" was not the right phrase.

But, if they brought a "cult classic" back, people would be hurt/annoyed if they changed its perspective.

In my experience, most people who care about roleplaying a customized character would like a 3rd person or isometric camera in a single player game.

Recently, there have been many budget FPS games that involve some RPG element with dialogue options, not that many 3rd person RPGs. To see one that was the latter, exclude that option would be disappointing.

I guess we don't know for certain, yet.

Avatar image for kanekan-slaugh
kanekan-slaugh

@xantufrog: 1st person has always been my preference. 3rd person or especially top down is just annoying to me.

Avatar image for cboye18
cboye18

@xantufrog: I have always preferred 3rd person because gameplay-wise it works much better.

1st person makes character customization rather pointless and melee combat will always be simplified and cumbersome due to the restrictive camera view. It only really works for FPS and horror games.

Avatar image for alex33x
alex33x

Petition for inclusion of 3rd person, for those interested.

https://www.change.org/p/hardsuit-labs-convince-paradox-interactive-to-add-3rd-person-view-for-bloodlines-2

Avatar image for vorador1980
vorador1980

@alex33x: Thank you very much for this link, dear Sir. I signed it immediately. I simply can not imagine a Masquerade otherwise than in 3rd person. I sincerely hope that there will be some positive result.

Avatar image for alex33x
alex33x

@vorador1980: No problem, the issue is getting more exposure for it, there was 17 million during the lives stream, and there was hundreds if not thousands asking for 3rd person, but they seemed to ignore it.

Avatar image for asnakeneverdies
ASnakeNeverDies

Another presentationally overambitious cinematic trainwreck, whose scope is therefrom further compromised by accessibility concerns. To drive a wooden stake through its heart at this point would be merciful.¹

¹ Merciful for us, mind you.

Avatar image for thomas01
thomas01

I played the first one and didn't think much of it and then I found the fan patch and it became one of my favorite games,

Avatar image for hyruler461
hyruler461

@thomas01: Oh, what is this patch? I never played Bloodlines 1 but have it on steam and will defintely check it out now that this was announced. I did play the very first game on the PC though, it is called Redemption, though I think it plays very different from Bloodlines. Always loved that one.

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feign707

I am very intrigued. So many good games, so little time...

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ChrisAnetkaC

@feign707: Yes but even so, painful as it is, it's way better than the opposite scenario.

Avatar image for baral-o
baral-o

is this game first person or are they using this camera just for the reveal video? or maybe both first the third? I would love a good vampire game, but I don't like first person games that much, they make my slide dizzy and also I like to see my character

Avatar image for alex33x
alex33x

@baral-o:

There's a petition going for the dev to include 3rd person, we might not get anything, but you wont lose anything by signing.

https://www.change.org/p/hardsuit-labs-convince-paradox-interactive-to-add-3rd-person-view-for-bloodlines-2

Avatar image for darky9000
darky9000

@baral-o: Game will be first person ONLY, you can get that on net, and I have mentioned that here. So... it will be crap.

Avatar image for Mogan
Mogan

@baral-o: I think the first game had a third person toggle, but it's been so long now I kinda forget. No idea if this surprise sequel will include a third person option or not; it just got announced so we don't know much about it.

Avatar image for xantufrog
xantufrog

@Mogan: Yes it had (has) a toggle for 1st vs 3rd

Moderator
Avatar image for tsunami2311
tsunami2311

@Mogan: I think it does? not sure though I have original game on disc, thing is i no longer have cd/dvd drive to actual install and find out.

I have lot found memory about the original game, not so much bloodlines, as that was was buggy mess

Avatar image for wuabel
wuabel

I loved bloodlines! Yay

Avatar image for scatterbrain007
scatterbrain007

Wow, First System Shock 3, now this. Exciting stuff, I loved Bloodlines!

Online
Avatar image for darky9000
darky9000

So I watched trailer and noticed ugly truth and that is that another rpg game will be first person only. After some surfing I got confirmation for this. But there is also good news - it will have mod support!!! Yea!! First person game with mod support - don't see a point for this at all. I am huge fan of world and both Masquerade games but will skip this crap and all other first person rpgs.

Avatar image for alex33x
alex33x

@darky9000: I feel the same way, but with mod support at least we can hope, someone will make a third person mod. It's been done in other games.