Alright, time to deliver on that promise. It’s Vampire: The Masquerade time! This is the rpg I’ve been playing lately, and I’ve been enjoying every minute of it. Several progression paths and a non-standard level up system means I’ll probably be playing it for a while to come as well. But you’re not here to just see me gush about a game, right? We’ve been there with Monster Hunter and oh god the pain that article instilled. So, today we’re just going to cover my favorite aspects of the world. The lore, the theme, and the character evolution will be what we discuss today, starting with the lore of Vampire.

The Story: First and foremost, you need to know absolutely nothing about Vampire: The Masquerade or World of Darkness (the overall setting) coming into this game. Everything will be explained to you in simple, easy to understand ways. There are seven vampire clans to pick from, each with a special history and perks, and a strength and weakness. For example, the Ventrue clan has powerful dominate abilities, but must feed from a higher class of ‘stock’, so no bums or rats for you. Nosferatu are hideously deformed by the curse and have to live in the sewers to avoid breaking the masquerade, but have unparalleled stealth to help them survive. I could go on for a long, long time covering each of the clans, but the thing is, there is something here for everybody. Each clan has distinct aspects that make them appear to be of the same overarching family, but distinct enough to be divisible into unique clans. Everything that needs to be described about your clan is told in the tutorial and allows you to practice you’re unique skills, while the interactions you have with the world around you and dialog options will tell you the story of your clan. It’s a beautiful and simple way to get the basics of the Masquerade across without you having to know of the series before hand.

As a side note: The Malkavian clan is bar-none my favorite of the seven for being absolutely bonkers from start to finish. Vampire: The Masquerade is one of the only games, if not the only, I have ever played were madness isn’t just another way of saying ‘retarded murderer.’ Each Malkavian has something distinct about them, something that marks them as unique. I won’t spoil it for those of you who play the game, but I’ve seen four Malkavians so far (player-character included) and none of them are ‘break down and murder’ brand of ‘madness,’ in fact, the game plays how insanity actually works fairly straight, from paranoia to schizophrenia, at least within the context of a world full of vampires and magic. Of those four, only one actually has displayed any of the usual tropes associated with Hollywood-madness, but it’s explained in-story as to why. This Malkavian is old, old enough to have come from a time when the insane were seen as sub-human and thrown into asylums for their entire lives to ‘treat’ them, which explains his motives and ethics for experimenting on human beings from asylums. He’s from a time when such things were less than human, and treats them as such. No it isn’t right, but that’s the point. Old vampires usually act like the time they are from. Geez, that was a lot. Maybe I should do an article on madness in games sometimes… Anyways, moving right along.

The Theme: Dark. Bet you didn’t see that coming, did you? In all seriousness, the game does quite honestly bring across a feeling of fear and dementia that very, very few games can hope to match. One of the extremely early missions in the game has you going into an actual haunted house, and the entire experience can be chalked up as one of the scariest moments in my gaming life. It was actual, genuine horror and not a massive sequence of jump-out scares that games so love to do. There is even a not-so abandoned hospital a little later on that manages to capture that same feeling as before.  Conversations with humans and vampires alike hint at a darker future on the horizon with a sense of inevitability following it.  It’s just, overall, a beautiful game. I can’t fault it for the feelings the atmosphere and music evoke and the images they instill in the mind.

Oh god someone walk into this alley. I still need food!

Character Evolution: Now, this last one was something I wasn’t sold on until I started playing the game. You select your clan and gender at the beginning (You can also choose a history which will effect some missions, but I’ve heard it can create a couple nasty bugs and so haven’t tried any yet) and then assign some bonus points to your skills before being set loose in the game world. Completing objectives and missions grants experience, but killing enemies does not. Likewise, there is no ‘Level up’ system in place, you simply save up experience and then purchase the skill level you want. For instance, level 3 of Dexterity costs about 8 experience points while level one in Brawling is 3. You can plan out which skills to level based on what you want your character to be,and the game encourages specialized builds. Do you want to go for a smart computer expert, flaunting your knowledge and ability to crack into computers? Or do you want to to be a stealthy assassin, focusing on fighting up close and personal while sneaking around in the shadows? Or would you like to be a jack of all trades, master of none? The choice is entirely yours, and often times there are several ways to go about completing objectives and gaining experience points, so there is rarely a ‘wrong’ choice. You will want some skill with a weapon, but increasing certain other stats like Perception and Dexterity will grant a bonus to Ranged and Melee weapons, respectively. Your character is your own to build in this massive dark world, and it’s up to you to live without getting a stake in the heart.

Aside gripe: There are a few clothing options in the game, but they are tied to armor. You can’t give your character any clothing styles for aesthetic purposes. Now, when my one complaint is that I can’t play dress up, you know the core mechanics are fine and I’m just demanding fluff. Still, it would have been nice to let me change my look without changing my armor at the same time.

Now, I’m far from beating the game right now. I’m not even sure if I’m even at the half way point yet, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. This world feel massive and atmospheric and is probably the best twenty dollars I’ve ever spent on a game. If you like roleplaying games like Fallout or Dragon Age where you have massive control over who your character is and how much influence you want to exert on the main story, then seriously consider checking out Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines.