Choice of the Vampire: The Fall of Memphis -- player feedback and reviews


#1

I’ve been a fan of the first Choice of the Vampire and have been eagerly waiting the release of Fall of Memphis. I purchased Fall of Memphis (FoM) as soon as I saw it was out.

Man, was I disappointed.

First off, there was way, way, WAY too much historical fluff. Setting the scene for a time and place is all well and good, and is applicable whether the setting be 19th century America, Ancient Rome, or a sci-fi future. But my god, I so did not care about some school superintendent being replaced with some other and teachers and blah blah blah. My eyes started glazing over after the bajillionth paragraph about education civil rights issues in the 19th century. “This is a game about being a vampire, right?”

Speaking of being a vampire: the abilities are worthless. Stats are listed like “shapeshifting” and “creation” and “lore.” They really didn’t mean anything in the first Choice of Vampire, but I assumed they would come into prominence with this second entry. No. I had a lore of three and could not tell a single benefit I derived from it. I also had a charm of three, and constantly failed all social checks. And the author makes a three in a stat sound powerful, since when I reached a stealth level of two, the dialogue was something like, “You have surpassed mortal abilities in sneaking and hiding, and are now invisible when standing still.” Which, by the way, was completely worthless – I guess the new black superintendent didn’t need my stealth abilities.

Most of FoM seemed to revolve around an election in vampire society, which largely consisted of watching NPCs argue and not much else. “Maybe I could turn someone else into a vampire,” or “Maybe this will fast forward to more modern times in Memphis,” or “Maybe I can become a Senator and run my own vampire city!” All cool-sounding stuff. None of which happens. You do have to decide whether to get rid of bonds that help Memphis get paved roads, though. Exciting, I know.

Also, I was busy playing the adventure when suddenly, halfway through, the Quaestor of Memphis was like, “And don’t forget to take care of Wilson.” What? Huh? Who is Wilson? This is the first I have heard of Wilson. And mention keeps being made of hunting someone named Wilson, for no reason I was ever able to discern.

FoM is about 1/10th the length of Zombie Exodus, took years to come out after the short first entry, and also cost money this time (money which, normally, I am more than happy to give). This is unacceptable. I know there has been some grumbling about recent CoG entries like Treasure Seekers of Lady Luck or Choice of the Ninja, and this is just another debacle of a release. Let me just reiterate my previous comment that CoG should just dump all their money on JimD of ZE and have him write non-stop.

Needless to say, I will not be looking forward to the next entry of Choice of the Vampire, when it gets released three years from now.


#2

@Scelous
I have to agree with you on pretty much all you just said. I kept on getting kicked out of the city. During the election they couldn’t make up their mind. To short like you said.


#3

I have to reluctantly agree with you, the first game I felt was very linear and blatantly told me where to go, who to be be friends with, and what to do. I also thought the stats would make a powerful performance. Another observation I have is if all of Memphis is basically dying why would I want unhealthy blood and not seek to go to some other places? why was there next to nothing about Clotho or Silas, wasn’t I madly in love with them at some point? and why cant I eve attempt to get involved in the many mortal affairs going on around me? With the forced southern atmosphere, bigger-than-life vampires, and overall latitude its like a bad version of Interview with a Vampire. Minus the excitement and surprises!

Edit: Also you live forever, why so straight forward? Just a straight let down after all the hype it has garnered.


#4

It is something of a pity. I quite enjoyed the first Choice of the Vampire - I’d consider it to be my favorite, in fact, or perhaps tied for that position with Choice of Broadsides. But Fall of Memphis just…fell flat. As it were. I’m trying to get my thoughts in order to understand exactly what the problem is with it.

I suppose first, and probably most pressing, is that it doesn’t really feel that you accomplish anything. There’s only really two affairs of consequence that occur in the game - the election of the senator, and the pursuit of Wilson. Neither of these are matters that are necessarily close to the player’s interests. For most, Wilson is just something you’re looking into as a favor, either for Samantha or for the Memphis Quaestor. And it’s far from clear why you should particularly care about who is elected to the position of senator, given that the role of a senator is apparently primarily to convey the wishes of the senator to the local population, and that the three actual candidates are all effective strangers to you. These are not elements which should form the lynchpin of the story, and yet it’s all we really see.

What’s worse is that -so little happens- in pursuit of them. You can go out in pursuit of Wilson every time you get the chance to do so, and while you may find a trace of him or talk to him a few moments, it makes no difference to the final disposition of the matter. The elections, as far as I can tell, are doomed irrevocably to deadlock and failure, or at least if there’s any way to make it end another way, I haven’t found it yet. Or I haven’t had the stats for it.

Which is another matter, as Scelous points out; inspecting the code, it’s apparent that many, many stat checks almost require that a character be custom-built for that purpose to have even a chance of passing it. A brief few examples:

Procuring refreshments by combat requires a combat ability of 9 or higher, something along the lines of strength 3 AND dexterity 3 AND fighting 2.
Attempting to foil the lynching by stealth requires stealth of 3…and then requires a willpower of 3 to keep from frenzying when they just kill him anyway with a machete.
Shoving open a locked door (a purely cosmetic effect) requires strength 4
Using the two or three choices that crop up to make someone forget something requires charm 5, which I’m reasonably certain is not actually achievable. (With careful management I was able to get it by the end of the current Chapter I, but when I saved and imported into chapter 2, it was back at charm 4).

Most of these -can- be achieved, but given the paucity of opportunities you have to develop your skills, will be out of reach for the vast majority of characters, particularly those developed organically on the basis of what sounds good at the time, or who seeks to have a well-rounded skillset. Instead of being able to do a number of things passably, such characters end up not being able to do much of anything at all.


#5

Ouch, and I was so looking forward to this, but it doesn’t sound worth it.


#6

The elections, now.

It pains me to say this, given how clear it is that substantial work went into it, but I really feel that the entire thing is fatally flawed. There’s too many characters, for one, that you theoretically have to worry about. I can’t even recall the number now. A dozen? More? It’s an unmanageable number to be asked to deal with at a single time. Particularly when we’re put in the faintly absurd position of picking the two or three people that we can talk to over the course of a gathering that lasts for many hours. It’s a choice that comes across as false, for even if we did have a pressing need to get to know the man from Missouri, there would certainly be more than enough time to make our introductions and get a mailing address.

Related is the fact that we have little or no basis on which to decide whom we should approach when we’re presented with a list of ten or twelve people, some of them just descriptions. Should I talk to “The gentleman from the Carolinas?” “The Jew?” “The bearded man in Colonial-era dress?” Will I learn anything useful from A as opposed to B? Will it make any difference to the outcome? With the information that we have, there’s absolutely no way to know, no foundation for an intelligent decision, or one that’s in keeping with what we intend our character to be. Only by playing through repeatedly, or cheating by looking at the code, can we hope to do better than blindly guess - and unfortunately, the results of that appear to be that no, you will not learn anything useful, and it will make no difference. I can talk to the ‘puritan woman’ and ask her how she became a governor, and what she thinks of the candidates. But this is not of interest to me, and I daresay it’s not of interest to anyone, essentially. So why, from a narrative perspective, is she there? Why can I talk to her? Why is the election half of the story, when most of what you do in it is meaningless fluff, and the vast majority of characters (perhaps all characters) will be unable to significantly affect it?

I appreciate that the player character cannot be at the center of all things, that there are larger forces at work. But there’s a reason that very few games feature the protagonist running petty errands in service of an enterprise doomed to ignominious defeat. If there’s a conflict in which the player cannot realistically, by the nature of the setting, play a critical role, then that conflict should not be front and center of the story, because it means you’re spending much of your time being irrelevant and powerless. Let the story center on smaller things, which the player -can- affect, and let the election occur as something more along the lines of the historical updates which pepper the background. As it is, after trying three games that I started again from chapter 1, I find the entire senatorial election subplot to be wholly unsatisfying.


#7

Okay, so I haven’t played FoM yet, and I don’t intend this to pile on, but it’s odd to me how many of these criticisms sum up my problems with the original CoV.

It’s just odd for me to see people open with how much they loved the original CoV and then complain about being disconnected from and unable to influence the major goings on, or that the high stat checks demand ultra-specialization to actually accomplish anything. I don’t know if the problems are just that much more egregious this time around, or if nostalgia just really colours people views of the early CoG titles.


#8

Well, it’s certainly not just nostalgia. I’m still enjoying the original CoV right now, as I make new characters to bring in to the sequel.

Some of it may be that problems which were present to some degree in the original are more pronounced here. I’d say that’s certainly true about the stat specialization - I noted that as a matter of some concern in the original, but it wasn’t half as egregious as it is here, likely because the maximum which could potentially be achieved was still somewhat low, so “almost as much as you can even get” is still a relatively reasonable level.

Honestly, I think the Karlstein segment may be the most enjoyable in the original, for all that it’s somewhat hidden away, and many players may not even find it. There’s a sense of building yourself up, of growing status and importance, and similarly of looming conflict…the ultimate resolution isn’t the most satisfying thing in the world, but the journey is fun. I’d quite rather have seen that used as the blueprint for this sequel.


#9

The problems are a little worse this time around. From what I’ve seen, you need to specialize a lot more in FoM, and if you choose to specialize in the wrong stat, you’ll miss out on A LOT of content. For example, I specialized in Technology and Intelligence. Doesn’t do anything for either of the main conflicts, prevents me from accessing certain options and scenes that would actually allow me to make a difference.

Part of the problem with the “elections” is that they really don’t matter all that much unless you have access to certain pre-election scenes. There are very specific requirements for these scenes, and you’ll learn more about the various characters there at these scenes. For example, you can learn more about the Puritan woman if you’re of a religious background, and improve your relationship with her so that the elections aren’t pointless.

But then they introduce more characters for the second election, and it becomes even more difficult. There simply isn’t enough time given to you to develop a relationship or rapport with the various actors in the election scenes, which is apparently what is needed to direct the elections. And the portion of the game where you’re exchanging letters feels completely pointless. At best, you’ll introduce yourself to one or two unmet vampires, but you can’t hold conversations with them or do anything regarding Memphis during the six months that you’re sending out letters. Also, the fact that you can only send out one letter per month is rather ridiculous.

Wilson’s story is even worse. You can try and find him, and it doesn’t seem like you can actually bring him to ground. I think he’s supposed to be the climax of the story, with his confrontation at the end, but that just makes all the choices to search for him and ignore the election even less interesting and more frustrating. It’s also poorly coded; several times when I played through, with different saves, the game would automatically assume I was chasing Wilson as a favor to Withers, when I hadn’t received a letter from her about it, or Carrothers knew I was chasing him for Withers without any previous scenes triggering.

It certainly seems as if there is a lot of content in FoM. There are plot hooks scattered throughout the game, and a glance at the code shows a lot of statistical comparisons and tests. But if you make the “wrong” choices and don’t focus on a few specific stats (Perception seems to be key) or pick a choice that pulls you off a specific story path in the previous game, like not wholeheartedly embracing the KKK, there isn’t any way to access much of the content in the game. There’s no way to fall back into a story path, or acquire the right stats to access the more detailed events.

Basically, if you’re not playing two or three specific kinds of vampire, you’re going to be stuck playing half a game, mainly regarding you chasing Wilson and failing or you trying to “elect” a senator and not being able to do anything.


#10

Okay, that all sounds both fair enough and kind of disappointing. As you may have gathered, I was never the biggest fan of CoV, but it had such ambitions and did a few things so well (the amount of historical research that went into it was in and of itself quite impressive), that I was hoping the sequel would iron everything out, rather than double down on its more negative aspects.


#11

I hope Im not being overdramtical and irrational, but sometimes I think goodness, if COG keeps going down this road of medicore games and recycled garbage would I really want to be along for the ride? The incredibility of the hosted games and forums game is really holding my grasp enough to make me believe in COG but they dealt another blow with this game.


#12

Hah. Not directly relevant, but it is a bit amusing. If you refuse to hunt down Wilson for Samantha, she exiles you from Vicksburg, explaining your move to Memphis. Carothers then allows you into the city, but extracts a debt from you for the privilege of accepting an exile. He cashes in this debt slightly later on to demand that you hunt down Wilson after all.


#13

For how long I have been waiting for this game, I admit that I was disappointed after I played it… though I was somewhat expecting that. Whenever it comes to trilogies (at least I think that CoV will be a trilogy), the second part is usually the worst of the bunch. But that’s not the main issue here.

I believe the main reason that this game didn’t go very well may be due to the fact that CoG was probably spending more time working on the third part of CoI. It comes out next week, after all. One would think that the release for these two titles would be more spread out so they can spend their time equally on both games. This is, however, just an observation and should be taken with a grain of salt. I have absolutely no idea how CoG spends their time.


#14

@Lord_Zant

I don’t believe that it’s meaningfully a joint effort, at least not for most games. It’s my understanding that these are largely undertaken on a purely individual basis, which is why CoV, for example, has only Jason listed as a writer. Romance and Intrigues do appear to be collaborations, but by Heather Albano and Adam Strong-Morse. I can’t imagine that there was any diversion of resources involved, when Vampires was written from the start by a completely different person.


#15

@Dominic
Yeah, that makes sense. Well that throws my theory out the window, though I really thought that CoV was something of a joint effort. Looks like I’ll just have to wait for CoV3 and see if it gets better.


#16

I don’t want to knock on a game that’s clearly taken a lot of time to write and implement, but yeah, color me disappointed too. There was nothing wrong with the writing, which was as superb as it was in the first game. But it suffered for its game design and plot. You guys hit everything that I was thinking. The people we met at the election were too many and too fleeting for us to care about… or even to keep track of, actually. I was repeatedly unsure if I’d spoken with someone. Also the letter writing campaign was really counterintuitive and I didn’t get the point. I also didn’t care about the sidequest with hunting down Wilson at all. It was a lack of investment all over the place, and a sense of not affecting the story.

I still don’t mind having bought it. I spend 3 bucks on worse things every day, and I’m happy to support COG. But I expected better.


#17

I agree that Choice of The Vampire 2 was disappointing; however, I shall not be quite so harsh in my criticisms.

Yes, there was very little choice in the new choice of game.

Yes, some of the stats were still useless as the first time. Fighting and charm are still overpowered stats and shapeshifting is still useless.

However, the story does show some, very little merit.

I am interested in the fate of West, my maker; I was interested to learn what Wilson was up to. I am interested that, on one of my playthroughs (one where I didn’t romance Clotho), I managed to see Clotho again, but in the others I merely thought I saw her.

There were several interesting quirks in the game, but they were buried way too deep.

Secondly, the entire story was incredibly contained.

The first story had one thing going for it; it was very flexible and everything changes depending on what your choices were. You could, conceivably, even avoid ever meeting your maker since the night you abandoned him and lord it over a small village.

There were very few differences in the second one. Everything was focused on the same drab group of vampires who somehow want to be something called a senate.

Frankly, it bored me so much I wanted an option to just kill every vampire in the room if they didn’t vote for me and see what they think of that.

Sure, Estefania’s secret signs were expanded upon, and the shepherds and wolves debate was expanded on too; but there was nothing that was new.

Everything that was good in Choice of the Vampire 1 was taken out and replaced by a boring story on a bunch of vampires trying to be polite and playing with politics.

There was no action, or even moderately interesting conversations; this game feels like it is a placeholder in an otherwise good series, a book with no particular purpose other than to link two stories together. What with so many new characters all at once and so many hidden storyline paths, it is a boring task to trekk through the story again and again to find all the hidden storylines.

Spoiler for whoever thinks their stats are useless:

Creation: Try throwing the party for the vampires yourself
All first five stats: They now have to be leveled up to 4 to be useful.
Fighting: This stat now determines if you are a good hunter, instead of the stealth stat.
Shapeshifting: This is useless for now, but if you were a progeny of West, you would have heard what happened to him, so it might be very important in the 3rd part…

P.S. I am disappointed by the new format of Choice of the Vampire 1; I prefered the beginning of the old version.


#18

Well.
That’s a pity.


#19

It is. It really is. :frowning:


#20

Especially if nothing’s changed since the Alpha testing of it, which I was involved in.