Now that all four (that we know of) games in COG’s Vampire the Masquerade line have been released, I thought we needed a discussion thread for the games as a whole, to better discuss what we liked and disliked, what we hope to see in the future, etc.
As many others have said, Night Road ended up creating a high standard for the games to reach, in terms of choice, replayability, writing, and gameplay (your opinion may vary on how successful the other games were in reaching that standard). I adored just how much it felt like a VTM game; from the atmosphere to the quests to the characters. For each clan I played as (Lasombra, Gangrel, Banu Haqim, Ravnos, and Nosferatu), I genuinely felt that it impacted the story and my relationship with these characters. There were times I disliked the choices I had to make, but could recognize why they were necessary, and that really hammered in the whole theme of vampires being monsters, and this being a compelling, dark world…of darkness. Out of all four games, it felt the most traditionally like a video game versus an interactive fiction game–which was both fantastic, and sort of frustrating.
Where the game suffers most is unfortunately due to some of the downsides of this medium: the lack of a save feature, and the messiness of the stats screen. It’s fantastic that the game is so massive and intricate, but it can get exhausting when, if you accidentally misclick an option or misunderstand something, you had to either move forward with a potential awful choice or restart entirely. If any game in COG and Hosted’s history ever made a good case for implementing a save system, it’s this one. At the least it would have been nice to have some sort of checkpoint system in place. The stats screen is also a hassle: there’s so many to check with a game this heavily stat-oriented that it becomes a headache to glance back and forth at everything. I ended up just taking physical notes just to have an easier time playing everything.
Out for Blood
I’ll probably have the least to say about this one; because I have not played it since release on account that I cannot figure out what system I purchased it on (it’s not on Steam, it isn’t in my library, I can’t open it in Firefox and it doesn’t seem to be in the Chrome Store either???) But looking at reactions off-site, it seems to be one of the less popular games, which surprised me since the only thing I really disliked was the ending I got, which was the FBI ending. I liked the unique perspective that it gave in the world of the Masquerade, and as I said at the time of its release, it’s my favorite thing the author’s written for this medium. I think the first third of the game is so interesting, and I liked how it built up the mystery of what vampires are like. I was a little sad that we couldn’t play as an experienced hunter, but I had fun playing as a hunter regardless. I also loved how diverse the game was–I can’t think of many COG/Hosted games that featured an RO in a wheelchair, and it genuinely felt like each RO was given mostly equal treatment–which is nice, since it’s pretty easy for writers to heavily focus on one over the rest of the cast.
Similarly to Night Road, I had issues with the stat screen and the lack of a save feature, which I think would have really helped with this game. I also felt like the last half of the game, specifically related to the plot was shallower than the early part of the game. I’m not sure if it’s because this game was a bit more character-driven than plot-focused or not.
All in all, I really liked Out for Blood because it was a fun perspective in this world, and it also gave me a new appreciation and enjoyment of Jim D’s writing.
Parliament of Knives
As someone who always preferred the Anarchs over the Camarilla, this game gave me more appreciation for the Camarilla as a whole, even as I rolled my eyes at how horrible vampires are at creating steady governments–seriously guys, just give up and move towards a democracy or something. All this backstabbing can’t be good for stability in the vampire world. I liked politicking with the various factions, all within the context of solving this big ol’ mystery of what happened to Arundel, what’s going on with the Tremere and Banu Haqim, what is your sire planning, etc. Heck, I’ve played the game four times and I still feel like I haven’t found all of the story details yet, in the best way possible. I loved the characters, and found myself wishing for more content with many of the NPCs (Lucca, Trevor, Kashif…please let me love you…).
I would say the game went a bit too far in the direction of simplifying the stats, though. I felt like I never had to think about what action would be most practical or plausible to pull off. I had fun, but I wish there was a little bit more difficulty to some of it. I kinda wish there were more ugly Nosferatu. I didn’t feel like my clan mattered as much as it did in Night Road, which was a bit disappointing since there’s only the three. I also had trouble taking Ottawa seriously, but I recognize that as a mild, anti-Canadian sentiment I’ve developed out of jealousy for their healthcare system.
Sins of the Sire
It’s funny: I played this game four times back to back, thrice more over the next few days, and played this far more than any other game in the line, and yet I struggle to really say what the game was about. I definitely enjoyed it a lot more than other people did–I thought the writing was spectacular, until it wasn’t, the characters were compelling, until they weren’t, and that the author did a fantastic job of hammering in the loss that comes with becoming a vampire.
Writing wise, the language used was so lovely to read. I literally played the game repeatedly over and over again because I enjoyed reading it so much. But once you get through with meeting Gor, I felt like the writing dropped off in quality, as if the rest of the game was someone’s first draft. It was a little disappointing because I know Natalia can and has written so much better–hell, Natalia wrote so much better in this very game! It was like I was reading someone’s graphic summary of the game. I would have loved to play the game I was reading the summary for.
With regards to the characters, I found some absolutely compelling; Markos, Persa, and the MC’s relationships with one another was so beautiful and exciting to read. I wanted and still want to learn more about these characters. Gor was lovely as well, with a background I thought was very unique and creative for a vampire in this setting. But I left the game feeling that the others weren’t as interesting, which is fine in theory–all the games released had a few characters that just sort of were there. But here, it was like a revolving door of people I thought I would be learning more about only to never see again. This is an issue in a game where several of these people could end up being your sire. I know that the whole point is not quite having a relationship with your sire, but you would think that if my sire is secretly one of these people, there would be some sort of dynamic or strong interaction with these characters. I think I felt the most connection with Markos (for obvious reasons), but his status as a sire made the least amount of sense to me. I still don’t get why he lied to us, and it kind of made his plan seem stupider than it would have had he been honest about his intentions with us. I also felt that the romances were weak. Which is fine, it’s not the main point of this game, but at times I wondered why there were romances at all if the game didn’t seem invested in exploring them. With that said, I loved Markos’s romance because it was one of the few times in an IF game where I genuinely wondered if my RO even liked me, or was using me. I still don’t know, and I like that sense of doubt.
The best part of the game was how much it made feeling like a vampire suck. Like. I genuinely felt like I lost my life when my character became a vampire. At times it felt like the MC had a bit of an open wound in regards to their living life. Admittedly, some options were a bit more lacking in others, but it genuinely felt to me like my MC had a life before they became the character I explored the world as.
TLDR: While I liked some games more than others, I love how each game had its own different feel to it. I liked the creativity of the authors, and the unique perspectives they all brought to this universe. I wish there was a save system in place to make it easier to replay (not sure if COG will ever release a new ChoiceScript language, but if they do, this really should be implemented). I wish there was a better way to implement the stats, or make it easier to view while playing.
I also wish there was a more uniform standard in the writing. Twice these games felt rushed within the second half, which is something I hope is looked for more in testing circles for COG games in the future.
All in all, I loved this line, and I never regretted a single purchase. I really hope we see more games, not just for VTM but any of the World of Darkness lines, or maybe more licensed works within existing IPs. I would absolutely love to see COG continue this sort of thing in the future.
What about you guys? What did you think of the VTM games, and what would you be interested in seeing in the future?