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VAMPIRE THE MASQUERADE: BLOODLINES
VAMPIRE THE MASQUERADE: BLOODLINES REVIEW
Date Played Nov 2011

Any game with the word vampire in it will usually get my attention as I like the horror genre whether it be books, movies or games. (Yes, I read the Anne Rice books) However, being an Activision title it rarely goes on sale and I did wait a long time before purchasing it. Supporters of the game love it, but after the first couple of levels I was wondering what the big attraction was. At that point, I found it all rather blasé but thought the fact that you could play this game numerous times simply by playing a different vampire clan might account for the appeal. Was it going to make much of a difference to the story and gameplay though? That remained to be seen.

The game begins by asking whether you want it to auto pick a vampire clan for you or whether you want to answer some questions that will determine the clan best suited to those answers. Once completed, attributes, abilities and talents available to you in the skill tree are unique to that clan. If you choose a different clan, your skill tree will be different. What this essentially means is that you approach your missions in a way that plays to your clan strengths. It could be combat, stealth, or persuasion, for instance, so that your experience and dialogue options could be quite different in each playthrough. You can also play as either a male or a female vampire.


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As it turned out, this is one of those games that gets better and more interesting as you progress. There are basically four levels demarcated as cities and in each city you receive multiple quests by talking to its various occupants. You will deal with humans as well as kindred from various clans. Each quest gains you experience points, which you use to level up your abilities. You can use auto-level up or set these manually. There are also vendors for purchasing weapons, ammo and clothing, which acts as various levels of armor. You can also pick up items that you can sell to these vendors. In addition, you can find instruction books as well as be given special items that also add to your capabilities.

Before commenting further, a little history. The latest version of Bloodlines is officially patched to version 1.2. Due to the developer experiencing a myriad of problems, direct support for this game ended and many errors and bugs were not corrected. However, users undertook the task to fix these and restore unreleased additional content that was found in the game files. Many people install the well-known community patch and the latest edition as of this date, 7.8a, is what this review is based on. Therefore, I cannot comment on how the game looks and performs in its original form.

As to this user-patched edition, with the latest release the game performed almost flawlessly on my system. This is not surprising given it uses Valve's Source engine (Half-life 2). There are one or two minor problems with the camera in close spaces, but nothing very serious. As to the actual game, there are some things that don't make a lot of sense with characters not behaving in a very realistic manner, but none of it takes away from the experience being quite enjoyable. There is quite a good mix between role-playing, puzzles and combat. Boss fights are actually quite hard, but there is always a sweet spot where they can't touch you as you kill them. I don't know if this is a glitch or whether it is intentional. The graphics are very acceptable in the context of its age with a slightly comic book feel to them. Load screens are a little slow, but not irritatingly so and the time is used to give you hints and history of the vampire world and its clans.

The story weaves together the growth of your character from neonate to legend, defines the purpose of the missions and allows for some variety in the endings. Although the game is fairly linear, it's possible to miss all of its parts due to your choice of clan or choice of your actions, which gives the game some replay value. I would advise doing some research to discover which clan on a second playthrough would give you a different experience.

The menu interface is very friendly and smooth as butter. There is quicksave and load, always appreciated, and an option to play in first or third view. The only real complaint I had with the controls is the method of weapon selection, which is tied to keyboard numbers with a drop down menu. It was difficult to quickly change weapons in the midst of combat and these couldn't be re-keyed to the mouse wheel as this was dedicated to another function. There is also not as much freedom of movement during enemy engagement as one might have hoped for and can sometimes be quite restrictive, making it feel more like battling the controls than the enemy.

This is a game that is aimed at a mature audience, so I wouldn't be letting your children loose with it. It's not just the violence or I wouldn't be mentioning it as many games include violence, but there is also a lot of sexual stuff. In fact, the game is actually quite chauvinistic with a lot of scantily clad women running around offering sex. Some of it was actually quite tasteless, definitely sexist, and a throwback to stereotype. If this is something that would bother you, skip this game, but if not, it's quite fun.

Game Issues Experienced
First, make sure your game is officially patched to the 1.2 version (automatic with Steam) then install the latest unofficial patch, which is 7.8a 9.3 as of this date. To install the unofficial patch do the following;
  • Download the patch to a location where you can scan it with anti virus. (I have a folder set up for any game patches.)
  • Backup the original game files before installing this in the game folder.
  • Copy the patch files and paste them into the game folder. When it asks if you want to replace/overwrite say yes. The patch will ask if you want the Basic or the Extra content version. Pick the one you want. There is a ReadMe included that will explain the differences.
  • For the Steam version, there may be other problems. See thread; Steam Legacy
All of the discussion can be confusing. Just do the above. If you have further problems, check the forums for potential solutions.

UPDATE June 2015: The author of the unofficial patch continues to do great work keeping things up-to-date and certain things have changed since I played this game. You can find his latest instructions on the Steam Community site Steam Guide
Development Note
Troika Games was formed in 1998 by three former Fallout developers. After the release of Bloodlines in 2004, they were unable to secure funding for future projects and had to close down. Their legacy seems to be innovative, but buggy and unpolished games in the RPG genre. Prior to VTMB, they released Arcanum and The Temple of Elemental Evil, but all three games, although inspired, were in an unfinished state. However, they found favor with the modding community, which went on to whip these games into a condition that now works on modern systems. Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines was the first game to use Valve's new Source Engine, but Activision could not release it until after Half-Life 2 was published. After extended deadlines and further funding, Activision finally forced release of the game in its unpolished state. Retroactively, critics continue to praise its innovation.
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Many digital distributors also offer "Online" CD keys that can be added to your Steam Library
Other games in series:  Vampire The Masquerade - Redemption
VTMB is an indirect sequel
GAME INFORMATION
  • Genre: Action, Adventure
  • Developer(s): Troika Games
  • Publisher(s): Activision
  • Platforms: Microsoft Windows
  • Release: Nov 2004
  • Mode(s): Single-player
  • Media: Download, DVD, CD
  • DLC Available: No.
  • OS: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP
  • CPU: Pentium 3 1.2 Ghz or Athlon
  • RAM: 384 MB
  • Hard Drive: 3.3 GB free space & 1.4 GB for swap file
  • Video: DirectX 9.0c compatible
  • Shader Model:
  • Sound: 16-bit sound card and drivers
  • Input: Keyboard & Mouse
  • DRM: Steam
AROUND THE WEB
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Official Modding Tools
To indicate what kind of performance you may get, compare your specs to the system this game was played on. You can also try  Can You Run It
  • Version: Non-Steam Download 1.2 + unofficial patch 7.8a
  • OS: Windows XP SP3
  • CPU: Athlon 64x2 4200+ 2200MHz
  • Ram: 4GB
  • Disk Drive: DVD/CD
  • Video: ATI Radeon 4830
  • Shader Model: 4.1
  • DirectX: 9.0c
  • Input: Keyboard & Mouse
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