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Geek Review - Vampire The Masquerade - Swansong

Geek Review – Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong

The legacy of the Vampire: The Masquerade tabletop roleplaying game has helped spawn some of the more beloved RPGs that focuses on vampires and the like, and that momentum appears to be gaining traction, with more planned games in the pipeline. However, it doesn’t mean that all is well, as Big Bad Wolf Studio and Nacon’s Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong establishes what happens when poorly implemented narrative takes precedence over any action, inadvertently putting a stake through the heart of this vampiric adventure. 

Geek Review - Vampire The Masquerade - Swansong -  The trio of protagonists.

Transforming players into a trio of vampires – Emem, Galeb, and Leysha –  the story of Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong unfolds as the Boston Camarilla (the local cabal) experiences a crisis, with a massacre threatening to break the fragile peace between the bloodsuckers and the blood sorcerers known as the Hartford Chantry. The three characters set off under the orders of uncovering the mysteries behind the bloodbath, and things are obviously not what they seem.

Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong allows players some limited flexibility in which to pursue that cause, choosing between the three characters, and the missions designed for their capabilities and station in the hierarchy of the vampires. Galeb’s Fortitude toughens him up for brutal conditions, which comes in handy at a certain part of the story. Emem can count on Celerity to teleport herself to advantageous locations, whereas Leysha’s mimicry ability allows for subterfuge when assuming the roles of others. 

Ideally, this would have led to overlapping scenarios and events that have significant consequences for the trio, but the story generally misses the train for such narrative cohesiveness, which is a consistent problem in the game.

Geek Review - Vampire The Masquerade - Swansong - Conversations become a drag

It most certainly does not help if you are a relative newcomer jumping into the World of Darkness universe of roleplaying systems. Complex terms, relationships, and events are thrown about with reckless abandon, requiring players to dive into the in-game codex to get a cursory understanding of just what the hell is going on.

That in itself is not a bad thing, after all, getting players invested is how most games would want the experience to be, but for Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong, it is on a whole other level of confusion and struggle, which does not bode well when you are trying to tie together a narrative from three perspectives. 

Without action sequences, the main gameplay component comes in the form of dialogue and choices, and it is another inelegant implementation. Paying attention to most of the conversations you have with other characters will betray the jarring nature of it all, jumping from subject to subject without necessarily setting things up properly. 

The most egregious example of that disconnect has to be the major Confrontations, conversations that are meant to be dramatic and push the story along. Yet, should you choose the wrong option at any given moment, the conversation jumps ahead and tries to lead you back to the right path, which most definitely takes away from the tension.

Geek Review - Vampire The Masquerade - Swansong - Puzzles can be hit or miss

Another significant with the main gameplay of Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong lies in how the dialogue system works with the skill system, where each character can utilise their proficiency in Rhetoric, Intimidation, Persuasion, and Psychology to steer conversations their way. In concept, that should make for some interesting scenarios, but in application, they hardly feel impactful and become arbitrary choices when it is clear certain options set you up for success.

Of course, if that is not enough to push you over the edge, perhaps the general aloofness and bad attitudes of the many folks you will meet in Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong might make you want to jump right into the sun to end it all. It is perfectly understandable that there are going to be pompous individuals every now and again, but making it the norm rather than the exception can be testing for those of us not used to insufferable personalities all the time.

Thankfully, the Disciplines system that figures into the puzzle design of Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong makes for a better time, allowing Galeb, Emem, and Leysha to show what they can do. 

All these Disciplines add more variety to the level design in varying degrees, with Leysha being the obvious standout. Galeb, on the other hand, does become the blandest since it mostly involves finding the right key to open a door, and that is also usually the case for other sections once the cool power sequences are over. Even then, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong also suffers from the occasional obtuse puzzle that can frustrate those looking for more logical solutions.

Visually, the game does look good when it comes to showcasing the characters and the environments, but lipsyncing can be off, and you will be spending most of your time reading text anyway, so it might not be that big of an issue. 

As a genre, there are certainly cases to be made for successful RPGs that eschew action for drama, with Disco Elysium a shining example. To compensate for the gameplay aspect, the writing has to be strong, and there must be intermingling systems that enhance the overall experience, and on those fronts, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is most definitely not pulling its weight.

A disjointed affair that ultimately buckles under the weight of its legacy, it is hard to see Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong beyond a chore that is just not worth it, in fact, it may well be living up to its name and tarnishing it in the same vein.

Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is available on the Epic Games Store for $42.00

GEEK REVIEW SCORE

Summary

A less-than-ideal cohesive story and poor systems design make Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong a game that perhaps should not have seen the light of day.

Overall
4.9/10
4.9/10
  • Gameplay - 4/10
    4/10
  • Story - 4.5/10
    4.5/10
  • Presentation - 7/10
    7/10
  • Value - 4/10
    4/10


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