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The vampire video game that sinks its teeth into the 1% – The Guardian

Posted: February 21, 2020 at 2:51 pm

Vampires have stood for many things over the centuries. In European medieval folklore, they were metaphors for disease and for the outsider, roaming the darkness beyond the village bounds. In the world of Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines 2, however, the bloodsuckers have made it inside the gates. Theyve found their way into the organs of finance and the state, creating an unseen society parallel to our own, and theyre doing rather well for themselves.

Set in a parallel version of present-day Seattle, Bloodlines is a knowing feast of vampires new and old, from sewer-dwelling ghouls redolent of Count Orlok to impeccably dressed matriarchs who recall the Underworld movies but its all woven around a complex investigation of a city in thrall to unaccountable elites. As senior narrative designer Cara Ellison explains, the developers have conceived of vampires as parasites on society, the 1%, stockpiling resources for themselves. Removing things from general circulation and preying on the vulnerable.

Bloodlines 2 casts you as a fledgling thinblood, suddenly endowed with immortality during a mysterious vampire rampage. In this version of Seattle which forms part of White Wolf Publishings World of Darkness universe the undead are forbidden from revealing themselves to humans. As an unauthorised convert, you are lugged before a council of elders and slated for termination, but an explosion of in-fighting sets you loose on the city. Playing in first-person, youll need to get to grips with powers such as the ability to become mist, as well as sate your mounting bloodthirst and find your niche in an underworld of warring factions.

Like the somewhat goofy original 2004 game, Bloodlines 2 is a tale of two cities. There are the crowded thoroughfares and open spaces of human existence, where vampires must keep up the masquerade of the title, and a series of back alleys and catacombs where youre free to scuttle up buildings or glide about on batwings to your (unbeating) hearts content. The Resonance system, a kind of psychic profiling app, helps you track down the tastiest prey. It tags passersby according to their mood, which charges their blood with beneficial properties. Feed on a clubgoer who is in a state of lust, for instance, and your character may become more charismatic for a period thereafter.

The barrier between Seattles living and undead populations is shifting and unstable. According to lead writer Brian Mitsoda longtime resident of the real Seattle a big chunk of the plot concerns how vampires might react to human developments such as the ubiquity of smartphones with cameras. The games undead factions have also infiltrated the institutions of mortal society (the game takes a few cues, here, from the double-agent TV thriller The Americans). The well-groomed Camarilla sect have their manicured hands all over the world of finance, while the hideous Nosferatu clan wield power through their informants in the press.

The players character is far from a neutral party within all this. Your choice of previous vocation when designing your avatar may determine how people respond to you. Play as a former cop, and those whove fallen foul of the law might refuse to help you or seek payback. Later in the story, youll also raise the stakes by joining a vampire faction, acquiring potent new abilities such as telepathy while at the same time lowering your standing with the clans rivals.

Bloodline asks you to be mindful of all these agendas and tensions as you wander a metropolis that takes inspiration from noir films such as Chinatown. It also asks you to reckon with these dynamics in conversation. Where most vampire video games emphasise fighting prowess, Bloodlines 2 plays up the idea of the vampire as a consummate charmer and seducer. You can flirt with other characters to achieve your aims, given a high enough charisma rating, and other vampires are quite capable of coming on to you in turn.

In contrast with the adolescent ideas about sex and seduction that prevail in most fantasy games, flirtation in Bloodlines 2 is designed to feel playful, lingering and exciting especially when you say the wrong thing. We tried to have the player leverage social acumen, and their ability to read people, their emotional insight, Ellison says. Screwing up might actually lead to a useful revelation of some kind, or at least a livelier conversation. You can definitely say something that makes someone less interested, says Mitsoda. Or that makes them kind of disgusted. Those are kind of fun!

Bloodlines 2 might be horror fantasy, but its preoccupation with the invisible power structures that lurk within the visible is certainly timely. As Mitsoda points out, there are plenty of vampires in circulation today, even if youre more likely to find them at a country club, or running a troll factory, than in a crypt. We dont know who those people are. We dont know what theyre into, or what their shell companies are into, or where their money is going. We dont know who theyre impacting the most, who theyre backing politically. We dont know a lot about them and thats all on purpose, because it gives them a lot of power.

Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines 2 is published by Paradox Interactive and will launch later in 2020.

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The vampire video game that sinks its teeth into the 1% - The Guardian

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith