Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines | The Epitome of the RPG

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines | The Epitome of the RPG


Hi I’m Velvet. Velvet Velour, but you can call me VV. I’m here to talk about retro video games. Let’s talk about a game that was plagued
by bugs, embargo issues, publisher interference and terrible labour practices but still managed
to become what I consider the pinnacle of role playing games. It’s Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines. Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines was developed
by Troika Games and released for PC in 2004. It’s an action RPG where you play a fledgling
vampire thrust into a dangerous modern day Los Angeles where various vampire factions
vie for power. The setting is based on White Wolf’s World
of Darkness which is a pen & paper RPG. It opens, as many western RPGs do, with character
creation, which I’ll get into in a bit. Once you’ve created your character you witness
the embrace which turns you into a vampire. Your sire is quickly slain for doing this
without permission from the powers that be and you are put on trial for your afterlife,
which is almost very short. However, the man in charge, Prince LaCroix,
is swayed by public outcry and allows you to live. But now you work for him. You’re sent out into the world and the first
friendly character you meet is Jack, an ex-pirate anarchist, who offers to show you the ropes. He explains some of the different vampire
factions and offers to take you on a quick mission which functions as a tutorial, teaching
you how to sneak, fight and feed. He also tells you about the Masquerade. The Masquerade is the law that the vampires,
or Kindred, live by to ensure that their existence is kept a secret. Indiscretions like using powers in front of
humans or being caught feeding are frowned upon and if you regularly break the Masquerade,
things will not end well for you. After this, you’re taken to your apartment
in Santa Monica. The space is small, but by the time you’ve
explored it, you’ll have learned a lot. Checking your email will give you the address
of Mercurio, whom the Prince has tasked you with helping, pointing you on your way to
your primary quest. You’ll also see a mysterious message from
the Tremere regent, a tantalizing glimpse of a quest and location to come. And then there’s an email advertising penis
enlargement, because the game never takes itself too seriously. Turning on the radio treats you to the sultry
voice of Deb, who deftly handles the weirdos that call radio stations in the middle of
the night. LA is full of them and their rantings can
sometimes be oddly prescient. Stepping out into the hallway you’ll see
a newspaper, telling the story of a grisly series of murders. I wonder if that’ll be relevant later? Within just a few minutes of handing control
to the player, the game has done a ton of worldbuilding. While your first quest involves getting explosives
from some drug dealers, you’ll eventually find yourself in the midst of a supernatural
power struggle and under a great threat. A mysterious sarcophagus has been uncovered,
which is thought to contain the body of one of the oldest and most powerful vampires. Its appearance could signal Gehenna, the vampire
apocalypse. Every faction wants to get their hands on
it. And they all want you to help them. Talking to the dozens of characters you’ll
meet is one of the greatest delights of the game. Though I’ve played it multiple times, I
never find myself skipping dialogue. The writing is so engaging – it’s sardonic,
biting and political. But there’s also an economy of language
that means the game never feels weighed down by exposition. Visually the characters you’ll meet are
attractive, their facial expressions lovingly animated, with a glint in their eyes and a
resonance to their voices. The voice acting is excellent and you’ll
likely recognize many of the players. John Dimaggio, probably best known as Bender
in Futurama or Jake in Adventure Time plays your first friend and guide, Smiling Jack. Jack is your rock during your time in Los
Angeles. No matter how many bad choices you’ve been
making he’s always there to offer some advice or opinions, and in this world it’s nice
to see a friendly face from time to time. Courtenay Taylor, who is Jack in the Mass
Effect series and the protagonist in Fallout 4 plays fiery anarchist Damsel, as well as
your ghoulfriend Heather. Heather is a human you have the choice of
saving very early in the game – if you give her your blood you’ll have a loyal servant. But at what cost? Michael Gough plays the scholarly Beckett. He will certainly make you want to stay awhile
and listen. He also plays the creepy Gimble… who you
should not stay around for too long. Beckett is a loner, not pledging allegiance
to any faction, he knows a lot and offers advice often. He’s one of the few characters who seems
trustworthy. And there’s Grey Delisle who’s voiced
a ton of cartoons and characters like Catwoman in Arkham City and Nova in Starcraft 2. She plays my favourite character Jeanette,
as well as her twin sister Therese. Jeanette is a Malkavian, adept at alliteration,
and achieving all her ambitions. She has a mad, poetic way of speaking and
I’m always a little blue when I move past the Santa Monica portion of the game, where
she sadly stays. Along with the prime voice acting, there is
quality sound design and the whole thing is scored with a great goth soundtrack, featuring
tracks from Lacuna Coil, the Genitorturers, and Chiasm. Both the licenced and original music fits
each area perfectly and all comes together to make a moody, mesmerizing and sexy soundtrack. So what makes Bloodlines a great role playing
game? It lets you do a ton of mechanical and narrative
character building. There’s a lot to sink your teeth into. Let’s start at the beginning – character
creation. You first choose your gender and clan. Your clan will have an effect on events and
how people react to you. It also dictates which three disciplines,
which are types of supernatural abilities, you can use. If you’re a Brujah, generally seen as rabel
rousers, prone to rage, you can use Celerity which gives you incredible speed to aid in
combat. If you’re a Toreador, the social butterflies
of the vampire world, you can use Presence, which negatively impacts the stats of those
around you and makes them easier to control or kill. If you’re a Tremere, you’re the only clan
capable of using Thaumaturgy – blood magic. You can drain blood from afar, or even cause
people’s blood to boil and their bodies to explode. Thaumaturgy is really fun. Aside from disciplines there are also your
more mundane skills. The combination of Attributes and Abilities
make you better at performing certain feats. Do you want to use violence to solve your
problems? You can do that, and choose to specialize
in firearms, melee weapons or your fists (or claws if you’re a Gangrel). If you’d rather talk your way out of trouble
you can do it with persuasion, intimidation or seduction. You can also increase your skills in hacking
or lockpicking if you’d rather take a more indirect approach to things. During your time exploring LA you can even
choose whether you want to experience things in first or third person view. You always have options and the skill checks
which determine whether you succeed things feel transparent and fair. In most combat areas you can make your presence
known and go in guns (or disciplines) blazing or take a stealthy approach, sneaking up on
unwary humans and draining them of blood, without ever having to break a sweat. I don’t find firearms in the game all that
appealing to use, but relying on a combination of stealth, disciplines and melee is quite
satisfying. What really makes the roleplaying aspect of
the game special, and makes it very replayable, is how much being a Malkavian or Nosferatu
changes things. Malkavians carry the curse of madness and
can see and hear things others can not. This greatly impacts the way they speak and
the way others react to them. All player dialogue is completely different
when you play a Malkavian. Your words are twisted and perplexing, just
like your mind. But they can also foreshadow future events. This can make your dialogue options a little
opaque in meaning, but it can also make things hilarious. Malkavians are the only clan who can use the
Dementation discipline – a new kind of persuasion which is akin to mind control and can cause
hallucinations and madness in others. I liked Bloodlines a lot when I first played
it as a Tremere. But when I played as a Malkavian, that’s
when I fell in love with it. The other unique clan is the Nosferatu. These vampires are disfigured and frightening
to mortals, with no chance at all of blending in. If humans see them they’ll run away in fear
and this can even cause Masquerade violations. For Nosferatu, Bloodlines is a game of stealth
and hacking. You’ll have to travel through the sewers,
avoiding people, feeding on rats. You get disciplines like Obfuscate which can
make you invisible. While the Nosferatu path doesn’t appeal
to me, since I think the conversations are some of the best parts of the game, it may
appeal to stealth lovers and does change things up considerably. Narratively, you’ll face many decisions
as you make your way through the world. These can seem small – whether to give a dying
woman a taste of your blood to save her life, or whether to side with Jeanette or her sister
when you need them to call off a feud. And they can be large – like what group to
ally yourself with and what to do with the Ankaran sarcophagus. While there are no real branching paths, there
are different character reactions to see and multiple endings. As you make decisions, your Humanity meter
will be affected. Depending on how much humanity you have, new
options may open up to you. Bloodlines is a brilliantly designed role
playing game. The dialogue options and decisions really
make me feel like I’m embodying a fully fleshed out character and guiding the kind
of vampire they will become. But it’s not just as an RPG that the game
succeeds. Throughout its 30 to 40 hour runtime, at times
it made me feel like a detective in a supernatural noir story. In Santa Monica, you wind up looking for a
number of missing people – bail jumpers, someone’s lost love and even a missing bounty hunter. You need to track down clues, by hacking into
computers and finding locations, or questioning those who might know something, and persuading
them to help you out. It’s also, at times, a very effective first
person survival horror… before this was such a ubiquitous genre. The Ocean House Hotel is an extremely creepy
location, with ghosts apparating, items flying off tables as you approach them, and a story
told through newspaper clippings and journals that brings to mind The Shining. You’ll face weird little monsters while
hunting down a snuff film in Hollywood, and visit the sublimely creepy and suitably twisted
home of the Malkavian primogen. Bloodlines is also darkly comedic. Dialogue options, especially if you’re a
Malkavian, can be hysterical. Ads heard on television or the radio, or conversations
you can overhear are always quite funny. Plus there’s some fourth wall breaking. Everytime I play, I feel completely immersed. The Los Angeles of Bloodlines, though often
sleazy and violent, is seductive. You want to explore it and see all it has
to offer. It, and it’s inhabitants, look pretty sexy
but usually hide something dark just underneath. As brilliant as I think the game is… it’s
not without problems. Most of these problems come down to the game
being released before it was ready. It was full of bugs. Everything from graphical glitches like character’s
clothing moving around erratically to a nasty game breaker near the end. The camera misbehaves when you’re moving
around enclosed areas and character animations are sometimes quite janky. There’s also a drop in quality as you move
through the 4 main hubs of the game. Santa Monica, the introductory area, is revelatory. Downtown and Hollywood both have some great
side quests and characters to meet though they feel a little less robust. But Chinatown… feels unfinished. There’s a lack of side quests and it just
doesn’t feel as alive or interesting as the others. It’s probably the worst in terms of bugs,
and the most combat-heavy which is not where the game excels. Also, it can be kind of racist. Almost every character of colour is
a stereotype. The Kuei-Jin, vampires from Asia are scary
because they’re so… Asian and different than Western vampires. This is one of the only areas where I feel
the game has not aged very well. Because of bugs, and other reasons I’ll
get into in just a sec, Bloodlines did not fare well on release. Though reviews were positive, it sold a measly
72000 copies. How did this happen? How did Bloodlines have such great ideas and
design but such poor execution? Let’s look at how it was made. Developer Troika Games was founded by Tim
Cain, Leonard Boyarsky and Jason Anderson, 3 of the people behind Fallout – so it had
a great crpg pedigree. Due to creative differences over the development
of Fallout 2, the three men struck out on their own to make games their way. Or that was the plan anyway. Bloodlines would be Troika’s 3rd and final
game and the development of it was not smooth. Troika used small teams for developing their
games. According to Anderson almost the entirety
of Bloodlines 4-year development was done under crunch, and some developers went unpaid
for the final weeks of work. Overworked developers are less productive
(and probably less physically and mentally healthy) developers. There were also issues with the engine. Bloodlines was developed on a prototype of
Valve’s Source engine – it was the first non-Valve game to use it. During development, a number of changes were
made to the engine, Troika had little support and found much of their code did not work
well with it. Valve also imposed an embargo that they could
not talk publicly about Bloodines until Half-Life 2 was announced or release it before Half-Life
2 came out. And then there was the game’s publisher
– Activision. Tim Cain, in an interview for the book Gamers
at Work, cited a number of poor decisions by Activision including incomplete quality
assurance and not giving enough time to fix known bugs. After a number of schedule and budget overages,
Activision froze development though the devs were not yet finished with it. Activision had decided on a build to go gold,
and held it until release, about a month later. Any fixes worked on during that time had to
be patched in after release. I do feel I need to point out here, as easy
as it is to blame everything on Activision, bugs and rushed endings impacted all three
of Troika’s games. Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magic Obscura,
which was published by Sierra Online, and The Temple of Elemental Evil published by
Atari received the same complaints. The reality is likely that both developer
and publishers shared responsibility for these problems. One thing Activision can certainly be blamed
for though is their choice of release date. They released Bloodlines on the same day as
Half-Life 2, which was much more highly anticipated and used the Source engine much better. While Troika continued to work on fixes, they
could not secure a publisher for new projects and shut down in February of 2005. Their final patch for Bloodlines would be
the last thing that Troika produced. Despite the bugs, poor sales and the sad end
for Troika, some people knew right away how special this game was. And they wanted to make it even better. Starting only a couple months after Bloodlines
released, fans, notably Dan Upright and Werner Spahl, started developing unofficial patches
for the game. These began by fixing obvious bugs but soon
offered fixes for gameplay and technical issues, and restoration of content that wasn’t included
in the game. The project has continued, with patch version
10 coming out just this year. The community’s love for and dedication
to Bloodlines have kept it alive and increased it’s reach far beyond its initial sales. SteamSpy puts the number of owners of the
game on Steam between 500,000 and one million. Bloodlines is one of a kind. The atmosphere, intriguing characters and
deep world makes it fun to go back to again and again. It’s a game I always look forward to exploring
and will never forget. All the wonderful things in the game (and
a good fan patch) can make its shortcomings melt away. However, as much as I love the game, thinking
about it also leaves me with a sense of melancholy, as I’ve yet to play a roleplaying game that
has rivalled this experience, and as far as something this great coming out in the future,
it looks bleak. Most action RPGs seem more focused more on
making the world big than giving you interesting choices to make. Maybe one day I’ll get a game I love just
as much as this one, but I won’t stake my life on it. That’s my look at Vampire The Masquerade
Bloodlines. If you haven’t played it, I can not recommend
it highly enough. Just make sure you patch it. Until next time. If you want to see more you can check out
my full playthrough of Bloodlines, or another one of my videos. I also have a Patreon if you want to support
what I’m doing here. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next
time.

100 thoughts on “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines | The Epitome of the RPG

  1. This is easily one of your best videos; I like that you committed to the aesthetic for presentation, and it's also very thorough and informative. I'll be playing this game because of your review.

  2. This was one of my favorite games from long long ago. I had the disk forever and it was one I would reinstall almost every year. Then steam came out with it and I had to buy it AGAIN. With the patches it runs perfect for me. Also, there are so many mods to make the game different each time that the replay ability is amazing. I've played every clan but Malk and Nos because I like to understand what I'm saying and I didn't want to spend the whole game in the sewers. I guess I'll have to play it again to see their perspectives.

  3. Would you consider a long sleeve sweater with a turtleneck so I would be less distracted? Now we know why you are called Cannot Be Tamed. Not with that outfit, you ain't.

  4. Tremere once, Tremere forever, nothing beats good ol' blood magic…

    Now if you excuse me this beautiful lady motivated me to install the game again…

  5. I agree on your last commentary, games nowadays focus on making the map big, i must add they lack inmersive story, i think games like Skyrim are great because they contain big maps but the story never stands out.
    My favorite modern rpg is Kingdoms of amalur; Reckoning, a great game, similar to bloodlines but in a more fantasy world

  6. I still play this game every year or so. When I start forgetting about the storyline, I'll pick it up again and try a new clan. On another note, you are beautiful.

  7. Thank you very much for putting out an excellent video on this game I'm looking forward to playing it with the in-depth tutorial and coverage that you have given thank you again

  8. Cannot be tamed… I'll be hella more interested in the challenge of taming you, than any of these video games ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Pleased to meet you Vivvy!

    My doctor recommended me to try bloodletting…
    And I won't mind if you could help me perform this paritcular treatment โฃ

  10. Love this game! And I love "Redemption", too. I think I will reinstall both now! Thanks, Pam! Oh and this channel is awesome!๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿป๐Ÿ‘

  11. Really excellent video, you know your stuff. The writing and your voiceover are really well done, looking forward to seeing your videos on Bloodlines 2!

  12. It sucks I wasn't able to see all of your LPs of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, with ep. 14 understandably locked up yet was part of your journey. There are some games I enjoyed more than you do, but you provided great criticisms of your thoughts and points. Keep up the great works of these excellent videos.

  13. Honestly, I won't say I was downright dismissive of this game in the past, but I hadn't really given it a chance. You're making it sound mighty enticing, I must say.

  14. This game could have easily been expanded as a MMORPG and honestly IDK why theres never been a white wolf MMORPG

  15. Great review of a great game. Very nostalgic, watching this.
    Btw your voice and speech patterns are a lot like Jeanette's. I wonder if she maybe influenced your personality a bit subconsciously? lol

  16. Recently picked Bloodlines back up. I agree it is a fantastic RPG. Redemption blew me away way back when, and then Bloodlines built on that and blew me even further away. Cannot wait for Bloodlines 2. Been watching L.A by Night on Geek & Sundry as well. Getting pretty hyped, I cannot lie.

  17. Bought the game because of your review. Enjoying it a lot (estimating I'm halfway through Hollywood), though I admit I thought the patch would fix more than it does. (To be fair, I haven't played it without the patch to know how bad things could really be.) Looking forward to another playthrough and eventually to the sequel. Thanks for the recommendation!

  18. Breasts are for babies!

    ..sayeth 'murica…unless CLICKS = $โ‚ฌยฃ

    BTW. as a white toxic Danish male in 2019: Thank You ๐Ÿ™‚

    AND I have the bloody game on CD-ROM – bought this mess – BEFORE HL2!

  19. You are easily one of the top 5 game reviewers on YouTube. Thanks for all of your hard work. Your costume and makeup are amazingly done!

  20. Such an under rated gem. It takes a bit of work to get the fan made mods running to fix all the bugs, but it's so worth it.

  21. My Dear Mss Velour
    I usually listen to Mss OutStar about this any a โ€œfewโ€ others,
    But yours are clearly a good one!

  22. Whelp, looks like I'm reinstalling Bloodlines again.

    Time to turn on loud music and all the lights whilst doing the damn mansion

  23. I bloody love this game. One of my favorites of all time, up there with Icewind Dale II, Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger.

    There's yet to be another game that does the World of Darkness – new or old – justice. I'm psyched for the sequel!

  24. I was unaware that Bloodlines used the Source engine. I always thought it was a precursor to Oblivion as so-much of the game mechanics are there as well such as dialogue face zooming, third/first person switching, the hair/clothing physics with attached bugs remind me of the same kind of thing you'll see in Oblivion with chains and bodies. I was never too interested with Half-Life as it kinda felt like Duke Nukem… Sure, the world interaction was fun but just felt like boring facility, city, cool alien world, with jokes. VTMB shouldn't have been shoveled under HL2 but aw well, what can you do about these sort of things?
    -Mad Wolf

  25. After watching this I'm kinda blown away by the last comment in your Super Metroid review. Samus in her underwear is more modest than this! Very informative and fun review nonetheless! Keep em comin!

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