This game is amazing. So much, in fact, that I thought I should post my own little review here.
For those who don’t know, Vampire the Masquerade was a vampire paper-and-pen RPG by Whitewolf. It was recently replaced with a new system called Vampire: the Requiem. Anyway, VtM was around for ages (probably not as long as D&D, but close). It’s set in modern day and basically there’s 7 vampire clans who have to adhere to certain rules. This game takes that and makes an RPG that might rival Knights of the Old Republic in size and quality.
When you start the game you get to pick whether or not you’re male or female. You also get to pick which one of the seven clans you wish to be a member of. If you can’t decide you can select another way of creating your character where the game will ask you a series of questions and put you into the clan that matches your answers best. For me I already knew which clan I wanted to be–Toreador. They’re the closest to humans and are considered the best looking. Plus the male Toreador model had red hair (how ironic). After picking which clan and gender you want to play as you then get to configure your character sheet–your stats and skills/abilities. Once you decide how you want to assign your starting points you then accept and get ready for the ride of your life.
Your char is converted into a vampire one night in a hotel. Moments later a raid happens and you’re captured. You’re brought to a huge auditorium where the Camarilla “Prince” of Los Angeles (the Camarilla makes up of all the 7 clans) declares that many a vamps have asked him for permission to create a fledgling but your sire had not asked for permission. The punishment is death. After all, he has to keep order and can’t have everyone going around creating new vamps whenever they felt like it. Your sire is beheaded before your eyes (though they censored the actual beheading in my version, I hear there’s versions where they don’t). Now you’re left wondering if you shall fall under the same fate.
But wait, the Prince is in a generous mood. He declares that you may live as long as you are willing to learn the ways and rules of the Camarilla. Also, he informs you, you must prove yourself to him. You will be going to Santa Monica for your first task. As soon as you leave that area you’re introduced to Jack, who will teach you the ropes (if you choose to go through the tutorial). After which you’re ready to start your mission.
Anyway, getting away from the story (which is indeed very deep) the actual game play is crazy. It reminds me of Knights of the Old Republic. You can talk to a great deal of the people you meet. Each will have their own voice which is lip synced to their face (well, as long as you don’t lag..). The dialogs you have with characters is heavily dependent on what skills you have. For example, my Toreador has a high seduction and persuasion score. So I might be able to talk my way out of situations (or seduce people) that other characters wouldn’t be able to.
It’s also very open ended. There’s no “wrong” way to play your char as long as you obey the rules of the Masquerade (preventing the humans from figuring out that you’re a vampire–five mistakes on this and the game is over). If you want to play your char as a straight-forward “tell me or else” type of guy you can. Or you could play as I’ve been doing, a man who likes to charm his way through situations and seduce people into giving him information. It’s all up to you.
The cities themselves feel like actual cities except for one minor regard. That is that there’s no cars. There’s a ton of people walking around, including cops who WILL go after you if you do something illegal, but no cars to be seen. I imagine that with so many people walking around that adding cars would be overkill to people’s machines.
The people, as I’ve mentioned, seem like real people. With a lot of dialog (that may change depending on your skills) and lip syncing it feels like they’re really talking to you. The graphics for them are pretty good too. They were good on my old machine and my old graphic cards. They’re fantastic on my new card.
There’s also a lot of little fun things in there. It kind of reminds me of Grand Theft Auto sometimes. For example, in your first haven (your inn room, basically) there’s a radio that you can listen to. The radio has a DJ that talks then goes to commercials, like a real radio station. So far my favorite radio commercial is for “Friggin Chicken” (“This is cat right? Are you feeding me cat?!”) There’s also a TV station but I didn’t watch it long enough to find out everything about it. I also noticed (and laughed at) that your email that can be checked with the laptop in the room will receive spam. It just adds a level of realism to the game.
Now the downside of it: this game eats RAM like a fat kid would eat candy for breakfast. Seriously. My old machine had 768 MB of RAM and each area took a good 5+ minutes to load. My new machine, which has 2GB of RAM, has no problems at all. But I imagine the game would not be very enjoyable to anyone under 1GB due to long load times.
Also, the combat system is weird. I want to say it’s bad, but I think it’s more of the fact that I just suck at it and thus can’t blame the system. The game tries to create an RPG first person shooter, and I think that’s why it’s so weird. You have stats (Strength, intelligence, etc) as well as attributes (like firearms, brawling, etc). The amount of damage and how well you can fight is linked into how high your stats are, not how good at FPSers you are. Still, it’s awkward.
Another downside is the lack of customization with your character. You get your choice of one model per gender per clan (so two per clan). That’s it. You can’t change the hair colors or anything else. You CAN get new clothing later on in the game, but it’s fairly limited (I think someone worked out that there’s 70 pieces of equipment in the entire game for all 7 clans, or 10 pieces of equipment per clan, so 5 per gender). I kind of wish there had been more. Then again, my char already has red hair. I can’t ask for much more.
Overall, this game is awesome. The fact that it’s a full open RPG that has so many different ways to approach a single problem with a decent storyline (so far anyway) makes it quite-possibly the best RPG I’ve played.
For those who are interested in it, Steam usually runs a deal on it (for as low as $10). Or so I heard.
I’d recommend it to anyone who likes RPGs and has a computer that’s able to run it. You might be shocked at what you’ll find inside.