NEED TO KNOW
RELEASE November 16, 2004
The year of 2004 was an auspicious one for videogames. In fact, it was perhaps, a bit too auspicious for Troika, a small CRPG development house headed by ex-Black Isle veterans.
Troika had to release an embattled, over budget, and unfinished game of a niche genre right smack dab in the middle of a legendary autumn, which also boasted Halo 2, Half-Life 2, and Metal Gear Solid 3. Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines never stood a chance really, and ended up selling only 72,000 copies in its initial release. Afterwards, Troika struggled to find backing for subsequent projects, and were forced to close their doors in 2005.
The tapes never stopped circulating though, so to speak. Strong word of mouth helped its reputation flourish on RPG forums, and VtMB found a second life through digital distribution. This game was not on my radar at the time of its initial release, and even if it was, I was nine years old, and my dad would have immediately put the kibosh on any attempt on my part to play this M-rated game with a scantily-clad, blood-spattered, Harley Quinn-looking lady on the cover. No, like most of its fans, I came to Bloodlines years later, drawn by that strong hearsay. A lot of its design choices frustrated me my first time around, and I put off finishing that first playthrough for almost half a year. Despite that, it’s a game I simply could not get out of my head, and I found myself diving in for another go.
Bloodlines was released in a rather rough state, on account of its disastrous development, but these days it’s pretty polished as far as capital-h Huge overly ambitious RPGs go. The fan-made Unofficial Patch, spearheaded by the heroic Werner Spahl or Wesp5 on Reddit and ModDB really cleans up VtMB’s act. Its basic version should be the first thing you download when going off Steam or physical install, but is actually already included in the GOG version of the game, thankfully.
I decided to take things just a step further this time around. Spahl also offers a more extensive ‘plus’ version of his patch, which includes quality of life fixes, cut content, and some bonus character creation options. I decided to forgo it on my first playthrough, purity of the developers’ vision and all that, but this time I figured, what the hell, let’s try something new.
Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines is set in the World of Darkness tabletop setting created by White Wolf Publishing. WoD’s fiction is predicated on the ghoulies, ghosties, wolfmen, and of course, Draculas of classic cinema hiding in plain sight in our modern times, or ‘the Final Nights’. Modern vampires are descendants of the biblical Cain, the first murderer, and fear the return of him or his immediate progeny, the apocalyptic Gehenna. It’s in this context that your character in VtMB is first embraced by a member of Los Angeles’ vampire underground, and brought into the fold.
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