If there’s a strong focus on the lore, vampire stories don’t need to rely on scariness or horror elements to succeed. It’s possible to fall in love with the gothic side of bloodsuckers and all the other drama that comes with being a part of the brotherhood. A game like Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong was never going to be a bite and slash fest for the ages, but does it feature enough of a compelling plot to compensate for the distinct lack of action?
The essentials of Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong
Forget about multiplayer madness because Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is all about the single-player experience. The role-playing game is set in Boston, 2019, as Hazel—the prince of the Camarilla—calls a Code Red and summons the toothy disciples. While there are a plethora of princes and princesses of darkness, the three main characters of the game are Galeb, Emem, and Leysha. The story switches between all three characters’ perspectives as you follow their respective arcs and solve puzzles and mysteries around various locations.
Like other RPGs, your choices will impact how the story pans out. The narrative-driven approach also means that you need to know when to be wily or ruthless as every decision influences the character’s statistics and whether someone will do your bidding or not. There is no combat system in the game, so you’ll spend the bulk of your time talking, walking around, solving puzzles, and uncovering mysteries.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong offers up a wide world to explore and infiltrate. With various locations and secret passages, there’s a lot to explore and the characters don’t just loiter around in one place like pointless NPCs. Sometimes, you will need to return to a character to gain more information after believing you have everything you need from them.
At the same time, the game forces you to be careful of how you use supernatural powers around others. The whole point of the Masquerade is the fact that the vampires are hidden from regular human beings, so you need to be smart in how you uphold the code. It’s challenging, yes, but it maintains a critical plot point that makes the story more believable.
Remember how The Walking Dead reached a stage where the characters would walk around aimlessly, and you would wonder what the point of it all was? That’s a lot like the feeling you get while playing Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong. The richness and vastness of the world can’t hide the fact that it’s incredibly boring at times. The conversations with some of the characters are so laden with exposition and info dumps that they don’t even feel like the natural conversations you’d have with another person. More importantly, the protagonists are about as charming as the splinters on a coffin; aside from Galeb, you actually hope that the other characters fail because they’re so unlikable.
From a graphics perspective, the game is nothing to write home about either. There are moments when the lighting randomly shifts from light to darkness, making you remember the good ol’ days of PlayStation 1 when the wrong camera angle would dim the lights for a lol. Before someone says it’s for dramatic effect, it isn’t, because it switches back at random times throughout the conversation. Also, considering the quality of the recent games we’ve seen in the past few years, are these really the best character models that Nacon could have produced?
Unfortunately, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong isn’t Bram Stoker’s Dracula here. Instead, it’s more like Dracula 2000 in the sense that it never truly knows what it’s trying to be. People might get a kick out of this game for a while, but there isn’t much to keep you coming back or even caring if the Camarilla survive or not. At some point, you realise that walking around and talking to bland NPCs can be done in any shopping mall around the world.
Tell us, have you played Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong? Let us know in the comments section.