I’m always a little dubious about sequels! Consequently, when Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong hit my desk, I wasn’t sure. Its predecessor, the 2004 title Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, is much-loved by the gaming community. Its excellent script, fantastic characters, wonderful acting, and fascinating environments take you on a badass and tough journey. Therefore, I was unsure whether the sequel would live up to this standard. Spoiler alert, it doesn’t.
Developed by Big Bad Wolf and published by Nacon, this is a text-heavy RPG. Its combination of puzzle elements, action, and consequential dialogue should have been fantastic. Disappointingly, however, it’s pretty messy, slow, and confusing. No matter how hard I tried, I simply couldn’t empathise with the characters or their plight. It was a shame, as there were sparks of potential. Yet, more often than not, these were snubbed out by baffling conversations and high levels of tedium.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong lacks oomph.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is set in Boston. The humans of this city have no idea that vampires walk among them, and that’s the way they want to keep it. Sadly, a religious sect known as the Second Inquisition has other ideas. Their leader, Stanford, wishes to wipe every one of these bloodsuckers from the face of the planet. However, after the events in London, the Camarilla, led by Hazel Iversen, wishes to maintain peace and order. Yet, this can only be achieved if three vampires step forward to investigate and save the day.
As you can see, the story should be rich in drama, excitement, and lore. However, it is anything but. Its odd mechanics, droll blood-sucking ways, and ill-advised skill and XP system hold it back. Furthermore, no matter which way I looked, I was met by bland conversations and a flat atmosphere. Even when I was changing between each of the protagonists, this failed to ignite any excitement. Annoyingly, the plot felt so fragmented and evasive that I struggled to enjoy what I experienced.
Who are the protagonists?
With an eclectic blend of heroes and their unique missions, this should have been entertaining. Fortunately, in some ways, it was both fantastic and fascinating. You will control Galeb, Emem, and Leysha. Each of these vampiric superheroes must use their skills, abilities, and charms to complete their tasks. However, caution must be taken as humans react badly to otherworldly powers. Consequently, you must sneak about in the shadows, suck blood in private, and stay under the radar.
Unsurprisingly, this isn’t always possible! This is more noticeable when you control Galeb. He is effectively a bland and shallow assassin, but his story is the highlight of the three. With interesting puzzles to solve and gruesome imagery, it somewhat papers over the deep cracks. But, the other missions from Emem and Leysha are drab and dated. What’s more, they don’t match the theme and add to the increasing levels of confusion.
There is much to love when a game has multiple endings. Accordingly, you buy into the story and genuinely feel like you’ve made an impact. This is one key area where Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong excels. By exploring your surroundings, improving your skills, and making relevant choices, you can influence many outcomes. This was brilliant, as it added much-needed depth and longevity if you wanted to return. However, making the right decisions wasn’t always as straightforward as you’d like.
Annoyingly, every plot-altering decision was reliant on skills, a discipline bar and hunger. This was a bad decision from the developers as it was poorly executed. Every ability was linked to XP, and the XP was linked to successful tasks. Yet, if you failed any of these quests, you progressed with a massive disadvantage. Moreover, this impacts the story and the game can quickly go off on a tangent.
This was the biggest turnoff, as the plot evolved through no fault of my own. I wouldn’t normally mind this, but this key mechanic should have been amazing. Yet, it hamstrung itself with flawed ideas that undermined its potential.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong looks amazing.
Though I disliked much of the gameplay, I loved the graphics. With a vast array of supernatural abilities, some excellent environments, and wonderful cinematic, it’s great to look at. The artistic approach doesn’t make up for its many shortcomings, but when you find a moment that works, it is glorious to play. Sadly, though, these moments are few and far between and this adds to the frustrations.
The audio was also surprisingly good. With a deep and emotional soundtrack, it creates a moody atmosphere. Alongside this, the excellent acting does wonders to improve the gameplay. Furthermore, the cinematic flows at a nice pace and the blend of characters are interesting to interact with.
Thank goodness for decent controls.
With intricate puzzles to solve, and many, many clues to find and collect, the controls needed to be good. Thankfully, they were responsive and simple to understand. Strangely, though, Big Bad Wolf made bloodsucking a little too easy. Consequently, it was mind-numbingly simple and another example of a poorly executed idea.
This should be a game that makes you want to keep playing. Disappointingly, one playthrough is more than enough. With around 15 to 20 hours of game time, it should be great value for money. However, its shortcomings and lack of energy undermine everything it stands for.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is not good enough.
A few underwhelming ideas are forgivable. But, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is filled with them. With some promising ideas, excellent narrative choices, and testing puzzles, this should have been great. However, much of the action will disappoint gamers and leave them frustrated. I can’t recommend you to buy it, but more information can be found here! Boston needs a hero and luckily 3 come forward. Use their unique skills to stop their kin from being destroyed.