Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines

Continuing with my series of looking at older gaming games, i’d like to look at VtmB. While the vampire theme might put you off checking this one out, i’d advise you to try to look past it since its truly a gem in the rough. Again i’m considering the game with the community patch and with the restored content since like the sith lords this one too suffers from an overzealous publisher pushing the developer to release an unfinished game. Now onto the game itself.

Set in the world of darkness tabletop setting the game starts off with you being bitten by a vampire and inducted into a secret society. As it turns out vampires were living among us for as long as we were living, in the past times as kings and pharaohs and in the modern times as business magnates and rockstars. However it’s all held up by the Masquerade, a loose set of rules to prevent the humanity at large from discovering the supernatural in their midst as the vampires aren’t the only predators that hunt in the city. Now as the bottom feeder of the vampires you’re sent to santa monica to prove yourself worth keeping alive for the head of local organisation. Later on you’re sent to a few more areas but the game really opens up after the first. You can probably treat the first one as a tutorial, even though the game comes with a quick tutorial mission at the beginning. Vampire offers plenty of choices in how to approach your tasks and it even does what some of the newer games shy away from, it restricts you in how you may approach them depending on a number of factors such as your skills, choices in previous quests, your willingness to compromise your morals etc.

The game’s systems are basically DnD with the point buy, except you use the same points for skills and attributes, with attributes increasing all the skills they govern. There is also a humanity system which decreases as you let your inner demon control your actions and increases when you force it down and do good for others.

The game also features basically 3 factions letting you choose your way in the world, whether it be the camarilla with it’s rules, the anarch split group who believe the camarilla’s rules are too strict or the kue’jin, the asian vampires who sort of keep to themselves, with plenty of choices in how to align yourself with either or in the end none of them.

The characters in the game bear mentioning as they’re very well written and are among the best in gaming period. With them responding to your decisions and not making you feel like your end all be all hero to save their woes, but generally that you’re their hired help or a coerced servant.

But the actual main attraction of this game is the mood and setting. The game only takes place between the nights, as you can obviously move around freely during them and you can truly feel the hustle and bustle of the mayor cities or the calm before the storm in certain areas. The game also holds in my mind the award for the very best horror section with the Hotel being a perfect blend of jump-scares(which are sparse and only there to keep you on your toes) and genuine dread feeling making you question what’s around the next corner. It’s done so well that the developer put a console command into the game to skip it, since people were unwilling to continue playing the game after getting stuck in it for a while.

Now for the elephant in the room, the release version is obviously flawed and buggy, with quests not working, some items missing from the game and an area that feels like quite a slog to go through, even knowing what to expect. There is obviously the community patches that fix that and i recommend them wholeheartedly. The next complaint is also the fact that melee weapons ramp up extremely slowly, which sort of makes sense since you rarely see a swordmaster walking around downton LA these days, but still it be cool to have a few more good early options, however if you do stick with them they do ramp up pretty high.

As a last advice, when picking your clan id advise you to skip malkavian for your first playthrough, since while being insane they have a connection to the paranet, which is basically information they(and by extension you as a player) shouldn’t have and will not make much sense unless you know what’s going on, even a bit.

That’s your weekly gaming gem in the rough.

Star Wars Knights Of the Old Republic 2 : The Sith Lords

Star Wars Knights Of the Old Republic 2 : The Sith Lords, or Kotor 2 for short, takes place a few years after the first installment. You play as a jedi exile traveling through the galaxy when you find yourself aboard the republic ship Harbinger. After a while the legendary ship from the previous game the Ebon Hawk(obvious nod to the millennium falcon) is found and captured and with it the harbinger gets followed by the sith, who don’t seem like your usual run of the mill sith as well as the fact that canonically Darth Revan from the previous game was supposed to annihilate them at the Star Forge. You find yourself fleeing on the Ebon Hawk and being pursued by them. Being knocked unconscious your trusty droid fixes the ship well enough to get you to Peragus, a mining facility where the miners place you in a kolto tank.

Engine and graphics

Engine is very similar to the previous game, it still uses the modified ad&d engine with dice rolls governing the success of your every action and your skills imposing benefits and penalties. A bit has changed with the feats where its now supported to play as a 1 weapon carrying duelist, which has a lot more of a jedi feel than the previous game.
Graphics are pretty much the same as the predecessor, they are quite aged for the modern day, but were adequate at the time. You shouldn’t expect too much, but then again these types of games aren’t generally played for their graphics,

The story

The main draw of kotor games is obviously the story, with the previous installment setting up the story with Revan going to the unknown region, to deal with the “true sith” and leaving behind quite a mess logistically speaking. The republic is pretty fractured and there are only threads still keeping it together. With the jedi all but gone, you will find yourself in a galaxy with a huge void power-wise and most importantly with the sith running around you will be hounded on every step. The antagonists in this game are much more hidden in this one, as opposed to Malak who was pretty much in your face the archetypal bad guy with his army of sith.
The obvious gem of this game are the companions, who tend to be extremely fleshed out and human-like. They arent clear cut good jedi and bad sith, with kreia being the crown-jewel of writing, being the protagonists foil no matter their light-dark side tendencies.

Cut content

Obviously we can’t talk about kotor 2 without mentioning the cut content and the state of the game at release. No Obisidian was obviously pretty pressed for time and EA pushed them pretty hard to keep to their release schedule. However all is not lost, there are plenty mods which restore the cut content and finish it off the way the developers meant it to end.

All in all kotor 2 is more than a worthy successor and in many ways eclipses the first installment, save for the buggy mess its release state was.