Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 has a lot to live up to, despite being a game ostensibly about the undead. Its predecessor was a cult classic released in 2004 that, despite never really reaching mainstream appeal, ended up being regarded as one of the major innovators of action RPGs even a decade-and-a-half later. The game's depth of choice, compelling combat system, and keen attention to its source material were so well-executed it made ignoring its many bugs and glitches much easier.
Now, in 2019, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 has the unenviable position of needing to become a much more polished, modern take on the franchise while retaining the charm that made its earlier iteration a consistent presence in the imaginations of fans, so much so that demand for a sequel has only grown over the fifteen year absence. Developer Paradox Interactive has done its homework, hiring writer Brian Mitsoda, the lead writer of the original Bloodlines, to help carve out an original story with the help of two other talented creative minds in Cara Ellison and Chris Avellone. That, coupled with gorgeous graphics and the mystery and allure that comes with the series, has at least made Bloodlines 2 look promising.
In a fairly extensive gameplay demo of a pre-alpha version of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, Screen Rant was able to observe a lengthy sequence from early in the game. Although not being able to go hands-on means there are still plenty of questions left to be answered, one thing that was made clear should excite anyone looking forward to the title: it is a natural extension of the earlier game that is able to do all the things that its predecessor wanted to, without the obvious glitches or restrictions of 2004 tech. Read on for some of our biggest impressions.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 is About Choices, But They're Not Easy
One of the more striking elements of the demo came when we were offered the choice to either follow through on our first contract we'd struck during the mission or to go rogue and accept a second character's temptation instead. The choice wasn't straightforward – one seemed to offer more money but was more speculative, and the other seemed to imply murder was on the table – and the game wasn't shy about obscuring some of the minor details. That was a good thing, though: it made the attempt to choose feel that much more authentic. Nothing felt obvious, and the decision, minor though it likely was in the grand scheme of the story, felt weighty.
This was also on display during the game's various dialogue trees. During a crucial moment, we were able to choose to negotiate with the target of the mission to find a peaceful compromise to what could easily have been a bloody situation. Successful negotiation didn't just end the dialogue tree, however. Players still need to select the right options – there were several that would have given away the player's lying tendency – in order to proceed with their plan. Attention to detail and roleplaying are important in the game.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 Powers Are The Right Kind of Power Fantasy
While the demo only allowed attendees to choose one power and one clan, our combination of Nebulation (think cool horror mist) and Bruja brutality made for some interesting scenes. One thing remained clear throughout, however, and that's that Bloodlines 2 finally cashes in fully on the vision of its predecessor. While Bloodlines featured cool abilities, it wasn't able to express them in a way that felt vampiric for the player. Here, that's not the case – it remains abundantly clear that the player character is extremely powerful, and even multiple humans stand next to no chance against them.
The player feels powerful in Bloodlines 2 but not overpowered in the wrong ways. There's still nuance to combat, and players can still employ different strategies to work their way through levels. With Nebulation, our character was able to turn to mist and then traverse air ducts to circumvent enemies. Bloodlines 2 also prioritizes playing as a vampire. While there are weapons in game, they are used up quickly and don't do as much damage as vampiric abilities by and large – they're nice additions during fights that can vary things up and add another layer but they'll never be a full substitute for the sheer fun of being a vampire.
Overall, we were very impressed with the time we spent watching Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2. Without getting a feel for responsiveness and fluidity ourselves, it's impossible to say whether the game is as satisfying as it looks. It's a promising glimpse into an early version of the game, though, one that won't require much help to make for a hell of an impression when it's finally experienced by fans. Provided the controls are simple enough and every level has the depth and variety of options available in the one previewed at E3 2019, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 will be one of the games to watch when it launches in March 2020.
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