There once was a developer called Troika. Created from the spirit of old Interplay by three prominent Fallout designers (Tim Cain, Leonard Boyarsky and Jason Anderson), they went on to make three of the most technically troubled but brilliantly designed RPGs of the early ‘00s: Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, The Temple of Elemental Evil and Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines.
And also they were SOVIET SUPERMEN!
Seeing as we’re just on the heels of the release of a certain major Vampire-themed romance movie/Mormon propaganda piece, I think it’s only fitting we discuss the latter of those three games in this month’s For the Love of the Games, the monthly column in which I advise — nay — implore you to play a certain overlooked, forgotten, or (on occasion, as is my wont) just plain bad game.
But first, some (more) history: Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is a PC RPG set in White Wolf’s World of Darkness, an old-timey analog (aka pen-and-paper) RPG system wherein vampires, werewolves, spirits and other monsters vie for power. As a freshly-sired vampire of your making, you have to navigate the murky waters of LA’s vampire underworld as various factions compete for possession of a recently unearthed sarcophagus that may spell doom for vampire kind. Really serious stuff.
You also do the day-to-day stuff, which is way interesting when you’re a vampire.
Bloodlines is notable for being one half stellar RPG following the tragically discarded Deus Ex formula, and one half boring, punishing hack-and-slasher bristling with glitches and pacing issues. And those would be the first and second halves of the game, respectively. Hey, at least the good half is first, so you could just play that and look up the multiple endings on YouTube if you really want.
But I’m not here to tell you why not to play the game. (Or, in this case, how to play some of the game and avoid the rest of it….) Just the opposite, in fact. Let’s begin with something any nerd born after 1990 probably doesn’t remember. Continue reading