Vampirical Observations (My ‘Summer of Videogames’ continues)

June 12, 2009

 

The best kind of games bleed temporarily into your real life. 
The original Thief, The Dark Project made me wary of streetlights, summoning an inexplicable urge to shoot off the bulbs with arrows.   
The much-maligned but oft-magnificient Mirror’s Edge converted what was previously a patchwork of urban rooftops into pathways, routes, and opportunities for multiple fractures. Often with an ambient soundtrack playing through your head.
The Phoenix Wright series, whose depiction of the justice system was about as accurate as Cricket 97’s idea of cricket, made me seek out every opportunity to shout Objection! and Hold It! (getting the exclamation marks in was the difficult part) in every conversation. Many friendships were lost in that brief, heady, uncertain time.
Vampire The Masquerade goes a step further. Whatever blood-fuelled frenzy channeled the mystic energies responsible for this title (it was undoubtedly blood-fuelled) had uncertain side effects i’m sure the creators were unaware of. What manner of alchemy, pray, makes one return to this game like a ghoul to her sire in the dead of night, promising yourself, rather uncertainly, that just one more quest would satiate the hunger till the next break of dawn. 
Infact, after a few days, dawn itself begins to lose its allure. Sunrise is too bright, too piercing. And when the real-world doorbell rings in the middle of your sneaky break-in into a kine apartment, you’re half-tempted to turn and hiss, like a kindred channeling her feeding frenzy. 
See what it did, there? Bloodlines bleeds slang into the real world: it bleeds its language, its unique visual grammar. The very rules that govern its twisted, dark characters and places. 
It’s the most effortlessly intelligent game I’ve played: with a script that oozes style and edge, and situations that make the quests in even Fallout 3 look positively childish.
But you can’t get over the sense of tragedy that underscores the title. It’s costly development led its creator, Troika games, to financial ruin. It’s an unfunished, often buggy game that was rushed through the door before the studio shut shop. It could have been the template for all future RPGs, but it wasn’t. 
We’d all have our own personal holodecks by now if that had happened. Instead, we have this:

 

The best kind of games bleed temporarily into your real life. 

The original Thief: The Dark Project made me wary of streetlights for nearly a month, summoning an inexplicable urge to shoot off the bulbs with arrows.   

The much-maligned but oft-magnificient Mirror’s Edge converted what was previously a patchwork of urban rooftops into pathways, routes, and opportunities for multiple fractures. Often with an ambient soundtrack playing through your head.

The Phoenix Wright series, whose depiction of the justice system was about as accurate as Cricket 97’s idea of cricket, made me seek out every opportunity to shout Objection! and Hold It! (getting the exclamation marks in was the difficult part) in every conversation. Many friendships were lost in that brief, heady, uncertain time.

Vampire: The Masquerade (Bloodlines) goes a step further.

Whatever blood-fuelled frenzy channeled the mystic energies responsible for this title (it was undoubtedly blood-fuelled), they had side effects I’m sure  even the creators were unaware of.

What manner of alchemy, pray, makes one return to this game like a ghoul to her sire in the dead of night, promising yourself, rather uncertainly, that just one more quest would satiate the hunger till the next break of dawn. 

la_hub_10001

Ooh. Pretty.

sm_hub_10000

Ooh. Atmosphere.

Infact, after a few days, dawn itself begins to lose its allure. Sunrise is too bright, too piercing (The game itself is set in a perpetual night. Sunlight, after all, is anathema to the vampires (referred to as the ‘Kindred’, in game)) And when the real-world doorbell rings in the middle of your sneaky break-in into a kine apartment, you’re half-tempted to turn and hiss, like a kindred channeling her feeding frenzy. 

See what it did, there? Bloodlines bleeds its slang into the real world: it bleeds its language, its unique visual grammar. The very rules that govern its twisted, dark characters and places. 

sm_pawnshop_10000

Heather. Definitely among gaming's best-written characters. Of all time.

It’s the most effortlessly intelligent game I’ve played: with a script that oozes style and edge, and situations that make the quests in even Fallout 3 look positively childish. Forgetting the ‘game’ part of it, even taken as a work of fantasy: its worldbuilding is incredible.

la_museum_10023

In the game, some of the Kindred believe that the Biblical Caine was the original vampire.

It’s a game that populates its world with people who have personalities, and not  just quest dispensers, or plot advancers, or monologue-deliverers. Take Beckett, the vampire archaeologist, pictured above, with whom you can have a freewheeling discussion on the origins of vampirism for no apparent gameplay purpose. Or Prince LaCroix, self-proclaimed monarch of the kindred, whose political machinations hover over the plot just out of reach, his intents always just beyond understanding:

la_ventruetower_10026

But nothing illustrates the attention to detail in this game more than playing as the Malkavians. The Malkavians are a slightly…unhinged clan of vampires. Choose to play as them, and EVERY dialogue option in the game changes into bizarre, semi-coherent psycho-babble:

sp_tutorial_10003

'I Shall Undertake Your Dark Tutelage' may possibly be the best conversation line ever.

sp_tutorial_10001

I can't help but say 'lulz'.

Then there’s the sense of tragedy that underscores the title. Its costly development led its creator, Troika Games, to financial ruin. It’s an unfunished, often buggy game that was rushed through the door before the studio shut shop.

la_hospital_10001

The creepy Nagarajas

If Bloodlines had been the template for all future RPGs,  we’d all have our own personal holodecks by now.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, we have this:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Advertisements

3 Responses to “Vampirical Observations (My ‘Summer of Videogames’ continues)”

  1. Marc said

    The first time I played Vampire, my PC sucked so much that loading screens took forever and cutscenes were choppy.

    A few years later I recalled that I had never played it and reinstalled it. Played it till the city with the blood banks and stuff, went to meet some old hermit or something like that… Not sure why I stopped playing it. I’ll try it again when I’m back in the game (pun intended).

  2. sottai said

    Remember to use the unofficial patches that bring it up to reasonable stability. The original game was quite atrocious, it had glitches in the opening cutscene even.

    The hermit, I recall, was somewhere in Chapter 3. You stopped at the right time, quite frankly. =)

  3. Ayoxin said

    Hhahaha 🙂 I remember the horrible curses in the Witcher! A sad thing really I bet Sapkowski’s books were much better than the game.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: