Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong brings new unlife to the realm of story-based games – Review

Vampires are more political than terrifying.

Image via Nacon

Because of a terrible massacre, the secret world of the vampires, known as The Masquerade, may have been broken. A code red has been initiated. The prince of the Camarilla, Hazel Iverson, orders three different vampires to investigate Boston in hopes of solving the mystery and scrub all traces of vampires that the mortals might discover. 

While the story has its interesting beats, most of it falls short and can be somewhat predictable. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Just because you know the superhero will save the day doesn’t make the journey to an epic conclusion any less satisfying. Outside of the story, you have many features that help set this game apart from others in its genre. Vampiric abilities like teleportation, heightened senses, and persuasion are all useful tools both in and out of conversations. These abilities can help you explore the world and see what is hidden in the night.

See through The Masquerade

Screenshot by DoubleXP

The rules of the Masquerade explain how the secret world of vampires has remained hidden throughout the game. The story focuses on three main individuals; Galeb, Emem, and Leysha. Each one of these vampires has different powers and their own story that unfolds as the game progresses. Leysha, for instance, must struggle between her duties to the prince and her own mental health. This is a compelling narrative that will make you question whether it is worth conforming to the society around you, despite the abuse you suffer, or allowing yourself to stand out at great risk.

While her story is compelling, the other stories often fall a little flat in comparison. Galeb’s story gets lost in the long-winded sections and Emem’s feels somewhat incomplete. For example, an NPC tried talking to me as Emem. When I attempted to interact with the NPC, there was no dialogue to be offered. The NPC simply stood there eyeing Emem. This is something that shouldn’t happen in a story-focused game, especially not from an important NPC.

Vampires have some cool moves

Screenshot by DoubleXP

The gameplay of Swansong can be broken up into two categories; freeroam and conversations. The developers have done a great job making the conversations feel a little more lively than the characters thanks to the confrontation mechanic. A confrontation occurs when your character and an NPC have differing views on the same topic. During this time, you are pressured to choose the correct responses from the dialogue options. At the top of the screen will be the number of misses you can stack up before you fail. These confrontations determine how the story will play out in the future, giving you a sense of urgency to say the right thing. More than once I found myself replaying a chapter to win an argument, eager to see what would happen. 

The other side of the game is freeroam. When you are in a free-roaming area, you can freely walk around to discover clues, documents, secrets, etc. Each of these has a part to play in the overall story or chapter that you are in. While some of the areas are rather straightforward, I did find myself getting stuck on occasion without knowing where the item I needed was. This caused me to run around in circles until I eventually found the item I was looking for. 

While in conversation or roaming around the world, you have access to abilities that allow you to gain an upper hand. These skills and disciplines will either drain your willpower or increase your hunger with each use. Thanks to the experience you gain at the end of each chapter from completing various objectives, you can increase your skills and disciplines to truly master your vampiric powers.

Not everything is fine in the Prince’s quarters

Image via Nacon

Outside of how the game plays and the story unfolds, there should be a focus on the functionality of the game’s current state. Keep in mind that this could all change after the game’s release. However, the version that I played had a lot of bugs that interfered with my enjoyment of the game. Whether it was a character getting stuck with the same emotion on their face, dialogue that seemed to not lead anywhere, or the NPC who walked into a curtain and sat down on the air before screaming, the game was full of random events that made me question whether or not to keep going. 

Along with the bugs, there were often times when the voice a character was using didn’t match what they were saying. During stressful times, some characters sounded completely unphased despite telling me how important completing the task was. At other times, I would be getting told information about a murder and the officer would be yelling at me out of the blue before calming down after saying two words. It made the voices sound like they were spliced together from various takes in the recording studio.

The verdict

Image via Nacon

All bugs and glitches aside, the way that the vampires stalk the night, intermingling with mortal beings, is an interesting story that should be explored further. The numerous possible outcomes of confrontations will have you second-guessing your actions and replaying the story to get different results. Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong really shines when it comes to resource management and confrontations. You’ll be on the edge of your seat, waiting for the opportune moment to use that skill you’ve been holding off on or keeping your hunger low so you can control your victims. Take this with a grain of salt though, because there are potential game-breaking bugs that could alter your enjoyment of the game.

Final Score:

6.5 / 10

+Confrontations and their consequences feel real
+Willpower and hunger management is well crafted and adds an extra layer of depth
Characters have dialogue that feels out of place or non-essential to the story
It is extremely easy to get stuck in areas if you miss small details that don’t stand out
NPC facial expressions sometimes get stuck and the voice acting sounds out of place at times
Disclosure: DoubleXP was provided a game code for review purposes.

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