244: The Last Masquerade

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The Last Masquerade

If there was ever a game that exemplified the term "flawed masterpiece," it's Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, a 2004 PC title that aimed high and very nearly made it. Logan Westbrook looks at what went wrong - and right - with Troika Games' swan song.

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I love Bloodlines, warts and all. Few games have built the sort of atmosphere this game excels at creating. You touch on all of the important points that make the game great, and also point out places where it could be shored up.

Great article on a great game that, sadly, was too good to live. Yet it does, on my hard drive, persistent and refusing to die.

Maybe it's the whole vampire thing.

I am sad now, I really miss Troika. Perhaps I should fire up Bloodlines or Arcanum this week.

Thank god for unofficial patches. Saved Bloodlines, made KOTOR II playable and made STALKER: SOC the masterpiece it should have been.

PC community, I salute you.

Anyways, good article.

It truly was a fantastic game. I loved the dark, brooding and downright depressing atmosphere, the whole feeling that no matter what you were doing the only person benefitting was someone pulling your strings and not you, and of course, Smiling Jack (voiced by John DiMaggio no less!)

Probably high time to play through it a fourth time...maybe as a Nosferatu, not tried them yet and I'm interested in seeing just how much having to get about using sewers as much as you can will change things.

Troika was a major force when it came to creating these fan patches ;)
They had enough freetime after activision fired them for their mistake.

Remains the finest RPG I ever played.
- And my benchmark for good vampire fiction.

I liked the article. It's funny really, just last week I started to reminisce about the game and made a segment about it. Guess it must be the weather, something just whispers Vampire the Masquerade in the night.

personally it's one of my best time favorite for great ambiance/music/voices/characters, and a good vision of vampirism + the comunity patch is incredible !

too bad games aren't made that way anymore...

This game is amazing. Truly amazing. For that matter, so was Elemental Evil.

RIP Troika

Always good to see someone bring this game back up into the light. There are still some small groups of modders who work on an "unofficial update" project to fix a lot of bugs and restore some of the unfinished content, and it's been over 5 years since the game went out. Now that's dedication.

Bloodlines is/was awesome. And it got even better with the fan patches. It would have been so awesome if they would have finished the game the way they had planned to. Even in its unfinished state I consider it one of the best RPGs I've ever played. I've must have played it through 4-5 times by now.

Orcus_35:

ps: i don't remember fighting a wereshark, but if you mean fighting the chinese Kuei jin woman i get it.

No, there's a side mission that you can get from a Japanese monster hunter girl that you can help. She wants to take revenge on "Hengeyokai" a fish demon/wereshark.

Not many RPG's even today match Bloodlines. Flawed as it is, modern RPG makers should take notes from it before being allowed to create anything. Given White Wolf's buyout by EVE Online maker CCP, I have high hopes for seeing more Vampire games in the future.

Bobbovski:

Orcus_35:

ps: i don't remember fighting a wereshark, but if you mean fighting the chinese Kuei jin woman i get it.

No, there's a side mission that you can get from a Japanese monster hunter girl that you can help. She wants to take revenge on "Hengeyokai" a fish demon/wereshark.

Hilarious if you play as Malkavian and somehow "spoil" the future encounter.

And you find the japanese Demon hunter in the front portion of the Ramen noodle shop ;)

I may have to check this game out, what has actually been modded back in?

This game, despite it flaws (which were greatly helped by those unofficial patches), is definitely one of my favorites of all time. It just has so much re-playability, variation, and style that few games have been able to match. Whoever has not played this game, and loves RPGs, for the sake of all that is good in the world, GET IT NOW! It's only 19.99 on Steam. Quite a bargain for a game that can be played and re-played over and over again. Just make sure to check online for the latest patch.

I donīt really care for any of it's flaws.It was still one of the best RPG's,if not one of the best games that I have ever played.

I was a Toreodor.
most irratating bug was when I was in the graveyard fighting zombies and the game crashes.

HOLD ON!
have Valve make a vampire masquerade game!
can you say "Awsome!"?

I could never bring myself to play as anything but the malkavian chick. Maybe I just don't go for dark settings, but I needed that batshit humor.

You have to watch out for the two competing unofficial patches.

The Unofficial Patch restores stuff, adds in stuff, and changes the game so that it's more of a mod than a patch.

The True Patch simply fixes the problems of the game and leaves the rest untouched... so long as you can ignore the fact that its creator is a butthurt ultra-liberal who shouts at and/or bans you should you so much as even disagree with him.

Neither patches agree with me. The first since it's not really a patch, and the second because the creator left a foul taste in my mouth.

Bobbovski:

Orcus_35:

ps: i don't remember fighting a wereshark, but if you mean fighting the chinese Kuei jin woman i get it.

No, there's a side mission that you can get from a Japanese monster hunter girl that you can help. She wants to take revenge on "Hengeyokai" a fish demon/wereshark.

"You are glad this thing didn't have any tentacles, right?" Brilliant, just brilliant.

Oh well, Bloodlines still gives me goosebumps just thinking it and even more of what i could have been.

It just makes me sad.

johnman:
I may have to check this game out, what has actually been modded back in?

various bug fixes.
You get a fake Katana early on (First Kuei-Jin battle).
If you help the japanese Demon hunter, she might return the favour, when you go after Min-Xiao.

Uh....lots of other stuff, I think there are two distinct branches:

One restores "lost" content, while the other one just fixes various bugs.

ThePostalDude:

have Valve make a vampire masquerade game!
can you say "Awsome!"?

Actually, Troika only licensed an early version of the source engine, most notably how fucked up the Havok physics engine is. Every tried standing on a flat physics object, like a plank of wood, the game goes ballistic. My favourite glitch was dying because I jumped onto the top of a coke can ;)

I remember playing Masquarade Bloodlines, not so long after it's relase and with only 1 or 2 patches available at the time I couldn't even get halfway through the game.

I only just recently deceided to try it out again, after getting a new PC but playing it on my big ass 20" (1600x900) monitor just makes the graphics look horrendous. So I stopped playing it again, but I will finish the game one day (^^). If only I had a way to get it from "fullscreen" to "windowed".

Masqurade was an amazingly abitious game, but I think it should go down in history as an example of what happens when you get impatient and try to rush your investment for money now, now, NOW!

If it simply had been given a few months of tuning, most of the issues currently being worked out in a still on-going fan patch would probably be resolved and it'd be up there with all of the other amazing works of art and fun we gamers hold so dear.

Black Isle, Troika and Obsidian have always suffered from the same problem. The creators are amazing visionaries and masterful storytellers, there's no doubting that. Their problem is also that they are amazing visionaries that are very farsighted. They simply can't see the problems that are close to them and which stops them from realizing all their visions. Bloodlines was in development for almost 4 years and even with almost half the planned content cut out (including the multiplayer mode) the game was a mess. However, it only follows suit with Troikas other games, Arcanum was also a wonderful, wonderful game but horribly bugged and with areas that so obviously had so much planned for them but so little done with them. Obsidian went on to make the same mistakes for Neverwinter Nights 2 (many, many horrid bugs in there) and Knights of the Old Republic 2 (which was basically Bloodlines all over again but in Star Wars).

I like Bloodlines. I like Arcanum. But there simply is no excuse for what Troika did. Other developers get flamed all the way into the lowest levels of hell for releasing unfinished games no matter how much potential they have. Troika, I am sad to say, tops the list when it comes to that offense. What Troika desperately would have needed (and what might have saved them as a studio) was someone who could pull the break when the designers became to enthusiastic with envisioning features.

I never actually played this game for more than 3 hours. I expected something completely different from a VTM game. More freedom maybe or a more faithful translation of the rules... I don't really know.
However, all my friends who played it loved it. I just felt it was too buggy and unfinished, combat was awful and the city was just 3 deserted blocks with one street. Sure, I didn't get to other cities and I didn't have time to get into the story, but the first impression is very important, and they screwed that up.

To me Bloodlines is one of the greatest games ever. Its basically DeusEx as a vampire. It has its flaws, but with all the latest patches and the unofficial community patch I found it very enjoyable. It has alot of memorable NPCs and locations, and once you've played it as a "normal" vampire, replaying it as a Malkavian is hilarious.

lockeslylcrit:
snip

Oh yeah I'm kinda with you on this one. As much as I really love this game I find it very hard to use either patch for the same reasons. If memory servers there was a very talented skinner who did some amazing skins for the game (nude was his major thing) who suffered from the same egotistical "I'll ban you for not agreeing with me" attitude. Such a shame I refused to use his work because of it.

I'm so glad this was reviewed, and so long after it came out. Hopefully it will introduce it to new people and maybe someday we'll see a 3rd game.

Xavier78:

lockeslylcrit:
snip

Oh yeah I'm kinda with you on this one. As much as I really love this game I find it very hard to use either patch for the same reasons. If memory servers there was a very talented skinner who did some amazing skins for the game (nude was his major thing) who suffered from the same egotistical "I'll ban you for not agreeing with me" attitude. Such a shame I refused to use his work because of it.

I have an amusing revelation for you!

That's the same person lockeslylcrit was talking about.

No really, I know who you mean and you're describing the same person, because the "True Patch" is the work of that fellow who does all the nude skins (or just higher definition reskins, which is why I'm familiar with him... don't judge me!). I personally use that patch, but yeah, the drama between him and the creators of the Unofficial patch and his resultant internet tantrum that saw him swear off modding and shut his site down for a while... well they were rather off-putting to say the least.

In the end though I'd rather use a patch that fixes all the bugs, without modifying the rest of the game experience, than install an increasingly enormous collection of 'fixes' that are more along the lines of a total conversion. As much as I hate drama, I've played the game using only the official patches, and after experiencing it without the random glitches and crashes, I never want to go back, heh.

I've played through this game 3 times... Each time as a female Gangrel named "Cali". Seems corny, but I've been able to complete every single mission in the game with that setup.

Even flawed, this is among my top 5 games ever played and holds a high seat of honour in my heart.

All RPGs are flawed, but Bloodlines also did alot of stuff right, which is pretty rare. This is the game that should have saved them.

RIP Troika

I can't put my finger on what's so good about Bloodlines, but I'm willing to see past its flaws to enjoy the game underneath. That's kind of rare for me. It's that Jazz idiom; "They've got something to say."

Some levels (like the ghost house) are very well designed, others are just ugly (down-town). The White Wolf canon in the background could have become an orgiastic nerdgasm (imo WW players are notorious nerdgasm-junkies) but manages to stay out of the way without feeling overlooked.

Great, memorable characters. Maybe that's enough.

The only other flawed but brilliant game in the same league I can think of is the first Mass Effect; although a sort of reversed version where I love the gameplay but don't really care about the bland rubber-faced-alien "epic" in the background. I did however care about three of the characters. Perhaps that's the secret sauce?

Gildan Bladeborn:

I have an amusing revelation for you!

That's the same person lockeslylcrit was talking about.

No really, I know who you mean and you're describing the same person, because the "True Patch" is the work of that fellow who does all the nude skins (or just higher definition reskins, which is why I'm familiar with him... don't judge me!). I personally use that patch, but yeah, the drama between him and the creators of the Unofficial patch and his resultant internet tantrum that saw him swear off modding and shut his site down for a while... well they were rather off-putting to say the least.

In the end though I'd rather use a patch that fixes all the bugs, without modifying the rest of the game experience, than install an increasingly enormous collection of 'fixes' that are more along the lines of a total conversion. As much as I hate drama, I've played the game using only the official patches, and after experiencing it without the random glitches and crashes, I never want to go back, heh.

I agree with you there. If I had to choose the lesser of two evils, I definitely (and always have since I started playing VtM:B years ago) pick the one that stays true to what the game was rather than what the game could have been.

However, being a forum member on tessmage during that whole debacle, I now equate using the True Patch with an analogy: It's like eating the most awesome pizza ever that was made by Hitler. Yeah... the pizza is the best damn tasting pizza you'll ever have, but you cant help but feel guilty or a little disgusted because it was made by Hitler.

The whole thing that made me want to leave his forums for good (and I did, thankfully) was his views on the military. Having served in 2000 and 2005, I felt personally insulted by his ignorance that all military personnel are evil baby rapers who need to die.

TheBlackKnight:

Hilarious if you play as Malkavian and somehow "spoil" the future encounter.

You definitely want to check out the Companion Mod though

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