Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is a narrative-driven roleplaying game developed by Big Bad Wolf.
You play as Leysha, Galeb, and Emem, three vampires from three different clans who all work within an organized group of vampires called the Camarilla. Each character has their own story that intertwines as they all take orders from another vampire who is the Prince of Boston.
Gameplay mostly involves talking to NPCs and searching the environment for clues about who’s responsible for a recent mass killing of vampires. Puzzles range from hunting for keycodes in documents and environment to finding specific places to use your vampiric powers. However, these often led to more clues or unsatisfying conclusions, making puzzles mostly disappointing to me. Each character has stats, skills, and vampiric powers you can level. Developing specific skills or vampiric powers offers new options in certain conversations and gives you more things to do while exploring, such as using your heightened sense of smell to track where a person went in a building. However, due to the breadth of potential skills and powers to develop, it felt like I was constantly finding things I couldn’t do. It was even more frustrating when I’d get the chance to use an ability and the information gained from it didn’t move the story forward.
Unfortunately, not all of the opportunities that use these resources were helpful in advancing the story. The story has a lot of information to keep track of, such as how characters are backstabbing or connected to each other, adding layers to the mystery. For those who want even more info, there are loads of documents to read while exploring as well as character profiles and lore in the pause menu. While the plot is an intriguing political thriller, it’s a slow burn hindered by an ensemble cast that isn’t consistently interesting.
Graphics are a mixed bag. Specific aspects such as the details of characters’ skin and many environmental elements appear fantastic. However, the lighting often makes people and objects look like they’re made of shiny plastic rather than flesh, wood, or metal. Animations like hand movements and eyebrow waggling also look unnatural in a robotic way rather than a vampiric one.
Issues like missing assets, graphical glitches, and pathing issues were present but didn’t ruin my fun. However, interactable objects have incredibly narrow hitboxes and are sometimes clustered close together, meaning I repeatedly missed key interactable items while searching. In addition, advancing the plot often demands doing actions in a specific order, even if you already have all of the information you need to advance. Other times it requires performing actions I didn’t know I needed to perform. You can’t skip dialog or cutscenes, even if you’ve already done them, making for frustrating periods of waiting if you accidentally click something or someone you’ve already interacted with. About eight hours into my playthrough, a game-breaking bug locked a character in an animation so they couldn’t open a locked door. Neither closing the game nor restarting the mission fixed it.
While elements of the story and specific characters intrigued me, the sluggish pacing, backtracking, and convoluted path of progression drowned out any enjoyment I got from the mystery or the characters. But if you like story-driven mystery games with minor puzzles, you may get more enjoyment out of Swansong than I did.
Vampire the Masquerade – Swansong is available now for $49.99 on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X | S and will be available later on Nintendo Switch.
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