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Title: Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
Vmbbox
Developer: Troika Games
Publisher: Activision
Designers: Jason Anderson, Leonard Boyarsky, Tim Cain
Platform: Windows
Released: November 16

2004

Genre: RPG
Version: 1.2 (Wesp5's Unofficial patch 7.9; VTMB True Patch Version 5.04AT)

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines is the second role-playing computer game based on Vampire: The Masquerade. It was developed by Troika Games using the Source engine, and is played from either the first- or third-person perspective. It is noted as being the first Source game to go Gold.

In the game, the player creates their own neonate vampire, choosing from the seven Camarilla clans in a story set in and around Los Angeles. The plot is considered canon, and forms a prequel to the Time of Judgement.

Plot

The player's character has been newly embraced by a Sire who did not seek the local Prince's permission; both Sire and childe are sentenced to be executed, but following a protest by Anarch "leader" Nines Rodriguez, Prince LaCroix spares the player's life as a calculated move to preserve a state of non-aggression between the two groups. In return, the player is expected to serve the Prince faithfully, and is set a task to prove their usefulness and loyalty. A supposed Sabbat attack interupts the introduction to Kindred lore being given to the player by Smiling Jack, and they must continue on alone.

As the game progresses, it becomes apparent that an ancient artifact known as the Ankaran Sarcophagus is at the center of recent tensions between the Camarilla, Sabbat, Anarchs and Kuei-jin of the West Coast. The player must decide which faction - if any - they can trust, and determine the secrets of the Sarcophagus before it causes all out war amongst the Kindred.

The storyline is non-linear; though most events will be encountered regardless of the character's choices, there are numerous optional quests and five distinct endings. However, while the game does give players great freedom, the overall plot line does not change no matter what you do, and all the core missions still need to be completed. For example, if you decide to side with the anarchs, you will still need to obey Prince Lacroix, as you are told to act like you are still loyal. Similarly, if you try to refuse a mission given to you by the prince, he uses the Dominate Discipline to ensure your obedience.

Setting

LA Map S

Map of LA.

Los Angeles and its surroundings are faithfully reproduced as they exist in the Gothic-Punk World of Darkness, including major elements of the metaplot like the Kuei-jin invasion and the collapse of the Anarch Free State. Characters from the pen and paper game appear, most notably Beckett, and all the vampire sects are depicted as nasty, with the player free to choose an allegiance. LA itself is divided into four main regions (Santa Monica, Downtown, Hollywood and Chinatown) that you progress through - once you reach a new region the previous regions and quests are still available.

The nature of the Kindred is also true to the pen and paper game, as are the problems of living in a Camarilla controlled city; the player must not only worry about losing Humanity, but also about breaking the Masquerade, at least in public areas. Wisely, the game only introduces those details which influence the game.

Most of the clans are mentioned, though the player is restricted to choosing from the seven clans of the Camarilla.

Characters

Kindred and Kuei-Jin

Sebastian LaCroix
A French Ventrue of at least 180 years of age, LaCroix is the Prince of Los Angeles. He once served under Napoléon and runs the LaCroix Foundation.
The Sheriff
LaCroix's physically imposing, seven feet tall and dark skinned Sheriff is given no name, and never speaks. His clan is never stated, though as LaCroix recruited him out of Africa a century ago, and given the Disciplines he wields, he may be of the Nagloper or Akunanse Legacy of Laibon.
Nines Rodriguez
A Brujah and default leader of L.A.'s Anarchs, though hates being referred to as leader or "prince". He harbors great hatred for the Kuei-jin and the Camarilla.
Smiling Jack
A Brujah brawler, possible ex-pirate and notable Anarch from the nights of the Anarch Free State; considered a legend among young vampires and his clan. He optionally acts as a mentor at the beginning of the game.
Rosa
A clairvoyant thin-blood living under the Santa Monica pier. For $20, she will cryptically reveal all of the major plot points of the game.
E.
An Australian thin-blood also living under the Santa Monica pier. He optionally sends the player on a quest to find his love and sire, Lily.
Copper
Another thin-blood living under the Santa Monica pier. He is very nervous and desperate about his condition; the player has the option sell him 'unicorn blood' for a blood transfusion that will make him human again, a 'holy stake' to kill the 'head vampire', and some 'special chewing gum' to 'erode your fangs'.
Julius
Another thin-blood living under the Santa Monica pier, he is a nervous stutterer that is involved in one of Velvet Velour's quests later.
Serial killer
Throughout a large portion of the game there a serial killer raging across the west cost. He has already commited several murders when the game starts and commits more as the game progresses. The player has the option to track him down and decide how to deal with him.
Lily
A 14th-generation thin-blood, Lily is E.'s sire and love. The player is optionally send on a quest to investigate her whereabouts.
Jeanette Voerman
A Malkavian, "sister" of Therese Voerman.
Therese Voerman
A Malkavian (although she dresses and acts like a Ventrue) who owns the Santa Monica nightclub Asylum, and is also the Baron of Santa Monica.
Bertram Tung
A Nosferatu living in Santa Monica. The player has to find him to gain access to the Sabbat warehouse and finish the Santa Monica hub.
Beckett
The famed intellectual Gangrel adventurer, Beckett appears in L.A. on the genuine pretext of investigating the Ankaran Sarcophagus, hoping to examine it firsthand and debunk any "superstitious nonsense" surrounding it.
Alistair Grout
Alistair Grout is the Malkavian Primogen. The player is sent on a quest by Lacroix to find out why he didn't show up recently and hasn't been answering his phone.
Damsel
A fierce anarch staying at the Last Round downtown. Though she distrusts the player on their first encounter, she optionally tells him about the Anarchs and can send the player on a side quest.
Skelter
An Anarch also staying at the Last Round. He is very taunting towards the player, but can tell him about the Antediluvians and Caine. He can also send him on a side quest.
Pisha
A vampire of the Nagaraja bloodline staying at an abandoned hospital, where she had recently slain a TV crew. The player is given the option to kill her, leave her alone or to exchange artifacts with her.
Maximilian Strauss
Maximilian Strauss is the regent of the Tremere chantry downtown. He is very skeptical of Prince Lacroix, but hesitant to talk about it. He is also easily offended, but nonetheless a rather wise Kindred. He send the player a note at the beginning of the game, can give him an optional side quest and can also later become involved in another side quest. He is also one of the Primogen.
Jezebel Locke
She is involved in the plaguebearer quest given by Damsel and Strauss. She hires prostitutes to infect them with the disease.
Brother Kanker
Brother Kanker is another plaguebearer. He lives in the sewers and inflicts the disease upon the homeless. Contrary to Jezebel he seems to believe in the ideology of the Ninth Circle, the plaguebearer cult that is spreading the disease.
Bishop Vick
Speculated to be a Brujah or Toreador, Bishop Vick is the head of the Ninth Circle. He has very hard feelings toward his being a vampire.
Isaac Abrahams
Isaac is the Toreador baron of Hollywood. He is very taunting towards Lacroix and the 'wooden soldiers of the Camarilla', but nonetheless will be quite polite towards the player. He sends him on two main quests involving a snuff film and can also send him to deal with a Gargoyle.
Velvet Velour
Owner of the Hollywood club Vesuvius. She asks the player to take care of a Hunter problem in the city, as well as a writer threatening the Masquerade. Doing so can result in her falling for your character.
Ash Rivers
Isaac's childe Ash is the very hopeless and depressed owner of the Asp Hole in Hollywood. He is under surveillance by hunters. If the player chooses to help him deal with his hunter problem he will be encountered again later in the game.
Andrei
Andrei is the polite, eloquent and well-mannered Tzimisce leader of the Sabbat in Los Angeles. He is responsible for the creation of the snuff tape and has mastered the disciplines of Thaumaturgy and Vicissitude.
Mitnick
Mitnick is a Nosferatu hacker who was embraced by Gary after he broke into a Nosferatu database. He is very happy about his being a kindred, stating that even his appearance does not bother him since he wasn't too good-looking anyway.
Imalia
A bitter former super model, Imalia lives in the Nosferatu warrens with Mitnick, Gary and several others. She was embraced by Gary because of her vanity and is very jealous of model Tawni Sessions who has taken her place.
"Gorgeous" Gary Golden
Leader of the Nosferatu who lurk in a shared haven under the Hollywood Graveyard. He refers to the player as "Boss", and prefers speaking to his visitors while using Obfuscate, saying "I like the sound of my own voice".
Ming Xiao
Ming Xiao is the high priestess to the people of Chinatown. She is very elegant and well-mannered, but makes no effort to hide her disrespect for the Kindred who, acording to her, are inferior. She is an important character for the rest of the game.
Barabus
Barabus is a Nosferatu who has gone missing in Chinatown. The player is sent on a quest by Gary to find out what happened to him.
The Cab Driver
The cab driver is a very mysterious kindred that helps to player to find a decision regarding his allegiance at the end of the game. He is speculated to be Caine.

Ghouls and other supernaturals

Mercurio
Lacroix' ghoul nearing his 60s (though he appears to be in his mid 30s) who works for LaCroix, based in Santa Monica. He specializes in acquiring contraband goods such as high-grade explosives or weaponry. If you do not alert Prince LaCroix to Mercurio's mix-up at the beginning of the game he will become another source for very powerful weapons such as combat shotguns, sniper rifles, and grenades.
Heather Poe
A college student found dying in the Santa Monica hospital (reading one of the doctor's computers reveals that she has lacerated organs and internal bleeding). The player can choose to save her by making her a Ghoul. Doing so is the only way to get the best in-game armor without paying, but unless freed early enough in the game, she will be killed.
Knoxx Harrington
Knoxx is Bertram Tung's ghoul. He approaches the player at the beginning of the game, saying 'You're a vampire, aren't you!' and is very excited to meet him. He also tells him about ghouls and thus enables the option to ghoul Heather.
Vandal
Vandal operates the blood bank at the Santa Monica Medical Clinic. He is also Therese Voerman's ghoul.
Patty
Patty is the stuck-up ghoul of a Toreador who is missing. She is looking for him and endangers the Masquerade. Skelter can send the player on a quest to deal with her.
Romero
Romero is the groundkeeper of the Hollywood cemetary and Isaac's ghoul. He makes sure none of the zombies that rise in the night leave the cemetary.
Zygaena
Zygaena is a Rokea.

Humans

Arthur Killpatrick
Arthur operates Arthur's bail bonds. He can send the player on two side quests. It is also known that he has an advanced case of herpes simplex, and hires local escorts to play "Lockdown in the Women's Prison" with him.
Carson
Carson is Arthur's bounty hounter. The player can be send on a quest to investigate his whereabouts.
Stanley Gimble
Stanley Gimble operates Gimble's prostethics. He cut off his own arm to replace it with a prothesis to get a feeling of what it is like.
Officer Chunk
Chunk is a security guard who watches the Gallery Noir. If the player character is female he can fall for her, depending how she deals with him. Later he works at the Lacroix Foundation.
Venus
Venus is the owner of the Club Confession downtown. To start it, she had to take a loan from a Russian named Boris and has to pay with intercourse every time she can not pay with money. She was originally intended to be a ghoul.
David Hatter
David Hatter is a hotel manager and aspiring screenwriter. He is involved in an optional side quest given by Velvet.
Samantha
Samantha is a former friend of the player character from his mortal years. The player can deal with her in a variety of ways.
Ji Wen-Ja
Ji Wen-Ja is a fortune teller in Chinatown. He is an ex-hitman a needs the second key kept by a former friend to a box with a lot of money from a contract.
Lu Fang
Ji Wen-Ja's former friend.
Wong Ho
Wong Ho owns the Red Dragon restaurant in Chinatown. He helps the player in many ways, but before he does, he sends him on a quest to rescue his kidnapped daughter Kiki. The player can become friends with him and warn him of a danger he can find out about later.
The Mandarin
The Mandarin is a person assigned the task to find out about the most effective way to kill Kindred.
Yukie
Yukie is hunter from Japan who seeks revenge at a hengeyokai that killed her master. In the unofficial patch she will also help the player in the final battle.
Brother Grünfeld Bach
Catholic warrior monk and leader of a Society of Leopold cell; a third-generation vampire hunter who seeks revenge for the murder of his father and grandfather.
Johansen
Johansen is a professor from Norway. He is responsible for the discovery of the Ankaran Sarcophagus.

Organizations

  • The Camarilla - Returned to Los Angeles after 60 years, having been forced out by the Anarchs. Ruled by Prince Lacroix.
  • The Anarchs - Still not recovered from the invasion of the Kuei-jin in the early 2000s, the Anarch Free State lies in disarray, split into two major factions overseen by Baron Isaac Abrams in Hollywood, and Baron Therese Vorman in Santa Monica.
  • The Sabbat - Staging a major invasion as part of larger plan to occupy America's West Coast, connecting up with their strongholds in Mexico. The local forces are led by a Tzimisce named Andrei.
  • The Kuei-jin - The vampires of the Middle Kingdom have decided they cannot ignore the threat of the West any longer, and a few years ago ousted the Anarch Free State in a surprise attack.

Gameplay

Bloodlines is a real-time game with the choice between first and third person perspectives. The player character's ability to overcome obstacles is in many cases a mixture of player and character abilities, with character stats determining the effectiveness of actions, and player abilities determining whether or not the actions succeed. For example, the ability to move silently and avoid being detected is heavily influenced by the character's Dexterity and Stealth ratings; however, if the player does not stay in the shadows while sneaking past enemies, the character can still be detected.

The player character increases in power dramatically during the course of the game through the expenditure of earned experience points on attributes, skills and Disciplines. A multitude of items, weapons, and books can be found or purchased that also make the player character more powerful.

Unlike most computer role-playing games, the experience needed to increase stats and skills is not awarded for killing enemies. Experience points are awarded solely for completing quests, no matter how many creatures the player eliminates in the process; sometimes there a bonus exp being awarded for non-combat approaches. This encourages the player to complete quests in creative ways and significantly increases the game's replay value.

Patches and mods

While highly and deservedly criticized on release for the number of bugs present in the game, it garnered enough praise from critics and fans alike to spawn a concerted community patching effort. Indeed in its retail release it was actually impossible to finish the game for some people. One Troika Games patch was rush released which allowed players to finish the game but left many other bugs and even simple things such as typos untouched. However, a succession of fan-made mods and patches have since been released even though Troika have now disbanded; few noticeable bugs are left, and many features disabled by the developers have been finished and re-enabled. The "unofficial patch" mods have now reached version 8.1 and allow a choice between restoring cut content or soley bug fixes.

System

Bloodlines uses a simplified version of the Storyteller System which is nonetheless very similar to the original. Characters possess all nine standard attributes, and a reduced set of twelve abilities, broken into the usual groups of Skills, Talents and Knowledges. These are rated from zero to five dots as normal, though the player starts off with far fewer dots than in the pen and paper game. Attribute and Ability scores are added together to form "feats", which represent the dice pools for various attempted actions; for example, the Melee Combat feat is derived by adding the ratings of the Strength Attribute and Melee Ability. Feats are therefore rated between 1 and 10.

Other traits (like Virtues and Willpower) are largely eliminated, though the character does have a Humanity rating. Blood and Health are measured in similar ways to the traditional Storyteller system, though player characters may have a maximum of 15 blood points rather than 10 (the player's Generation is not explicitly stated, but is assumed to be thirteenth).

Disciplines are simplified as well; characters may only access common vampire powers (like healing and physical augmentation) and their three clan Disciplines; out-of-clan Disciplines are not allowed. Most are modified to make all powers useful during play; Thaumaturgy's powers are based on the Path of Blood, for example, though they are all offensive powers rather than analytical.

Much of the interaction is with mortal kine; as a result, many vampiric disciplines have been toned down to prevent the game from being too easy to complete.

Trivia

This section includes spoilers.

  • Valve did not want another game to display the new source engine prior to Half-Life 2, so when Bloodlines went gold on October 4, 2004, Troika worked on a patch that was integrated into the duplication master prior to shipping on November 16th. Therefore, Version 1.1 was the version that first shipped.
  • Multiplayer development was halted for some time during development, with the intention of picking it up later, which is what happened. However, the multiplayer game play never really came together and it was dropped a couple of months before shipping. There is a fan-created multiplayer mod, however.
  • In the house on the beach there is a game paused on the TV that shows one of the large monsters from in the sewers later on in the game along with a vampire who is re-loading an Anaconda.
  • Troika Games' Leonard Boyarsky posted news about the game's development on several "Vampire" fan Web sites under the name "Leonx." Later, Activision's David Mullich posted news under the name "Primogen."
  • In the European version, the Sheriff in the opening execution cut-scene keeps his sword suspended above the head of the player's sire rather than bringing it down to behead him/her. This is because the camera usually doesn't cut away quick enough before the sword beheads the sire, and it was thought that an actual decapitation scene would not pass the German ratings board.
  • The game hints towards the end that Jack's friend who drives the taxi is Caine, the father of all vampires. This is made more credible by the fact the characters speech files are kept in a directory titled "Caine" and that a Malkavian character will recognize the taxi driver as the father of all vampires in the prelude to the final battle, leading to a fair amount of hilarity. Driving a taxi is also consistent with being cursed to wander. Additionally, if the player activates the Auspex discipline, he will discover that the driver's aura is purple, indicating that he is a vampire (or, at the very least, not human). Also, Rosa, the clairvoyant thin-blood, cryptically says "Why is he smiling? Is it- is it the father behind him?", referring to one of the games endings where the taxi driver is standing behind Smiling Jack. It must be noted though that some Vampire: The Masquerade supplements mention a Malkavian claiming to be Caine (and may even believe it) who travels around with Jack.
  • Sebastian LaCroix, the Camarilla Prince of Los Angeles, is named after Lucien LaCroix, the powerful vampire antagonist of the vampire detective television series Forever Knight.
  • The Malkavian character addresses both Therese and Jeanette as daughters of Janus, way before she/he knows that they have a split personality. However, this might be according to the Malkavian '6th sense'. Their lunacy allows them to know more than they can even consciously comprehend. For instance, the Malkavian character has a line "...tell this to whoever is playing me!", hinting toward the fact that he/she is unconsciously aware of his/her game character position.
  • Even though the game wasn't released in Spanish officially, a fan group, Clan Dlan, made its first release of a complete translation, including not only dialogs, but graphics as well. The translation can be found here.
  • There was supposed to be one more character creation mode in the final version of the game: the histories mode. This mode allows player to give his character a specific history rather than just set various attributes by hand. The choice of history has a large impact on the game, as it basically gives players a bonus effect in certain areas and a negative effect in others. For instance, if players choose "Eldritch Prodigy" (Tremere specific history), he gets a 40% bonus Thaumaturgy duration, but loses one XP point every time he gains three as a penalty. Histories are disabled by default in the final version due to instability issues. They can be re-enabled manually, and have also been re-enabled by the unofficial patch.
  • When playing Nosferatu, an attempt to converse with a certain Russian gangster results in him shouting 'Baba Yaga!' and going hostile. Baba Yaga is a real term in Slavic (and Russian) mythology, though it refers only to a female being. Baba Yaga is believed to be ugly, as well as any Nosferatu. In the Classic World of Darkness, Baba Yaga is also the name of a mighty Nosferatu in Russia that was destroyed in the 90's.
  • The only modern-day bloodlines and clans not hinted at in Bloodlines are the Samedi, Baali, True Brujah, Ravnos and Lasombra, not including the Laibon legacies other than the one represented by the Sheriff.
  • You can hear the Sabbat sect leader Andrei on the radio show.
  • It's been speculated by most game boards that the mysterious e-mails from "A friend" are actually sent by Alistair Grout, the supposedly dead Malkavian Primogen. While the player finds a staked skeleton in his mansion, It's shown in game that vampires just turn to dust when they die. It also explains why Ming Xiao/Nines is so distraught when she leaves. The E-mails are also sent by somebody who has to have some form of precognition, something that connecting to the Malkavian Madness Network grants you. Not to mention that the audio logs he leaves are placed convienently where the player may find them, and since they have such damning evidence, he must've known they'd have been destroyed in the fire. Finally, the wording in the E-mails are mostly chess references, which rule out Jack, while his mansion has a checkerboard tiling. And think of it, how difficult would it be to just string up a skeleton, sprinkle some dust over it, and hide out with some other Malkavian that owes him?

Soundtrack

A number of songs were licensed for the game. The song "Bloodlines" performed by Ministry, was created specifically for the game. The soundtrack was released through Best Buy stores for customers who pre-ordered the game. The tracks are as follows;

  • "Swamped"
Written by Marco Coti Zelati, Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro
Performed by Lacuna Coil
Courtesy of Century Media Records
Plays at the end of the game as well as in the Asp Hole
  • "Cain"
Written by Johan Edlund
Performed by Tiamat
Courtesy of Century Media Records
Plays in the Asp Hole
  • "Bloodlines"
Written by Al Jourgensen
Performed by Al Jourgensen / Ministry
Courtesy of Sanctuary Records
Plays in the club "Confession", Downtown L.A.
  • "Needles Eye"
Written by F.G. Reiche
Performed by Die My Darling
Can be heard on the radio at the end of the game
  • "Come Alive"
Written by Daniel Ash
Performed by Daniel Ash
Plays in the Glaze Club in Chinatown
  • "Pound"
Written by J. Blackwell, H. Cummings, S. Smith, C. McCall and M. Wolfe
Performed by AERIAL2012
Plays in Glaze
  • "isolated"
Written by Emileigh Rohn
Performed by Chiasm
Licensed from COP International
Plays in the club The Asylum, Santa Monica
  • "Lecher Bitch"
Written by Jennifer Vincent, David Vincent and Vincent Saletto
Performed by Genitorturers
Plays in the anarch bar The Last Round, Downtown
  • "Smaller God"
Written by C. Elen, J. Thomas, and S. McManus
Performed by Darling Violetta
Sang by a human singer in the "Empire Hotel", Downtown L.A. Can also be heard on the radio in the Thin Bloods' camp on the Santa Monica Beach.

Credits

Sound FX Design

Programmers - Timothy Cain, Brock Heinz, Steve Moret, Jesse Reynolds, Steve Shimizu, Dennis Taylor

Additional Programming - Aaron Brunstetter, Sean Craig, Lee Needham, Huy Nguyen, Nate Trost

Scripters - Jason D. Anderson, Marc Barber, Jocelyn Chew, TJ Perillo, Steve Rhoades

Additional Scripting - Huy Nguyen, David Webb

Animators - Daniel Alpert, Bryan Bode, Leonard Boyarsky, Nate Brown, Justin Cherry, Sean Keegan, Craig Matchett, Long Nguyen, Christine Thomas, Aaron Weldon

Additional Art - Sissie Chang, Peter Delgado, Lucas Feld, Christopher Glenn, Brian Godlewski, Thomas Judd, Jason Kane, Jason Manley, Michael McCarthy, Pete Meihuizen, Corey Pelton

Level Building - Jason D. Anderson, Chris Ashton, David Marsh, Jaime Sue, Bryan Warmack

Additional Level Building - John Attea, Hector Espinoza

Design, Dialog and Story - Brian Mitsoda, Chad Moore, TJ Perillo, Jason D. Anderson, Leonard Boyarsky

Additional Design and Dialog - Stephen Bokkes, Tiffany Chu, David Webb

Audio Scripting - Bret Johnson

Voice


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