Rated: 4 / 5
This is not a simple game to get into. What I mean by that is, there’s no way to play this game without modding it. It would be too buggy otherwise. So your experiences may differ depending on which version you get a hold of (and how you mod it). You could have a disc version of it, or the Steam version, or the GOG version, or be an asshole and get a pirated version. Me, I went for the GOG version.
I’m worn out after playing this game. It’s not that this was a pain is the ass to get through per-se (though it was at certain points, which I’ll get into). It’s just that this game is so goddamn addicting, especially when I want to try the mods and see how each one makes the game better. And I’m too worn out and exhausted to try all of them. So I’ll just mention what my experience was, and what the go-to mods should be for first timers. And like I said, you do not want to play this game unmodded. You can try, but you will fail.
So, the version that comes packaged on GOG has what is known as the Unofficial Patch (UP), version 9.7. The UP is set to the “Basic” version by default, as opposed to the “Plus” version. The Basic version is primarily just bug fixes with some minor additions here and there, while the Plus version adds in some more stuff. I did the basic version on my first playthrough, because I wanted to see what the standard version of the game is like (or as close to the standard version as you can get with the UP). It’s a decent way to play, but not the version I would recommend anyone, even first timers, starting with. I’ll state why in a bit.
In this game, you become a vampire after (almost?) having sex with someone who is also a vampire. I don’t recall how they say one becomes a vampire in this game. Obviously you need to be bitten, but that’s not all there is to it, because you’ll be biting a bunch of people throughout the game, sucking the blood out of them, and not leaving a trail of vampires in your wake as a result. Best info I got out of this game is that you can make Ghouls if you let a human drink some of your own vampire blood. I guess this means you need to get literally fucked by one before you become one or something? Eh, I just know I’m going to catch flack for this if I don’t look it up and state the facts about it. Don’t won’t those World of Darkness vamp geeks coming after me, unless they’re smokin’ hot vamp girls dressed like Harley Quinn, in which case bring it.
When a vampire wants to create a childe, the first step is to find a suitable, mortal human and drain this candidate dry, any means that results in a bloodless corpse will do, but feeding is most commonly used. Once the candidate is drained of blood, the sire gives the candidate a small amount of his or her own blood, which instantly transforms the candidate into a new childe.
So that’s what happens to you at the beginning. You get completely drained, then get a vamp blood transfusion, then wa-la. From there, you go through a tutorial learning the game controls, and learn how to be a vampire, and all that stuff. And even though the tutorial is technically optional, you should just go through the whole damn thing each game anyway because you get 2 XP from doing so. And in this game, every point of XP counts. You’ll need it (well, maybe not “need,” but it will help).
Oh, whoops. Got ahead of myself. Before any of that happens, you choose which vampire you would like to be. There are 7 different types to choose from, and each type has a bit of a different playstyle due to their pros and cons. Having played as two different types, I can safely say this helps with the replay value considerably. Vampire type aside, you’ll also have a stat menu where you level your abilities up to a certain extent, picking and choosing which abilities you want to start off higher up in (the vampire type you choose allows more points spent on some sections than others). Standard RPG stuff that doesn’t get all that complex. Once you’ve played through the game once, you’ll have a pretty good idea about which abilities you should be raising based on the vampire you choose which narrows down the optimal play styles.
And this isn’t some game that’s going to be like Plane-Scape: Torment (or Tides of Numenara). And what I mean by that is you definitely need to have a focus on combat. You can fight unarmed (with your fists), melee (with swords and stuff), or ranged (with guns). Trust me when I say, by the time the game is halfway over, you’ll be regretting it if you didn’t level up any of those combat values. Thankfully, with how well-designed the quests are (both main and side, and the side quests are pretty much mandatory considering the value of XP in this game, so I’m not going to make a distinction between the two), the game gives enough nudging and subliminal suggestions to indicate you should make your character combat ready, and not just rely on making a character who can talk their way out of situations (assuming you didn’t just build a character who would rather kill first and ask questions later). Confrontation is inevitable with vampires, considering the warring factions. And after my, uh, second playthrough, I was ok with that.
With combat necessity in mind, here’s why I don’t recommend that standard version of the game (remember, by “standard,” I mean the GOG version with UP 9.7 basic). My character build on my first playthrough was a Toreador, the closest thing to a human as vampires can get. They prefer talking and seduction by their nature, and I prefer playing RPGs where I can make characters who can talk their way out of situations (or at least RPGs where that’s an option). But learning that I needed to be prepped for battle, and with how irritated I was with the melee combat system (it’s a very basic system with very little depth or tactics to it, and it’s not smooth, more on the clumsy side), I opted to make him good in Ranged combat (he was a level 9 on Ranged near the end of the game, with 10 being the max). But he was running out of bullets fast during the later parts of the game. There’s this sewer level that became a nightmare for me because I just didn’t have enough bullets to get the job done. So I forced myself to sneak around enemies when I could. And to be honest, there’s no fucking way you can get through the sewer levels without sneaking. I don’t think it’s possible. So you’ll be forced to sneak during at least some portions, unless you decide to continuously go back out, buy ammunition, then come back in (but that’s fucking tedious, and costs a good amount of money). The second time I realized being solid in ranged combat isn’t all it’s cracked up to be came during the near-finale (there’s a few ways you can do the finale depending on your actions, as there’s a few different alternate endings). At this Chinese place, these fucking chinks were taking too many bullets to get put down easily, and my vampire wasn’t the best bullet sponge. Forced to sneak again. By the time I got to Ms. Bitch Chink (aka the boss of that section), it was an unwinnable situation. I didn’t have enough bullets and fire to finish her off, which means I would’ve had to resort to melee to finish her off. Which I would’ve been ok with, if I could’ve survived long enough to empty every last bullet into her. She kills me before I can empty half of my ammunition into her. I gave up on the game at that point, ready to restart with another character, with the knowledge on how I should prep my character ahead of time.
Now while I could’ve leveled up the character differently, it felt cheap with the game forcing you to adhere to certain limitations in order to win. I can understand punishing you for not being intelligent with how you level up your character, and not being overly strong in something that really matters. For instance, I wanted to be top class in seduction, and fuck every hot chick in sight. But there’s a few problems with that:
- You don’t get to fuck anyone in this game. Well, at least not on-screen.
- Whenever you seduce someone, that basically equates to you luring a human into the alleyway (or on a dance floor) so you can suck their blood consensually. Can I at least do that while they’re topless or something? This is bullshit!
- Seduction isn’t the best ability to be levelling up, at least in terms of maxing it out. That’s bullshit too, because I believe any decent RPG by it’s open-ended semi-sandbox nature should allow a player with the right class/clan to max out any one stat and be able to win based on that stat which determines their playstyle. I want to suck and fuck my way to victory goddamn it! Blowing people with guns may be a decent enough substitute because guns are phallic and sexual by nature, but not when you’re capable of shoving dicks up pussies and asses too!
And I know what you’re thinking. “You fucking dumbass pervert. This ain’t fucking Twilight (both that and Buffy really caused irreparable harm to vampires in films, games, literature, and nerd culture)! Vampire’s are undead! They can’t get erections, they can’t ejaculate (or ovulate), therefore they can’t fuck!” To which I say, “Oh yes they can fucking fuck!” Assuming you utilize the Plus version of UP (I’m assuming, because this didn’t happen in my first playthrough with the Basic version), you can have off-screen sex with Jeannette! That’s in-game proof right there! On top of that, there’s a lore to vampire fucking in the T-RPG!
VTM:B’s lore on vamp sex is actually off. Vamps can get it on and still get pleasure from it, Toreador especially are known for using sex as a method of feeding. They can basically use their blood to give themselves something the old pen and paper RP game called “The Blush of Life” which is used to help blend in with humans. Their skin becomes warm, they don’t look so dead/pale, and things like physical stimulation make their bodies respond(such as for sex).
It doesn’t last too long(usual canon for the PnP game was about 1 hour of game-time) or one ‘scene”(aka if you spend 15 mins in one place then hop locations, it’s assumed the BoL has worn off in transit). If you look you will actually have lost some blood after sex with Jeanette, so I’ve always assumed it was the game’s little homage to the Blush of Life mechanic.
As for “how does vampire sex work”, well, technically same as humans. However vampires have to prepare themselves a bit more since their bodies are essentially corpses. They can however use blood to reanimate essential parts of their body (as mentioned before, called ‘blush of life’) and perform the functions humans take for granted. This may take some getting used to for a new fledgling vampire. Also taking pleasure from sex is not a default. Drinking blood takes over as the new pleasure for every vampire. Some vampires may still enjoy sex, others don’t care anymore. Toreadors are the most human-like of the VTMB clans and so this is more common for them than others.
So yes, vampire sex is a thing, and they can enjoy it. But there are rules that go along with this since they’re not human. They need to be full up on blood prior to the act, and resist the urge to lose themselves and start drinking blood from the individual they are fucking, because nothing is more pleasurable and satisfying to a vampire than blood. Once they start sucking blood, sucking cocks or pussy isn’t going to matter to them at that point. So anyone who thinks vamp sex isn’t a thing and also thinks that anyone requesting that be a thing in this game (via a mod or something) is being unreasonable at best can take their opinion and a stake and shove it up their ass!
So naturally, the next mod I wanted to try out was the Tessera VTMB Mega-Mod, which requires something called the True Gold Patch (hotfix #8 being the most recent, and likely last, version), which basically does what the UP does, without any additions to the game whatsoever (a pure bug-fix patch, nothing that adds in missions or objects or stuff that was hidden in the code and left on the cutting room floor). The Mega Mod by Tessera basically makes some girls in the game topless, or have skimpier outfits, and adds some nude posters into the game. Now, as much of a perv as I can be, this mod really isn’t as great as I was hoping. For one thing, it’s awkward and immersion-breaking just having topless chicks walking along the street. The deal-breaker was seeing a poster of a nude chick displayed for everyone to see inside the lobby of a hospital. I’d like my nudity and sex to stay immersive and realistic (for the world of this game), thank you very much. But the main thing that ended up killing this mod for me was that it didn’t do what it proclaimed to do. Hotfix #8 is said to fix every bug left in the game. Well, it doesn’t. I couldn’t open certain doors to get to certain areas, which made this unplayable after a certain point. So forget Tessera and his mods (the guy is an asshole anyway from what I’ve seen). Stick with the UP and the mods that utilize that. They’re better anyway.
So, after that false start, I did my second playthrough. Still as a Toreador. Only this time, I utilized the Camarilla Edition mod. This mod overhauls the special abilities your vampire gets, from stuff in the stat menu, to your special powers. And it overhauls them for the better. It felt more balanced and fair (still no winning by seduction though; this isn’t a game where that’s going to be possible, you’ll have to kill a good number of things, and not by fucking them to death). It also utilizes the Plus version of the UP (albeit a version scaled back from the 9.7 UP), which adds in some decent quests and stuff. Stuff which felt like it should’ve been in there from the get-go (designers didn’t have time to finish them, so the fans are doing it for them). And on top of that, guns were stronger. They could deal more damage. And it felt right. Enemies did more damage with their guns, but you could do more to them right back. This finally made that chink bitch kill-able.
The other significant addition the Camarilla mod brings is blood drain. Now, in this game, you have a health bar, and a blood bar. If health is reduced to 0, you die. If blood is reduced to near 0, you don’t die, but you can no longer activate your special powers (they use blood to work), and you will likely Frenzy and start indiscriminately kill people by sucking all the blood out of them. This is bad because killing innocent people is a Masquerade violation (not the only thing that causes a violation, but it’s the biggest culprit). Get too many violations, you lose the game (thematically, a bunch of top-class vampires will intervene and rip you to shreds to stop you from doing a massacre, which would reveal the existence of vampires, and they want to remain secret). But you also become temporarily stronger while you frenzy, so it could potentially help in certain combat situations (you can try to strategically do this with certain vampire classes). In the regular game, you didn’t have to worry about blood loss so long as you didn’t use your special abilities (I didn’t have to use them all that often). But with the Camarilla mod, your blood will drain after so many minutes. Meaning you will need a blood supply to keep going. Meaning you will need to feed on people (or rats, or blood packs) after so much time. In other words, you will feel more like a vampire.
All those things, the revamped abilities, the extra weapon damage, and the blood drain, they make the game much much better. The extra quests were just a nice cherry on top. I wouldn’t play without the Camarilla mod.
That being said, this is not the mod I recommend for first time players. It does add a couple other things I didn’t find all that necessary (and made the game a bit too easy as a result), such as online classes (I’m already sick of doing those thanks to the fucking Corona virus fucking up my college classes; fuck that chink bitch) which you can pay to raise certain stats. Oh no, there’s one mod that is the perfect way to truly start this game with. And I wish I had started with this one prior to the other two before getting completely burned out (I could only muster half a game with this one, even when playing as a non-Toreador class).
This would be the Clan Quest mod (version 4.1, which utilizes UP+ version 9.2, which is still scaled back from 9.7 the GOG version comes with). The main reason for using this is, for starters, it utilizes the Camarilla mod, albeit in a “Lite” version. The main thing to know is that it includes the ability overhaul, the increased bullet damage, and the blood drain (though you could disable that; but don’t), and it ignores the online classes and other little bits that made the game easier. It retains the best of what the Camarilla Mod had to offer. Other than that, it also adds in content from another mod (optionally, but I wouldn’t play without this either now): the X20 mod. It doesn’t do all that much, just adds in some posters and lore bits and stuff to make it more thematically relevant to the World of Darkness world (the T-RPG books). It’s good stuff. But the most significant addition it brings in addition to working with both those mods, and the Plus version of the UP, is extra quests, and an additional alternate ending. From the playthrough I’ve done so far, it’s how I wished I had played it from the get-go.
That’s not the only mod I’m interested in doing an entire playthrough with (if not all that rest of my playthroughs). There are two others:
The Final Night (v. 1.5) mod, which does an overhaul more extensive than the Camarilla mod (to the point where it allegedly seems like a different game).
Unofficial Patch 10.6, particularly the Plus version. Good for keeping the additions more on the basic side. Though that being said, there is an X20 mod that can be installed with this patch, so you don’t need the Clan Quest mod for it.
There’s also this popular mod that tweaks various stats all around the game to make it more difficult, Bloodlines Extreme, but I don’t see myself ever personally using it. But it’s worth noting. There are a few other mods out there that are worth checking out, but that’s for you to discover, should you find this game worthwhile.
Bottom line though, even for your first time playthrough, Clan Quest Mod (v.4.1) is the way to go, with the Camarilla add-on included (it comes with it, you just need to choose to install that with it when asked to during the installation process). If you haven’t played this game before, start with that. Trust me, just the bullet damage increase (with the Camarilla add-on) alone is enough to make this a mandatory mod.
Alright, enough about the mods for now. Just assume the game runs the way I want with what I got installed for the rest of this review. It’s a game that is primarily played in 4 major areas, with some subset areas here and there for special missions. It’s sort of like a scaled-down Skyrim, or if Plane-Scape Torment was a first or third person RPG. It’s more linear than those. In fact, I would say the game is a linear experience, with the player able to determine the order in which he wants to do certain quests. But most of the missions are constructed so well, and require different methods for completing them (forcing the player to be adaptable and learning what different ways there are to completing certain quests). The linearity (it’s not THAT linear, but playing it through a second time with the same class is going to make it seem that way) really isn’t such a bad thing. The quests are tightly constructed (when they’re not a bit buggy; I recommend saving just prior to leaving/entering another area), and surprisingly not all that monotonous. Each quest really does feel different from the other, as opposed to how Skyrim can get very monotonous. The pacing and variety is top-notch.
On top of that, the type of vampire you choose to play as really does change how you play the game. I recommend Toreador’s for first timers. After that, if you really want to see how different the playstyle can be when you choose a different class, pick a Nosferatu and see how that goes. For all the bugs this game has (which there is much less of with the right mod/patch applied), the variety in how you play through the quests in the game, and even in how you wander the cities (which don’t have as many people wandering them as you would expect for a game taking place in the L.A. area; but considering the PC restrictions of the time, this is forgivable), really shows the attention to detail the designers had when creating this game. I haven’t seen any other like that brings about the diversity in the playstyles quite like this one. Even with how you go about getting blood is different depending on not just how you level up your character, but on the class you play. Toreadors can seduce people into consensual blood drains, Nosferatu love feeding on rats and avoiding people (people are repulsed by their sight), and the Ventrue who seem to prefer blood packs (or at least that’s how I would play them) because of their distaste for low-class blood from bums and prostitutes. And that’s just for acquiring blood. You can also choose whether you want to be stealthy, or go in guns blazing.
Downside though, the game kinda forces you into being stealthy at certain points, and all-guns blazing in others. While you could opt to go all melee for your attacks, there’s one boss in the game where guns are practically mandatory. So even if you want to specialize in one form of combat, or try to avoid combat altogether, the game is going to force you into having both stealth and ranged combat readiness at a couple points. Thankfully, at least with the ranged combat, this is saved for the finale portion of the game. It’s something you should know when you’re playing. You’re going to be involved in stealth and slicing/blasting at some point. Knowing this and spending some points accordingly, and you’ll be fine. In fact, I recommend not spending XP to level up you abilities until you realize you need them (and even then, be sure there isn’t an alternative approach to a situation you would rather do with the way you would have your character play). Once you accept these forced situations, that pretty much removes the main downside.
The other downside is some of the story elements and the ending. And by the ending, I mean there’s really only one true ending to the game. If you pick any other path, your character is in for a sad/tragic/pathetic fate. Really hate it when games with multiple endings pull that shit. Especially when it was doing so well with how you can go through various quests. Then again, quests usually begin and end the same way, with multiple ways to go about completing them, so I guess it’s not so different in that regard. And the stuff leading up to the ending leaves some things unresolved, at least when you think about it. Don’t get me wrong, the game doesn’t leave on a cliffhanger, but there are some aspects of it that are either not wrapped up well, or not wrapped up at all. And I can’t really state what they are without going heavily into spoilers, but you’ll have some questions about how certain things happened, and why all this buildup led to this sort of payoff (and I’m talking with the “real” ending in mind).
Also this game really has a thing for bashing on capitalism and corporate overlords, and has leniency towards socialism and anarchy. I mean, yeah, you could play a character who hates on both, or who technically decides to side with capitalists/republicans and says screw the anarchists who are lame, theoretically giving you the freedom to have whatever stance you want during your playthrough. And it does show cons to both. But, really, considering the ending (all of them) and how much of the dialogue in the game goes, you can see the developers sympathized more with the anarchists than anyone else. This sort of bias makes you character come off as someone whose actions don’t really make a difference in the outcome, whose opinion doesn’t really matter with shaping the world around him. Not exactly something I consider to be a good trait when it comes to RPG games that are all about open-ended decisions and gameplay styles. And I fear that Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2 is going to be even worse on this flaw.
But despite those flaws, the pros outweigh the cons. This game is a fun experience, and there’s a reason many proclaim this to be one of the greatest RPGs of all time. It lives up to its reputation and defies all the odds put up against it (rushed production leaving it bug-ridden, issues with the ending, bias with how certain clans are favored, the simplistic and clunky combat system). The modding community saved this game. The fans saved this game. The people who saw the potential it had and smoothed out the rough edges saved this game, and made it something still very much worth playing today.
Recommended, with the Clan Quest mod.
PS: Oh right, and there is a quest in this game about you stopping a plague from spreading by killing the vampire who is causing it. So there’s some Wuhan relevance for ya.