Like blood dripping on a marble floor, there has been a steady trickle of Vampire: The Masquerade games since 2019.
Last month, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong, a pretty great RPG by way of Life is Strange-style adventure gaming, launched on basically every platform. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodhunt a battle royale game set in the World of Darkness, launched out of early access the month before and has been getting strong reviews. The visual novel VtM – Coteries of New York launched in 2019 and a follow-up VtM – Shadows of New York debuted in 2020. And, since 2020, we've seen four text adventures bearing the series' branding: VtM – Night Road, VtM – Out For Blood, VtM – Parliament of Knives, and VtM – Sins of the Sires.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but that's a lot of games.
The cascade began after the announcement that Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, a long-awaited sequel to the cult 2004 RPG, was in development and due to be released in 2020. That didn't happen. Instead, that year, narrative lead Brian Mitsoda and creative director Ka'ai Cluney were terminated by the game's publisher Paradox. Senior narrative designer Cara Ellsion left the project soon after. The game has been delayed multiple times since then and is currently slated for a vague 2022 release.
I'm hopeful that the game will come out. I'm hopeful that it could even be good. But, at this point, cautious optimism is about as much as I can manage.
In the meantime, we've gotten a lot of games set in the universe. I've been playing Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong and am really enjoying it so far. But, none of those games have been designed to be true successors to Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. Instead they feel like stop gaps to keep the universe alive and to keep fans engaged until Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 eventually comes out. I can't blame these games for not being Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines was barely Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines.
The moody, atmospheric RPG launched in 2004 on the same day as Half-Life 2. Unlike its day-and-date competitor, VtMB wasn't complete, wasn't especially successful at the time, and led to the closure of its studio. Since then, fans have done their best to finish what Troika Games started. If you want to get into Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines today, just about everyone who has played the game will point you in the direction of the Unofficial Patch. This fixes the bugs the game shipped with, and also gives you the option to play the game with cut content restored.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines rules and the patch is essential to enjoying it today. But it is wild that 18 years after the game was released, as we wait for a big official sequel, as multiple new games in the series release each year, there is no way to play a complete version of the mothership title without going to a third-party site and downloading a mod.
This makes Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines the perfect candidate for a remaster. An unfortunate reality of the business around remakes and remasters is that often games that are already great get endlessly ported, remastered, and/or remade because they're more financially viable (see Resident Evil 4) while games that actually need a second pass are overlooked. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines somehow sits at the center of the Venn diagram: already great and financially viable enough to spawn a sequel and endless new games in the same universe, but deeply flawed in its current state.
The difficulty is, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines' greatness is tied up in just how much it feels like a product of the early 2000s. While I love the game, in part, because it's a meaty RPG set in a richly imagined setting, I also viscerally respond to it because it looks and sounds how I remember the world I saw in media looking and sounding when I was ten years old. A new version that overhauled the graphics and sound could lose what makes VtMB special to its cult of fans. Ideally, a remastered version would, instead, clean up the graphics and sound a bit, but primarily focus on integrating the contents of the Unofficial Patch into an official release. And, most importantly, give credit to the fans who have kept the game alive and playable for almost two decades.
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