Currently playing: Icewind Dale 2, Demonicum

April 1, 2013

Vampire: The Masquerade - More about the game mechanism

Since the game is very linear with few - if any - options so far to affect what will happen, this post will focus more on the game mechanics, while a summary of what has happened will follow afterwards.

Each city or area has one shop for weapons and armours and one for magical items, potions and scrolls. Between the missions it is crucial to visit them to upgrade your equipment and sell your loot. You have limited space in your inventory and mine is almost always full so I can only take with me items that are worth a lot to sell.

In the beginning I thought the stock had quite a lot of different items but now in the middle of the game I don´t see much variations and it is hard to find or buy any good magical items. In the first 10 hours of the game, looting chests was fun and certain chests really hold rare items like better armours or weapons but now it seems there is a limit of what you could find and I feel I have reached the limit of what I can get. That makes looting quite unattractive for the time being.


In some missions you could backtrack the same way you came and return to the shop to replenish things but at certain missions that is not possible and if you are not well stocked up your could have a hard time to survive. To get enough blood is a constant aim for every groupmember because you need blood to heal yourself as well. Your blood pool is like a mana pool and all your disciplines draws from that. In boss fights, careful use of your disciplines could be mandatory to win them.

I remember that I in my first post said I thought the game was too easy at the start. Now it is more balanced and I have had several tough combats where I´ve had to come up with a perfect mix to use my abilities in order to win.

Disciplines

There are around a  dozen schools of Discipline groups, each with its own range of related skills. Each skill could be upgraded from one point to five, where each additional point costing much more than the previous one. But the power of the skill will be greater. 


In my group we have prioritised healing. So using my pool of blood we heal hitpoints and since I´ve put many points in it it we can heal more for every cost of blood. Another example is the skill Potence which adds additional damage in combat. The effect is really noticeable between two and four points invested in it. For other skills like summoning a wraith to help you, it is more difficult to say what has improved. The length of the summoning ? The power of the wraith ? Both ? Sometimes I try out investments in skills attack a nearby guard and reload to change my allocations so that I feel satisfied with my decisions. Once you´ve invested your experience points, there is no turning back.

If you are lucky you could find powerful books that teaches you a totally new discpline group. They are very rare though and you have to carefully decide which memeber should learn it. The only thing you could be sure of is that you yourself will be around all the time.

The manual for the game is very good, explaining not only game mechanics but also a long history about the different vampire clans and the gameworld. This is just another example of lengthy manual that are never included in games nowadays. 



Combat


Talking a little more about the combat system I can say that it really are a hack´n slash game. As long as you hold the left mouse button down on your selected enemy, your selected companion will attack continuously until either one is killed. If you hold down the CTRL key at the same time, the whole group will target that creature as well.

So what is affecting the outcome then ? Well, first you have the terrain. I have often lost fights or gained heavy losses by not having enough ground for all my members to move on. For example if being stuck in a stair, doorway or corridor. You could also drag out the enemies one at a time and kill them off instead of having the whole swarm of them attack at once. That is probably the most important thing to master if you are to survive later on.

What I don´t like with this system compared to true realtime 3d dungeon crawlers like Dungeon Master is that enemies will never walk around other than in very limited pre-planned routes. They don´t react to anyting happening outside of their limited activation zone. That becomes somewhat boring, predictable and repetetive after awhile. But most action-rpgs are like that.

You could set the groups offensive stance from defensive, neutral to offensive. If set to offensive each member will actively seek out the enemies and split the group. I only see a use when I know we will win the fight. Otherwhise it could be very dangerous. I never use defensive because they just stand there while their comrades are being attacked. Neutral is the best one since your team holds together but tries to thwart any attack. Still a problem is that sometimes your group members just stand there doing nothing while one of your nearby teammembers got beaten up. That is a flaw. Also the path finding is not very good. Many times your own members block you from getting through.

What affects combat is your dexterity which indicates if you will be able to hit and strike a critical hit. Your strength affect damage together with the weapon of choice. Of course your armours and stamina helps you soak enemy damage. Your use of scrolls and discipline skills are often important to determine the outcome of the harder combats.

Something I don´t really like is that the members your don´t actively control use up potions and blood mana as they see fit. They could use up valuable assets for pretty simple fights. I would have like to be able to individually tweak their behaviour.


The story continues...

In my last post we where tasked by the prince to free some slaves in order for him to reveal what he knows about Anezka. We entered a complex and managed to free some slaves in the end.


One of the prisoners was Erik, a vampire that when set free, volunteered to join us. He was very welcome and brought great combat strength. I had to try to give him what I could offer in the form of equipment. The rest would be bought when coming back to town.


In the end I found the one responsible for taking all prisoners. His name was Ardan and he had a very entertaining speech. Actually, most dialogues are excellent in this game. Especially for the bad ones. I often chuckle to their ingenious ways of expressing themselves. Before being killed off by me that is....

What I learned was that Anezka had joined the october caravan of slaves heading to Vienna since she had learned of a way for a vampire to be redeemed. She found out that master Etrius knew more about that and he lives in Vienna.

Anyway, I later convinced Ecaterina I had to follow Anezka to Vienna and she had no ways of stopping me so she let me go together with my trusty companions.



In Vienna we learned from some women in an inn that count Orsis would have a reception and we got invitation for his mansion so we went there.


We there met Orsi but he refused to reveal anything about the slave transport unless we did a job for him: To get rid of his enemy Luther Black, a priest turned into a vampire that dwelled in the church. Orsi is one of the best characters I´ve met so far in this game. His voice acting and dialogue is excellent.



In order to reach Luther Black we had to climb into the rooftops to reach a secret entrance into the church.


This was the hardest complex so far. Each complex usually consists of four levels and in this one we had tough opponents, no returning back and with daylight entering the church courtyard that burned us if crossing which made both fights and movement much harder. Besides, there was an obstacle only crossable by using a skill that gives you extremely fast movement. Fortunately a scroll was placed nearby in case you didn´t have that skill.

Eventually we found Luther Black that wished us to kill him to redeem his sins if I took them on me instead. Something which I accepted because he didn´t seem that evil after all. We killed him by opening up the rooftop and let the daylight strike him while he was laying on the floor below to accept his fate.

When we tried to retrace our track back to exit we where surprised to see Orsi himself stepping forward to reveal that he never intended to hold his word to us and therefore imprisoned us in a dungeon.


My female companion used one of her necromantic skills to raise a headless body to pull the lever and free us from our imprisonment. But we had to fight our way out through four levels with Teutonic knights that swarmed the place.


Eventually we escaped and was back in town. At this stage I learned of a skill called "Walk the abyss" which immediately connects me to my haven. While there I can upgrade my attributes and disciplines. It does not work at every place but often enough to be extremely useful.

In some way or another we stumbled into the Haus the Hexe, a large complex that gave us the Etrius Journal, that Orvus the magic shop owner wanted. If we gave him this we could enter the fortress.

So this led us to enter the Haus the Hexe (nice name by the way) and here I entertained myself with their reactions towards me.


Eventually I came to the last part of this complex and my opponent bewitched Erik and turned him against us, forcing me to kill him unfortunately. That was a tragic event but unavoidable. I had to reload to get hold of his good equipment before he departed. The battle with the boss was quite hard as well but after a few tries we vanquished.



We never found Anezka, she was always ahead of us but obviously alive through all here adventurous contacts. We returned back to Prague only to find out that the castle was besiged, the prince dead and now I heard Anezka could be hold hostage there so we immediately headed there.


Yet again, four levels had to be breached until I reached some abomination that tried to stop us. I was quite surprised how easy he was killed and suspected more waited for us ahead.

There in a throne room we saw Anezka and another dark figure. Anezka was not herself. She was hateful and scorned me. She had obviously been brainwashed or trapped to the other side and I tried to force her with me but then the castle trembled and a pillar of stone fell towards us. 


While our scream vanished everything went black and I awoke in 1999 in London, raising up from a crate. Now I was trapped by vampire hunters that tried to kill me using modern weapons. Fortunately a few of my own weapons was saved but I had to pick up pistols, revolvers and even machine guns that my adversaries dropped behind them. I had to flee this complex. It seemed the leader had excavated a region in Prague and gathered all these old items in search of something. Perhaps there where traces of Anezka here. I don´t know. I just know I have to flee this place....





 At this stage, the game begins to feel very repetitive. I am just barely enjoying myself. Every complex, however modern or medieval is just the same thing repeated over and over again. Enter rooms one after another and slay all therein. Pick up items along the way but as said before there are few really good items out there so looting is not interesting anymore.

I´ve had many good hours playing Vampire Redemption but I am not sure it is worth playing it to the end. I have all I need for a review anyway. Still, my stubborness tells me to not quit and left something unsolved so we´ll see what the next post turns out into.


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