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April 14, 2013

Vampire: The Masquerade - Redemption Review






Game reviewed: Vampire the Masquerade - Redemption
Publisher: Activision
Designed by: Nihilistic software
Released: 2000
Formats: Pc, Macintosh
Difficulty: 4/10
Est. Playing time: 20 hours


I know this is not a true RPG in the classical sense. At the end of the 1990:s several more action oriented RPGs where released, the most famous being Diablo in 1996. Another great game was Revenant in 1999. Vampire the Masquerade - Redemption is just one of the games using a 3D engine. Action RPGs became very popular from that moment and for many years to come. It wasn´t until Daggerfall or Morrowind for the broader masses showed that true 3D games very well could be combined with solid RPG game mechanics. 

What constitutes the RPG element of these action oriented games is mainly the character building. You get experience points in one way or another and can choose different paths in skill trees, magic schools and attributes. The story could be strong or weak depending on the game but what I personally dislike these games for is the hack´n slash ingredient and the focus on looting and equipment. There is very few, if any, decisions or dilemmas to be made in the story. They are extremely linear. The same goes for Vampire. The strength with the games is that they are easy to get into and give you easily attained entertainment but lack the depth and complexity of traditional RPGs.

Let us see what Vampire could bring in my review scales....

Gameworld & Story
The gameworld spans from the medieval ages of Prague and Vienna to the modern cities London and New York. That is a variety not found in many games and give this game some credit, even though I personally prefer to play them in fantasy settings. The story is strong in Vampire. I like the sorrowful tale of Christof in his search for his love Anezka. The dialogues and texts you find that bring the story forward is very well written even though it is linear. You have no possibility to alter anything of importance. The gameworld in itself is pretty empty except of the fact that the settings relies on the tabletop roleplaying game Vampire the Masquerade.

You never find information about the world or settings unless it is important for the story. The maps are confined with only one way forward almost all the time and must be traversed in a sequential matter.

Rating: 2.5

Economy
In the beginning gold is scarce and you have a lot of good equipment to drool over. But in the middle of the game the equipment remains basically the same even tough you have progressed to Vienna from Prague. You get more money and you find chests that gives you a lof of equipment. Somewhere in Vienna the excitement of looting chests dissappears. They always contain the same type of items. The rare and unique items in the game are very few and even if you get enough money there are no good weapons or armours to buy. When you get to the modern world the equipment is replaced with modern equivalents but those do the same amount of damage as old swords. This destroyed all the fun with looting and economy for me and is a major drawback.

I had too much money in the end that could only be spent on buying plasma bags or other blood potions. I think they failed in this respect because one of the strengths of a action RPG is the looting and here that ceases to be a positive factor midgame.

Rating: 2

NPC & Interactions
You meet a few NPCs along the game and they are narrated very well and with good voice acting. I give one plus rating for that. It is one of the games strong points. 

You have howerver very few occasions where it matters what you say and in most cases every dialogue is scripted anyway. There is no interactions to speak of worth its name.

You could not speak to people seen in the streets. They are only there to act as moving blood supplies. That makes the environment outside the complex very empty. They are only there for you to look for the stores.

Rating: 1.5

Monster, tactics & combat system
There are perhaps a few dozen different adversaries in this game. Some of them are present through the end like ghoul rats and some are unique for the complex you are currently in. Since this is a hack´s slash game I don´t bother much with tactics other than with the bosses but there are a few denizens that requires special tactics to defeat if they are numerous. Some also could disease or posion you but that rarely happens.

The monsters never use any tactics except that they could cast spells from their discipline groups. They always attacks in masse, never retreats or gives up and each combat in itself is isolated from the rest of the game. That is, you take on each group of enemies one at a time sequentially while even seeing the next group of monsters standing stationary or slowly moving in the neighbouring room without interferring. That is pretty lame in my eyes.

The combat system is very simple but acceptable. You hold your mouse button on the enemy and continuously hack until killed. An irritating thing is that this is interrupted when you get hurt so you have to re-click your enemy. Also, trying to control your other members during combat is a waste of time. You have to rely on the computer A.I which is not very good. Your strength affects melee damage and your dexterity the chance to hit. 

The A.I spend all blood pool available and never housekeeps any resources. That forces me to carry most of the blood reserves on my character so we could use them when we need them and not for simple fights. The pathfinding is also problematic and several times your other characters gets in the way both in and out of combat. But worse is that they could remain passive in combat if you are unlucky and just stand there despite your offensive stance settings for them.

This game could have been improved if there was more micromanagement for the A.I like "allowed to use its disciplines", "Scrolls", "switch weapons" etc. As it stands combat is pretty boring but the discipline groups and skills they give you are fun and I can think of a lot of different character builds.

Rating: 2

Magic System
The magic in this game is the dozen different schools of disciplines. They each contain several different "spells" which you be learned from one to five steps. They give great variety to the game and is one of its strongest points.

Rating: 3

Character generation & development
I like the system used in this game for character advancement. There are no levels as is traditional in RPGs. You accumulate experience points for enemies slained and as long as you could return to your haven you could use them regardless of how many XP you have aquired. That means you could either save them to buy some skill that is more expensive or buy inexpensive skills in areas you don´t know much about. The same goes for you attributes. The less proficient you are in some attribute the cheaper it is to buy. This system gives more flexibility because you could save your XP (As I normally do) and use them up on a particular skill or discipline when you feel you need it strongly and with good proficiency.

The number of disciplines and their skills also make for many different character building strategies although I am aware that many skills have similar effects (just like magical spells often has). Nevertheless, the system works great and is one of Vampires´ strongest parts.

Rating: 4

Map design
The maps in the game are very irregular, spanning corridors attached to rooms and in a repeating matter. Some stairs here and there and always in four levels. You only have an automap when outdoor because the indoors maps are sequential so it is hard to get lost and almost all levers are clearly seen. I am not overly impressed by the maps, my favourite was probably the church and clocktower in Vienna where daylight could damage you.

Rating: 2

Manual
The manual is very well written and describes all disciplines, vampire clans and other game mechanics very well. It was a joy to read.

Rating: 4

Graphics, sound and interface
Graphic wise I find Vampire quite uneven. Certain indoor settings like in the modern world are very detailed with indoor furniture and stuff. In the medieval designs it is much more empty. The characters are not very detailed. I am not sure of what to expect from a game from the year of 2000 but it does certainly not impress me in any way. The architectural design of some levels, like the church of flesh, factory or clock tower is more impressive. The 3d-engine in itself and its lightning effects I have nothing to say about but the detail level aren´t that good. It might be ok for the time period tough. But I remember personally that I preferred 2D-isometric perspective many years after 3D had become standard since more details could be shown. Examples of such games is Revenant and Baldurs Gate 1 and 2.

The music in the game leaves no footprints at all except for Anezkas theme (Listen). And I am a gamer that really appreciates ingame music. The sound effects is ok but the voice acting is above average.

The interface of the game is clean and easy to understand. The only problems I have had is with the path finding and mouse control. You get used to the camera view very quickly and especially when you realise there is no tactics involved in 95% of the fights anyway so you don´t need to see everything that happens during combat for your other party members.

Rating: 3

Gameplay
So it is worth buying ? Well, if you like the Vampire settings and the gothic theme and this world. Yes definetely now when it is not very expensive. Personally I lost interest after leaving the medieval settings only to find that I have to repeat everything again (getting new cash and inventory) in the modern settings. Too little variety and too repetitive.

In the beginning I was strongly hooked since everything was new but I lack secrets areas, puzzles, optional sub quests, more NPC:s, more varying combats, more equipment, better looting etc. A major breakdown of the game is the lack of good equipment to buy. Looting is totally broken in the modern world. You will never get anything worthwhile. Since London, I only played the game for the sake of completing it without much enjoyment.

Another problem I have with the game is the lack of control of your other party members. As I´ve said before I would like some sort of detailed settings to control how much - if any - blood they should use or which disciplines they should prioritize. If I don´t control them directly you could never be sure of what will be cast during combat.

Rating: 2.5



Section
Rating
Gameworld & Story
2.5
Economy
2
NPC & Interactions
1.5
Monsters, tactics & combat system
2
Magic system
3
Character generation & development
4
Map design
2
Manual
4
Graphics, Sound and Interface
3
Summary CRPG value
24


Gameplay
2.5




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