It was indeed a tragedy when Interplay Studios was disbanded and the creators of great games like Fallout discontinued the series. Luckily, many of the main designers from the Fallout series went on to start a new game studio: Troika Games. This game was one of the studio's products and it is easy to see the Fallout influence on this one.
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodline is basically a game about vampirism. The entire game takes place in the city of Los Angeles, California and begins with the protagonist becoming a vampire. Prior to starting a new game, you are allowed to create your character. The game features a number of different vampire clans, each with its own unique properties. The Nosferatu clan, for example, resembles the Nosferatu character from the silent film and has very pointy ears and a hideous face. Other clans look more human and have less trouble concealing their vampirism.
After choosing a clan and gender, you are taken to the character stats screen, where you are allowed to pick the skills and abilities that you want your character to have. In spite of choices made here, you can still dramatically change your character's capabilities in the game by leveling up and allocating experience points to different areas. Some of the skills include security (lockpicking), sneaking, firearms, and hacking. Additionally, your character has several spells that they can cast and improve their effectiveness with experience points. Hints of the Fallout series are present here, although this game is much less complex than the character system on that series.
The storyline is essentially that you begin the game working for an organized group of vampires that are upholding the Masquerade, a set of rules that prevent vampires from becoming too high profile in human society. There are a number of clans, including the savage Sabbot clan that doesn't care about the Masquerade and wants to create chaos. In addition, there are a lot of human NPCs that can be interacted with or fed upon. Although one might expect that humans would be enemies in this game, that is simply not the case. Unless you are an evil player, you will make many human allies that will aid you in your missions or even give you missions. At the same time, humans will generally not react positively if you reveal your vampire identity.
Along with the standard hit points meter, the game has a blood meter. Blood is expended when you use your blood traits and can be replenished by feeding on humans or using blood packs. Generally, feeding is done by coming up behind someone and forcefully feeding on them, but in some cases you can seduce people and make them willing victims. Additionally, you can feed off of rats in the sewers for minor blood gains. It is interesting to note that homeless drunks won't increase your blood meter as well as businessmen or other upstanding people. Regardless, the feeding aspect of the game isn't really that important and you will not find yourself feeding very often.
Conversing with other vampires and people is a very important part of the game and this game does it well. When you speak with someone, the camera focuses directly on them and provides numeric conversation options at the bottom of the screen. The animations are very smooth and realistic in these scenes, showcasing the game's great graphics. Additionally, you can intimidate, seduce, or persuade in conversations by using special color-coded conversation options. These options will only appear if your skill in these areas is high enough.
You can generally attack anyone on the street, but it will result in police arriving if you are spotted. You can arm yourself with a variety of conventional guns and melee weapons, or take on your enemies with hand-to-hand combat. As you improve your skills in each area, your damage will increase and attacks will happen more quickly.
One of the best aspects of this game is the atmosphere. It is always dark and has heavy "goth culture" influences. For example, pretty much all of the clothing in the game reflects what is found in stores like Hot Topic and includes a lot of black, red, and leather. This serves to make the game more believable, since it seems to be the culture that a vampire would be most likely to embrace. There are several main maps, including Santa Monica, Downtown, and Hollywood, where plenty of stores, residences, and secret areas can be explored. For example, in the sleazy Hollywood area, there are strip clubs and porn stores, while classier Downtown has hotels and bars. You move from area to area by approaching a taxi cab on the street.
The storyline is linear in the sense that there are certain missions you have to complete to progress and you can only access certain areas after progressing. The main storyline involves performing missions for the Prince and his associates, but there are a lot of side missions that you can opt to complete for more experience points and money. Many of the side missions are entertaining and really give the game personality.
The music in this game reflects its gothic theme and features music from artist such as Massive Attack, Collide, and Lacuna Coil. Music posters from these groups are scattered throughout the game world as well. The music really adds atmosphere to the game and you will hear a variety of music as you enter different areas. For example, the club might have thumping industrial techno music playing, while the bar might have goth metal playing.
One of the things that made the Fallout series great was its dark humor. That same humor has been resurrected in this game with many subtle jokes and references to other games and movies. For example, in the Hollywood area there is a zombie mini-game reminiscent of The Night of the Living Dead. Many of the conversation options are hilarious as well and allow you to play the game in a variety of ways.
Overall, I felt that this game was one of the most entertaining that I have ever played. It is a fantastic example of how a great atmosphere can immerse players in a fictional world. Although there are some minor bugs, the game is very playable with only minor difficulties. I highly recommend this game to anyone that enjoys an in depth gaming experience and is interested in gothic culture.