Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines comes during a surprisingly dry year for PC role-playing games, which only amplifies the attention on the game. There’s also a lot of focus on Bloodlines due to the fact that it’s based on White Wolf’s popular pen-and-paper role-playing game, and partly since it uses Valve’s Source engine, the same engine behind Half-Life 2. And, for the most part, Bloodlines is an atmospheric role-playing game with a rich setting–though it’s one beset with a clumsy combat system and some noticeable bugs. That’s unfortunate, since the game clearly could have been better had its rough edges been ironed out.
You start Bloodlines by creating a vampire, which you’ll do by conforming to the seven major vampire types found in the pen-and-paper game. The idea is that you can create a vampire suited to your style of play. The options range from sophisticated vampires that can talk their way past most situations, to burly vampires who like to intimidate people and pick fights, to demonic vampires who prefer to skulk in the shadows. And while you can select a gender for your vampire (which affects the kinds of characters you can seduce), you won’t actually be able to customize your vampire’s appearance, aside from the kind of clothes he or she wears.
Bloodlines takes place in modern-day Los Angeles, in four major sections of the city. You’ll start the game in Santa Monica, carrying out all sorts of low-level missions for your vampire lord. But before too long, you’ll be drawn into the game’s overarching story, which deals with the vampiric end times. The story itself is filled with all sorts of intrigue, and you’ll be caught between the major vampire factions as they battle for supremacy. Part of the fun is figuring out which of the factions you want to ultimately align yourself with. The game also has a cool twist of four different endings, so you can decide how the story will eventually conclude. This makes for added incentive to go back and replay the game to check out different story paths. In turn, this gives the game quite a bit of replay value, as it will probably you take at least 20 to 30 hours to get through Bloodlines the first time.