Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2: a legendary video game returns

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is almost unique in video game history. It suffered a deeply troubled development involving turbulent clashes between developer Troika and publisher Activision, and was eventually released incomplete and deeply broken. And yet, the 2004 financial disaster of a game is adored and celebrated for its innovative dialogue, astounding characters and banquet of choice. Kept alive ever since by a dedicated group of fans who have patched it up and improved it multiple times, it’s a game now remembered for its huge ambition rather than its colossal failure.

Fifteen years later, a sequel has just been announced. Created by Hardsuit Labs (Blacklight: Retribution), along with Bloodlines’ original writer Brian Mitsoda, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 has secretly been in development for three years. It will be released in 2020.

Despite the secrecy, this is something that people had been hoping for since publisher Paradox announced it had acquired the rights in in 2015 – among them Martin Ka’ai Cluney, the creative director at Hardsuit.

“It was late 2015, I read an article that Paradox had acquired World Of Darkness [the board game on which Bloodlines is based], and I immediately ran into our owners’ office and said, we’ve got to pitch for this,” he said, speaking at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Ka’ai Cluney and Brian Mitsoda had been friends for ten years, and the writer was immediately on board. After texting back and forth ideas, the two sat down in Mitsoda’s house, with a bottle of whisky between them, and worked out the major beats of the game’s plot, themes and characters in a single day. That week they sent over a plan to Paradox.

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines screenshot

Photograph: Hardsuit Labs/Paradox Interactive

Bloodlines gained its reputation, against significant odds, based on the strength of its characters and the phenomenal choice given to players – so much so that it almost didn’t matter that the game didn’t really work properly. This immediately puts a lot of expectation on the sequel. “It was hugely daunting,” continues Ka’ai Cluney. “But it was the goal from day one to establish those same principles.”

For Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, the setting moves from Los Angeles to present-day Seattle, where a complex reimagining of the city’s history sees its multilayered past (metaphorically and physically) interwoven with vampire mythology and rivalry. Most interesting was the promise of a large selection of incidental stories, discoverable only by paying attention to the afterlives of those around you. These will let players investigate smaller mysteries, help out struggling fellow vampires, and work to protect the masquerade, the law of secrecy that keeps the public fooled about the existence of vampires.

An early demo shown at GDC featured your character’s siring as a “Thin-blood”, a new vampire whose previous life impacts upon his post-death life. This, we’re told, means that players’ choices in creating their character will have an immediate impact on the experience. The game intends to “force you out of your humanity”, says Ka’ai Cluney. “If you can’t see people as cattle, you won’t get on well.”

This quick glimpse reveals an adult, dark and potentially deep world in which to play. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 will be coming to PC and consoles early next year.


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