If Halloween wish lists existed, news about Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 would probably be what many of us wrote about in our letters to Santa Pumpkin. And even though I just made it up, maybe it really exists after all, because that’s exactly what we just got: a surprise stream that offers our first look at the narrative and RPG elements of one of gaming’s most anticipated sequels.
The 18-minute video, which you can watch below, is the first proper look at the resurrected Bloodlines 2 since The Chinese Room – the indie studio behind Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs and Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture – was announced The game’s new developer was announced at the beginning of September.
Bloodlines 2 is a sequel to the 2004 PC game Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, a cult classic that, despite its extremely problematic production and release, still enjoys widespread popularity almost two decades later. It’s a testament to the quality of the writing and world-building that many gamers – myself included – still consider it one of the best video games of all time, even though you notoriously have to modify a hell of a lot to get it to run smoothly.
In the years since Bloodlines, many other officially licensed VTM video games have been released by various developers, including a series of text adventures from Choice of Games, a duology of visual novels from Draw Distance, Sharkmob’s short-lived live-service battle royale Bloodhunt, and the isometric CRPG Heartless Lullaby by Entalto Studios. There’s also Swansong, last year’s adventure role-playing game from The Council creators Big Bad Wolf, and the upcoming VR title Justice – due out tomorrow – from Fast Travel Games.
However, Bloodlines 2 is the game many long-time fans have been waiting for, and for better or worse, that means expectations for what The Chinese Room has to offer are already sky-high. The outline for the sequel during its initial development by Hardsuit Labs before their removal from the project in 2021 appeared to borrow many cues from the original in terms of the protagonist and his story, while the near-total rewrite was inspired by The Chinese Room seems from Cyberpunk 2077 for a completely different experience.
In the new incarnation of Bloodlines 2, you take on the role of an older vampire named Phyre. Their gender and clan can be chosen by the player, their outfit (but not their appearance, through the sounds of things) can be customized, and they are fully voiced throughout. But the cyberpunk comparison really takes off thanks to the presence of Fabien, a secondary vampire personality trapped in Phyre’s mind that has unmistakable echoes of Johnny Silverhand.
Needless to say, this is already proving somewhat divisive among fans who have waited almost three years for an update to Bloodlines 2, with some lamenting the idea of Hardsuit Labs, a newly minted and initially almost powerless Vampire attempts to unravel the mystery of her origins felt more like a direct sequel to Bloodlines thematically.
I have to agree: what we’ve seen of Bloodlines 2’s more staged story and more experienced protagonist is closer to a different Swansong than the original Bloodlines, which only revealed its secrets if you chose to turn a blank sheet of paper Avatar someone who took the initiative to explore every side street and alley in its huge (for the time) open world.
To be fair, the developers of The Chinese Room make a good case that their narrative is an inversion of Bloodlines rather than the parallel to it that Hardsuit Labs had intended, and therefore, in its own way, just as consciously follows on from the first game ; But the shadow of Bloodlines 2 that we almost had still looms large. The game we saw last night seems to be an intriguing and well-thought-out addition to the VTM canon, but I can’t help but feel that The Chinese Room would be in a better position if the subtitle was “Bloodlines 2.” not present would dictate the expectations of the audience.