An an­cient hor­ror rises again

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS - Robin Valen­tine

The orig­i­nal Blood­lines, re­leased all the way back in 2004 on PC, was the kind of won­der­ful, am­bi­tious mess that’s im­pos­si­ble to for­get. In­com­plete, buggy and a com­mer­cial flop, it none­the­less en­dures as a cult clas­sic to this day thanks to its nar­ra­tive depth and the sheer amount of agency and choice it granted play­ers. Now, 15 years later, a new team is hop­ing to recre­ate its Gothic magic with a full-fledged se­quel.

The se­ries takes place in the set­ting of the Vam­pire: The Mas­quer­ade table­top role-play­ing game, a world like our own save for its se­cret so­ci­ety of blood­suck­ers act­ing in the shad­ows. This new en­try sees you join­ing them af­ter a ‘Mass Em­brace’, a de­lib­er­ate turn­ing of a large num­ber of or­di­nary peo­ple – a prac­tice usu­ally for­bid­den. As an un­aligned ‘Thin Blood’ you’ll ex­plore Seattle, de­vel­op­ing your pow­ers and ul­ti­mately de­cid­ing which of the rul­ing vam­pire clans you want to throw your lot in with.

As in the orig­i­nal, the core idea is free­dom of choice. “Play­ers should feel like a preda­tor of the night, a pow­er­ful vam­pire,” ex­plains Para­dox lead pro­ducer Chris­tian Sch­lut­ter. “In which way they feel pow­er­ful though, if through brute force, se­duc­tion, po­lit­i­cal in­trigue or de­cep­tion, that is com­pletely up to them.”

Play­ing into that is the story’s non-lin­ear struc­ture. Cre­ated by Brian Mit­soda, writer of the orig­i­nal game, the idea is that the nar­ra­tive is based around your in­ter­ac­tion with the city’s var­i­ous fac­tions. You’ll be able to move be­tween groups, dou­ble-cross them, and more – and, of course, they’ll re­act to your ac­tions.

Rush of blood

These fac­tions move in a world of ex­tremes, of haves and have-nots. While the elite sup from wine glasses of blood in pen­t­house apart­ments, fanged thugs fight bru­tal skir­mishes in the dark cor­ners of the city. It’s a cul­ture primed for a new crop of vam­pires – in­clud­ing you – to dis­rupt. And per­haps not for the bet­ter.

Blood­lines was revered for its dark and com­plex moral choices, and this se­quel looks to be painting in sim­i­lar shades of grey-to-black. Be­ing the good guy isn’t nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to be an op­tion.

“We give play­ers the op­por­tu­nity to play the game the way they like to play it. But let’s be real: vam­pires will never be knights in shin­ing ar­mour,” says Sch­lut­ter. “At their core, they are par­a­sitic. They feed on hu­man­ity. You are not a hero here. But you can choose your pre­ferred flavour of evil­ness. And there are cer­tain char­ac­ters and sit­u­a­tions in the game that will re­mind the player of their own hu­man­ity - or what is still left of it.”

Be­ing an evil par­a­site does have its perks, though. For one, you’ll get to choose an arse­nal of su­per­nat­u­ral pow­ers to aid you, such as flight or sum­mon­ing swarms of bats. Each has an of­fen­sive ap­pli­ca­tion in com­bat, but also af­fects how you tra­verse the world. Turn­ing into mist, for ex­am­ple, al­lows you to flow into the lungs of your en­e­mies and choke them from the in­side out – gross! – but it also means you can travel through vents and ducts to reach other­wise in­ac­ces­si­ble lo­ca­tions.

Rel­a­tively untested de­vel­oper Hard­suit Labs will have its work cut out re­al­is­ing this grand vi­sion, and all the player agency that comes with it. But, im­por­tantly, no one could say this pro­ject doesn’t em­body that same bound­less am­bi­tion that made the orig­i­nal Blood­lines such a mem­o­rable piece of gam­ing his­tory.

“Play­ers should feel like a preda­tor of the night, a pow­er­ful vam­pire”

Above The huge tidal wave of blood from the an­nounce­ment trailer is just metaphor­i­cal… we as­sume.

right Each vam­pire clan has its own phi­los­o­phy, goals and favoured pow­ers.

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