Forever Young, The Tragedy Of Bloodlines

By Jim Rossignol on February 11th, 2009 at 11:54 am.


There’s a bittersweet flavour to playing Bloodlines. It’s not because of the vampiric moodiness and the twilight tales that it tells, nor the real-world tragedy of its costly development finally undoing brave development studio, Troika. No, the sense of sorrow comes from the realisation that there’s nothing like this on the horizon. The idea is begged: why should there be so few games like this? Oh right, because it’s so very hard to do.

Bloodlines – a clever, multi-faceted RPG – is a rare animal. Even under the blazing light of Fallout 3′s recent release, there’s a sense that we’ve not yet reached our promised land of games that do more, games that do worlds, games that do people. Bloodlines points the way to those games. Indeed, there’s a sense that these games might just be becoming a myth. Like the plight of an animal species on the verge of extinction, the lack of games comparable to Bloodlines is one of the great tragedies of our time.

Our plight is this: if your great pleasure is hybrid action-oriented first-person role-playing games, with nuanced, open-plan stories filled with interesting characters, then your fantasy life is necessarily stunted. You have very few options. Games that offer a personal experience of worlds that we could never otherwise access outside of film and literature are rare. Ultra-violent warmonger, battlefield overseer, even sneaky thief man – these are all catered for in some way. But other, wider ideas are harder to come by. What, indeed, would it be like to live life as a 1950s private detective, or an FBI agent, or a nano-tech enhanced super agent of the near future, or a vampire?

Not many games bother with such wide open scope. Bloodlines does. And it does what a select few videogames have articulated: giving us sudden, direct access to something wonderful and alien. But it’s drama, and pseudo-social, as much as it is videogame action. It is filled with brilliant artificial people. Bloodlines allows us – like a participant in some larger soap opera – to make decisions about what might happen to those individuals. In this case, it’s always something wonderfully dark. Bloodlines manages to be funny, humane (if not human), brutal, horrifying, and thrilling, all at once. Its vampires are larger than life and yet nevertheless alive. Their twisted traits come tumbling out in excellent dialogue and strange quests. It is heavy on heavy themes, ideas that might otherwise pervert the purity of any other action game. Seduction, sedition, schizophrenia, propaganda, pornography, purgatory: these thematic notions are the lifeblood of vampire fiction, and they’re essential what’s going on in here. The struggle between the vampire castes is at once noble and despicable, and picking your route between its pitfalls is a delight. Ultimately, though, this is about exploration: about seeing something out of the ordinary. Toxic tourism in vampiric clubland.

Bloodlines is something like an action soap-opera. I truly wish I could say that of more games. So few games have attempted to access this most natural of game approaches: analogy of the real world, with conversation and violence intermingled, rather than simply delivering uninterrupted carnage, or endless management. These ‘immersive sim’ games are tough to make, granted, but when you play something like Bloodlines they also feel like they’re the games we deserve. Game developers often talk about the strange sense of entitlement that gamers seem to bring to their hobby, but when you taste games like this, it becomes entirely understandable. To be to be stealthy or stabby, seductive or violent, well, it’s almost like the game is spoiling us with options. After ten hours in Bloodlines you’re struck by the nagging concern: why aren’t other studios reaching for the stars like this? Even Bioshock and Stalker seem vapid in their shooter-obsessions.

Of course, it’s a matter of complexity. To make a game like Bloodlines is a task of terrifying scale. It’s one thing to make a game about running around putting bullets into people, and quite another to make it the tale of a weak young vampire who can talk to almost anyone in a series of thriving city hubs, travelling back and forth between them amid of a web of quests that range from simple puzzle solving, through the seduction of innocent human victims, to the brawling battles with rival monsters. To make this, you really have to know what you’re doing. And therein lies the crux of the matter, the black heart inside the game: the crucial problem with Bloodlines was its complete and utter brokenness on release. Troika had tried to reach the highest peaks of game design, and faltered, and then fallen. My first journey through this glitchy underworld left my character stranded in a sewer pipe. I never did get any further and, savegame deleted, his weird adventure game to a permanent end. Getting past that point months later sent me trudging into endgame of horrifying hack-and-slash tedium, where nothing of the early game intricacy remained to give us respite from the melee. Even if you didn’t get that far, a sojourn with Bloodlines exposed you to animation failures, spelling mistakes, and all other kinds of design splatter. This was not a finished game. Bloodlines, despite all its riches, was incomplete.

Ultimately the lamentable collapse of the final act of the game cannot be fixed without money and studio expertise, but many of the other problems have been dealt with. I’ve played through now with the community patch, and dozens of problems have been fixed. Dialogue trees have been trimmed and punctuated, animations have been been altered and replaced, bugs have been uncovered and squished beneath a fashionable gothic boot heel. Hell, the original boxed version of the game had glitches in the opening cutscene. Those have been mended. Bloodlines is so very far from perfect, but it is perfectly far from almost any other game we could pick up and play today. If you’ve not sunk teeth into it, then I fear you’re truly missing out.

A shorter version of this article first appeared in PC Gamer UK.

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173 Comments »

  1. Lewis says:

    It’s not a game about vampires. It’s a game about quirky subcultures, gritty underworlds and social hierarchy. That it features vampires felt almost incidental to me.

  2. Reid says:

    DustotoDust – How you can comment on a game’s atmosphere so much without playing it is beyond me. One meeting with the prince should sort out all those goth/emo thoughts. The goth culture is used but it’s done in a way that mocks it. You see goth kids outside a club and you almost stare in wonder at the ridiculousness of the situation.

    If you haven’t played this game then you’ve missed out on realising what the potential of games really is. That kinda sums up my experience with Vampires. I love it for it’s potential and for those genious ideas in it, I hate it for what it actually turned out as.

  3. JDC says:

    Dust to Dust: I feel exactly the same way about vampires that you do but I loved Bloodlines once I gave it a chance. Most of the NPCs are consumed with noble existential darkness and absorbed in the sorts of power struggles that most people don’t see past high school, but the player character is a robotic soulless video game protagonist with no discernible personality, with the opportunity to betray and totally undermine whichever NPCs you happen to hate the most. Then he can steal the watch off their corpse and pawn it. Wonderfully cathartic.

  4. Tiago Sá says:

    Bloodlines is the shit!

    Also, naming Fallout 3 and Bloodlines in the same sentence is a heresy. I just lost all respect for you Jim.

    Seriously.

    Troika went down, and they made two (at least) of the greatest RPGs of all time: Arcanum and Bloodlines, and Temple of Elemental Evil is also an incredibly good tactical game, and has more role-play than 90% of the so-called RPGs out there.

    Boyarsky is working at Blizzard on Diablo 3 (as lead world artist – I think), Tim Cain is working at NCsoft’s Carbine Studios on an unannounced MMO that supposedly will bring role-play into the genre (finally) and Anderson, I don’t know. Isn’t he at Interplay working on Fallout Online? I have my eyes set on that baby. The concept of a desolate empty desert wasteland filled with loot-seeking warriors repulses me, but since it’s an old Fallout dev working on it, it’s 100x better than Fallout 3 actiony shit.

  5. Cooper says:

    Many of the points here I agree with, and as much as I love to wax lyrical about Bloodlines and how games are still ultimately stuck in a Hollywood wannabe cycle, I’ve got a question that’s a bit tangential.

    Does anyone know where the money goes to once development houses are disbanded (not only for Bloodlines, but for so many other games)? Bloodlines deserves to be bought, that daring and valiant attempts deserves to be rewarded in hard cash, but now that Troika are no more, does the money disappear into a publisher’s black hole, or do the developers still recieve royalties?

  6. I am beginning to understand this comment system says:

    Jim I am surprised at your off hand dismal of Fallout 3, as looked at from a purely design perspective Fallout 3 and Bloodlines are essentially the same game.

    In actuality the games are very different. This due almost entirely to one thing, scale. Fallout 3′s huge world offers world explorer plenty of nooks and crannies, but pays for it with generic npcs and a general lack of detail. Bloodlines offers superior dialogue, but contains a relatively small and linear gameworld.

    The difference in the games is allocation of resources. I wonder what kind of game Bethesda would produce if they decided to focus on a much smaller open world.

  7. Jim Rossignol says:

    Logging into the forum allows you to edit, I believe.

  8. Jim Rossignol says:

    I just lost all respect for you Jim.

    Oh no!

    Amazing how people can discern exactly what I think of Fallout 3 from that small remark.

  9. Jesucristo says:

    Where was the good comment when this great game was released?. Vampire Bloodlines was not perfect and the second half of the game is not so good as the first one, there is some bugs and faults, but is far better than most RPG and action games since last 6 years. Ocean Hotel is one of the all time maps and NPC were sublime.

    I misss Troika a lot. How I miss them…

  10. Andrew says:

    The hate for Fallout 3 in this comment thread is quite astonishing. It’s not like Bloodlines can only be good at the expense of Bethesda’s offering.

  11. Jonas says:

    The good comment was all over the reviews, FYI

    http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/pc/vampirethemasqueradebloodlines?q=vampire%20bloodlines

    For such a horrendously broken game, it sure was highly rated. Deservedly so, in my opinion – even if I had to use a complicated cheat code to get out of those damn caves where the level transition was bugged XD

  12. Pags says:

    Even under the blazing light of Fallout 3’s recent release

    Is this seriously the line that’s getting Jim in trouble with some people? Either my irony-meter has broken or the internet is feeling doubly petty today.

    Bloodlines has my favourite offhand pop-culture reference in a game thus far. It’s a Big Lebowski reference. See if you can guess what it is!

  13. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    Bloodlines kind of combines (and simplifies) that complexity with some of the most fantastic storytelling and great characterization we’ve ever had…it’s a great game for it, but it’s not necessarily the most complete design approach Troika took (ToEE is similarly “incomplete” in design, Arcanum isn’t, it’s as close to a complete game as they could get).

    I disagree. Arcanum is probably my favorite Troika game, but it’s nowhere near a “complete design”. The gameworld was cobbled together with spurious, often lazy areas (ie., most dungeons), unbalanced mix of technological and magical system, dozens of cardboard NPCs, vapid writing. What really managed to come to life was the same that made Fallout a stellar game – the role-playing, the myriad of choices and consequences which nothing the big hitters like Bioware or Bethesda ever created has still managed to come close.

    But it was a textbook example of anything Troika – big ideas, lousy implementation.

    Bloodlines, at least, managed to congregate the best aspects of what Troika had done in the past. True, it was a more contained, less sprawling game; but from the writing to the area design, it’s much more complete and developed than anything else they pulled off during their existence. Of course, the awful areas – the Sewers, the latter part of the game, the bugs – are still there but on a broader scale, it’s a much tighter game, focusing on what they could do best.

  14. Gav says:

    I still weep for Troika… I bought Bloodlines at realease (having gasped in aww at its promise from the PC Gamer cover discs) and although broken I had high hopes that this was the sign of things to come to RPG land… A brave game, an insightful game, a F*****g gem in any games collection but no…. I am still waiting for anything that has half of what this game delivers. If you can’t find this game cheap – you are not looking hard enough – you must play this before you die… or after you die…

    Jim your original article in Gamer and this one articulate better than I possibly could what Bloodlines represents. And Arcanum wasn’t half bad either!

  15. Jim Rossignol says:

    I wonder what kind of game Bethesda would produce if they decided to focus on a much smaller open world.

    Or, indeed, if their primary focus was the interaction with NPCs.

  16. lanster says:

    Bloodline is an awesome game. Just a little buggy here and there. Most other vampire games are too half-arsed to make a good storyline and interesting characters. So in the vampire genre, this game comes first.

  17. Brother None says:

    As I said in the big-ass post above, Bethesda is an example of the publishing model popular now which requires heavier investment in graphics and PR than in the design team. And – again like I said – since all they get for this is critical accolades and financial success, there is no reason to change. And that, Jim, answers your question of why we don’t get any better games. Because we’re not seriously asking for it.

    I disagree. Arcanum is probably my favorite Troika game, but it’s nowhere near a “complete design”. The gameworld was cobbled together with spurious, often lazy areas (ie., most dungeons), unbalanced mix of technological and magical system, dozens of cardboard NPCs, vapid writing. What really managed to come to life was the same that made Fallout a stellar game – the role-playing, the myriad of choices and consequences which nothing the big hitters like Bioware or Bethesda ever created has still managed to come close.

    But it was a textbook example of anything Troika – big ideas, lousy implementation.

    Yes. It is a flawed, limited game, that opted to simply fall back on old or limited game design whenever ideas or time faltered.

    But that’s not what I’m talking about: ToEE is primarily a dungeon crawler that uses its excellent TB combat system as a crutch. Bloodlines is primarily a linear storyteller that uses its excellent storytelling combined with great dialogue (both in writing and execution) to make up for rather weak gameplay otherwise (the combat is awful).

    Arcanum has its flaw, but it doesn’t expressly decide to drop a certain gameplay element for another. Like Fallout, it is an attempt to bring a “total RPG” to the computer. The insane ambition to bring true reactivity into a rich world with great dialogue. Fallout managed to keep its focus and thus feels like a tighter game, but that doesn’t mean the intention isn’t the same. Arcanum is the closest game in existence to Fallout 1/2, and that alone is an accomplishment.

    It’s not a huge wonder Arcanum fails in many ways and that it’s not the most popular game. But it is certainly the most ambitious one of Troika’s stable.

  18. Lukasz says:

    They all told me not to do it. Warnings were clear. There was no doubt. Yet in my stupid stubbornness I did it. Why? Why did I open that damn sarcophagus? I learned few things about myself that night.

    Only few games managed to achieve what Bloodlines did. To make me part of the world.
    When I played the game it was me who did all that stuff, not a character who I simply controlled.

    and for that Bloodlines will always be one of the greatest game made by human kind.

  19. M_the_C says:

    I’ve recently been playing Children of the Nile again, and can see a similar pattern. It’s flawed compared to other city-building games, but your citizens have so much more life and character.

    I still haven’t finished Bloodlines, it seems my problem was creating a toreador with too much focus on social skills (although it’s great for getting blood ;) ) I’ve got to a level that’s just a straight brawl, no way around it and started feeling bored. I played the F.E.A.R. 2 demo a week or two ago, and wasn’t scared at all, the beach hotel in Bloodlines however nearly scared me too death. I like shallow games as much as the next gamer, but I want some with real depth as well.

    Great article.

  20. Hermit says:

    I bought Bloodlines on release and struggled to get it working. Tried it again a year or so ago with the fan patches and by and large I loved it. The final act is, sadly, a let down, but then many openworld games don’t end on a high, given the difficulty of trying to write something non-linear into a single conclusion.

    The thing which still impresses me is the sheer amount of passion fans of the game had for it. In many ways, it’s the same devotion Elder Scrolls modders show. I don’t think I’ll ever replay Morrowind or Oblivion without a ton of mods installed, because they enrich the experience so much. And there are countless games out there where a fan-produced hotfix for a bug or error or crash will arrive days or weeks before any official solution is found.

    It’s a shame more development studios don’t recognise that the fanbase can be a damn useful group of people.

  21. Xerxes says:

    A superb game that was for adults, and not an “adult” game, as so many peg themselves, with cheap tricks that really only appeal to the pre-pubescent.

    I greatly enjoyed this at release, despite struggling through the bugs and issues that plagued the game.

    More of these games, and less “generic copy of game that did well XVI” please.

  22. bansama says:

    Bloodlines wasn’t a bad game at all, but all the *****ing over which community patch was “canon” and which was not, kind of ruined the whole experience in the end.

  23. Markoff Chaney says:

    Phenomenal doesn’t do this game justice. This is one of the single most immersible worlds I have ever been through virtually. This current manifestation of flesh and blood takes the cake for this life, though. As far as simulated environments created by silicon from arrangements of 0s and 1s, this and Deus Ex (the first, naturally) are so high up on my list of all time fantastic gaming experiences that they share the crown as of now.

    I am only a consumer, and not a producer of such joy, but I can only hope that some developers pick up these torches of the near perfect hybrid Adventure/Action/RPG/FP/Sim. I know it’s not the path of least resistance, and thusly probably the path of least financial gain, but I can dream.

  24. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    Arcanum has its flaw, but it doesn’t expressly decide to drop a certain gameplay element for another.

    True, but there lies the problem, since it does something that is potentially worse – cram as much as it can into a single experience. There’s no particular element that isolates another, but several compete for attention – look no further than the combat system designed to try and please both turn-based and realtime fans, the narrative flow that was not discontinued by “breaking” the game, the use of a two dimensional time engine to assist a potential mod community that came out stillborn, or the online capability that never took off. All of these syphoned time and resources better spent on a more cohesive whole.

    Like Fallout, it is an attempt to bring a “total RPG” to the computer. The insane ambition to bring true reactivity into a rich world with great dialogue.

    Come now, BN, no need to waste the “total RPG” speech on me. I was Role-Player at the RPG Codex, and I am aware of Troika’s intentions. But I digress. The point is that Arcanum tried to be a complete experience and failed by spreading itself too thin; whereas Bloodlines took the “less is more” approach and it came off as a much more balanced game, and it was clearly the best balancing act Troika pulled off. This isn’t to take merit away from Arcanum, nor is it to say that it should have forsaken X elements in favor of Y things, but it was not – in spite of its achievements – walking on sunshine. It failed in the areas both ToEE and Bloodlines achieved, and it does leave one wondering just what is the more accomplished feat and what we should be judging – trying to create the “true” or “total RPG”, or just making a solid one.

  25. Chis says:

    I paid VERY full price for this on release (GAME had it for £34 at the time). Worth every penny. Seriously, even in its original broken state, I enjoyed every second. Bloodlines reaches immersion heights I’ve only experienced – albeit in rather different ways – in titles such as Thief, Doom (yes, Doom – its genius lies in its simplicity), System Shock and Star Control 2.

    Trouble is, I have a long memory for games. So in the intervening years I’ve only played VTM:B about 3 times through. But every time it was an experience I’ve savoured and treasured. They also were without the newest fan-patches. This article has tempted me to bring the game out again… or at the least get my gf to try it.

  26. Chis says:

    Sorry for the double-post, but I want to come to the defence of Stalker here. No, I’d agree it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Bloodlines, but compared to the likes of Fallout 3 or FEAR, it stands head and shoulders above them for two reasons: truly effective immersion (the AI, the AI!!), and a strong sense that the dev team had a creative, unique imagination.

  27. pharago says:

    ive finished this game so many times i can recall most of the quest’s details, the community patch is just awesome, those guys should be given some kind of medal or just plain large amounts of money.
    the prince, the pirate, man, this game is so made of pure win i just can’t bare that troika is no more…
    the sarcophagus…dont open it…lulz

  28. Brother None says:

    Come now, BN, no need to waste the “total RPG” speech on me. I was Role-Player at the RPG Codex, and I am aware of Troika’s intentions. But I digress. The point is that Arcanum tried to be a complete experience and failed by spreading itself too thin; whereas Bloodlines took the “less is more” approach and it came off as a much more balanced game, and it was clearly the best balancing act Troika pulled off. This isn’t to take merit away from Arcanum, nor is it to say that it should have forsaken X elements in favor of Y things, but it was not – in spite of its achievements – walking on sunshine. It failed in the areas both ToEE and Bloodlines achieved, and it does leave one wondering just what is the more accomplished feat and what we should be judging – trying to create the “true” or “total RPG”, or just making a solid one.

    Hardcore RPG street cred aside, I feel you’re missing my point. I never claimed Arcanum is a better game than Bloodlines in an absolute sense. All I claim is that it has more complete design. Not that it is a more polished, finished or better game, but that in its core Bloodlines is intended and thus finishes as a narrower experience than Arcanum. I think you’re basically saying the same.

  29. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    What cred? I never get any :P

    I don’t remember having said you believed it was a better game, but I think we’re probably nitpicking over what we mean by “complete design”. I assume you’re using the term as Arcanum embodying the more complex, or the more extensive, amount of design – from conceptual to actually being implemented – present in the game. I’m using it as describing of a design that feels stable (I know stability was an issue with Troika, but work with me here) and focused on a tighter, more solid structure.

    It may be basically the same, I don’t know. Is it?

  30. Brother None says:

    No, it isn’t, and indeed it is a bit of a miscommunication.

    Taking one gameplay element, raising it above all others and keeping it as a central focus of gameplay is pretty much what you’re talking about. I’d call that a complete game too, especially since it tends to feel more finished and as a “complete” experience.

    But design width (maybe a better term than complete design) is really about setting the bar higher. Troika couldn’t do it in Arcanum because of time and money constraints. Fallout 3 is another example of a game with unfocused design, though it seems to have been made more as a patchwork of design concepts rather than just a wide game. Fallout 2, similarly, rambles, because it fails to keep its wide design in check with a clear central vision. Fallout might be the only one that succeeded at it.

    I adore both Bloodlines and Arcanum, but I think my attitude towards Bloodlines is more one of infatuation, while towards Arcanum I feel more admiration. Exactly because of the above.

  31. DusttoDust says:

    @Chis: Seconded for the Stalker defence.

    @Reid: I don’t belive I did comment on the game’s atmosphere. what I said was that I completely overlooked the game based on a pre-existing hatred of Vampires generally. I also finished by saying I would like to give the game a go – I’m always intrigued by games that get universally good praise from my fellow gamers. To think that I’ve missed something of Deus Ex’s calibre…(in concept if not completely in execution)!?

  32. Charlie says:

    I remember I bought this the week it came out in game in the bargain bin. It literally went straight in there! Got it for a tenner!

    I lost the damn thing and recently re bought it on Steam though I only ever seem to get what I think is about halfway through before I give up. I don’t think I will ever be bothered to get passed that mansion mission again. An amazing level the first time through, one of my favourite moments in a game I think. That and being a crazy Malkavian.

    Don’t think I’ve seen a game try to make you insane before or since but it did it really well. I remember hearing voices, seeing things, and some brilliant dialogue.

  33. pkt-zer0 says:

    You’ve made a powerful enemy today, sign.

  34. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    I see your point, and kind of feel the same regarding the infatuation/admiration divide ;)

    But as you say, Fallout may have well been the only one to succeed. Troika didn’t quite make it although they valianty tried with Arcanum; and even Obsidian Ent. has yet to achieve the same. Because of that, Fallout seems even more its own thing, triumphantly (and nearly) alone in the genre. Which will prompt everyone else to call us old, nostalgic, out of touch, and so on for thinking so :/

  35. Brother None says:

    DusttoDust: the best spot to pick it up is probably Steam. It’s 19.99 EUR/USD there (I think), and available on it as it was – heck – the first game ever finished on the Source engine.

    But as you say, Fallout may have well been the only one to succeed. Troika didn’t quite make it although they valianty tried with Arcanum; and even Obsidian Ent. has yet to achieve the same. Because of that, Fallout seems even more its own thing, triumphantly (and nearly) alone in the genre. Which will prompt everyone else to call us old, nostalgic, out of touch, and so on for thinking so :/

    Fallout was a child of its time and unique circumstances. It may take a while before publishers decide investing as much into a B-roll title as Interplay did back then is worth it, nevermind if a team like the Big Six that worked on Fallout would surface again, let alone if a key cog like Urquhart would be present.

    Like I said, too many ifs. We’ll get there eventually.

  36. Kez says:

    I love Bloodlines. I played through about half of the game using the official patch(es) back in the day and late last year I used the 5.something fan patch to play again. Got about 3/4 of the way through the game that time before getting lost in World of Warcraft again.

    I’ll be busting this out again and finally FINISH. It’s still a memorable and very fun game despite not finishing yet.

  37. Bhazor says:

    Fine I’ll just come out and say it
    Everything good about this game falls apart in the last third.

  38. Bananaphone says:

    @Homunculus
    You should try ‘Facade’, an indie tech demo does almost exactly what you describe on a smaller scale. One day someone will do that with an entire game.

  39. PHeMoX says:

    I’m 100% serious when I say I enjoyed Bloodlines a lot better than… Half-life 2. Yeah, I know this makes me look funny perhaps, but for real. Bloodlines wasn’t perfect, but damn very much like the author of this RPS article, I think the idea behind Bloodlines is awesome. Too a good extent the game is very good.

    I’d like to see a Bloodlines 2 someday. Preferably right before Half-life 3. ;)

  40. Dreamhacker says:

    This article is going to make me cry, isn’t it? Goddamnit, I miss Troika. I miss games created with passion. I miss REAL RPG’s.

  41. Pavel says:

    Second best game ever made.After Fallout.

  42. JamesC says:

    How I loved this game. Gave me the same warm fuzzies as Planescape:Torment. Story and characters you care about!
    Hope the dev team / writers / creatives get to do something good again..someday.

  43. othelios says:

    I think that what other games, like Fallout 3, Oblivion, etc, don’t have is life-like ‘acting’. In Bloodlines, the characters are animated when they talk. I don’t mean just facial animations. I mean the actual character moves around (at least the head and shoulders do). For example, the barman in the Asylum club is taken aback when the player selects a certain dialogue option. One of the vampires on the beach leans back and has his hands raised as if the player is a threat. There’s this strange reaction the characters have towards the player, whether it be fear, intrigue, happiness, etc.

    In comparison, characters in games like Oblivion, seem to be just talking heads, with either happy or angry eyebrows.

  44. Nick says:

    I particularly like the seer woman at the beginning who makes little sense untill you complete the game..

    I love Bloodlines, I just wish they’d been able to flesh out chinatown as much as the other areas, that said there is plenty of warning that you can’t rely purely on your verbal skills (Nines says as much himself and will even teach you a thing or two). The only bit I found a real chore was the horrible flesh creature filled tunnel part.

  45. Edward says:

    I adored certain parts of this game, but it’s to me a perfect example of how new tech has completely changed the quality bar for storytelling in games. The writing was extremely solid – the voice acting continually completely undermines it and, really, ruins the game (for me). The same can be said for the visual fidelity – even at the time, it just came off looking half-baked.

    I know this is an unpopular perspective, even the much lauded design has way more flaws than can typically be discussed openly without incurring fanboy wrath. It is a very interesting game, but more educational in how it fails than how it succeeds.

  46. phil says:

    Just to go off on a massive tangent, in term of Action soap opera, Suikoden 2 (though not any of the others), got the balance perfectly.

    Of course you could only play one role, though you could make selfish decisions (including agreeing to run off with your sister to leave that defenseless dessert town to sort its own zombie apocalyse problems), the sense of soap opera that regular returns to your home castle provided was sublime. The entirely optional chef game show challenge, which relied on you anticipating the tastes of recruited characters and the private detective you could employ to provide hundreds of gossipy insights into the castle’s residents, were just a fraction of the domestic activities you could indulge in. Combined with solid writing for a JRPG and a sense of continual development as more residents joined and interacted with each other, made Castle Crackhouse (I was fifteen when I played the game) a welcome soap distraction to the epic, well wrought main tale.

  47. Nighthood says:

    Another thing nobody has commented about (I think, there are a lot of comments), is the soundtrack. One of the bands on there (Tiamat) is now my favourite band ever, and it’s really opened up my taste in music.

    It’s also the only game which made me rethink some things in life, and has made me a bit of a filthy goth. Oh well.

  48. Pantsman says:

    Call me mad, but as great as the early parts of Bloodlines were, Arcanum remains my favorite Troika game. In my mind it’s up there with the original Fallout. This might have something to do with nostalgia, given that Arcanum was the first real RPG I ever played.

  49. matte_k says:

    Love this game. The hotel quest in the first chapter of the game still unnerves me when I play through. Some of the voice acting is fantastic, Stealth kills with axes are brutally funny, and I agree, Malkavians for the win- you get extra insight into the plot from some characters due to the clan’s nature.
    Plus, Jack is the fucking Man- My first choice for Vampire trainer any day.

  50. pnutz says:

    The only game in development that I can see having any where near the depth of the first half of Bloodlines is Alpha Protocol. That may just be my optimism, but hear me out for a second.

    Scraping info from the Obsidian boards, AP has a multiple hub & mission structure, larger than life allies and villains all eager to double cross each other and you, long lasting consequences for your actions that may not be immediately apparent. Yes, much of the game will be about combat, but using Unreal 3 it may actually be satisfying combat. This compared to Bloodlines required but much less than satisfying combat.

    The conversation system is of course a little worrisome, and probably can’t compare to Bloodlines’ dialog trees. It is a bit misrepresented, however. You are presented with three options, such as “Suave”, “Professional”, and “Intimidating”. They are presented as full dialog options and not just adjectives, the options change depending on the situation and your previous choices, and can include actions like “shoot one of the prisoners”.

    The potential for a Bloodlines-like mix of roleplay, C&C, great characters, and (unlike Bloodlines) satisfying combat is there. I think Obsidian is just unable to properly illustrate the kind of game this is, much like Jim didn’t really do justice to Bloodlines for one who may have never played it. He should have given a laundry list of the kind of crap you can do and achieve, like Alec did in that King’s Bounty write up, since this really help those unfamiliar with the game appreciate it’s breadth. It sold me King’s Bounty.