Fifteen years later, the vampires are still at each other’s throats.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 begins as the previous game did way back in 2004. You’re a newborn vampire, confused, taunted and about to be executed. You stand in a kangaroo court, with various bickering vampire clans prodding you for information that you just don’t know or understand.
And then it’s a flashback to when you were human and the night of your turning, as a swarm of vampires descend on humans in a chaotic slaughter for food. You wake later, with new talents and vague objectives. Stay alive, creep through the shadows, use your newfound abilities. This is an action RPG, but it also feels like an immersive sim in the vein of Dishonored.
“You could call it retroactive borrowing, ” says Martin Ka’ai Clooney, creative director developer Hardsuit Labs. “A lot of those immersive sims took a lot of their ideas and systems from games like Bloodlines. You play it now and it doesn’t really play as an immersive sim but there were a lot of those concepts that informed them.
“Bloodlines at the time was very much an RPG. It’s influence on immersive sims was important but it didn’t change the fact that at its core it was an action RPG. We loaned it out for a bit now we’re stealing it back.”
To further bring it up to date, it’s been a conscious decision by Hardsuit Labs for Bloodlines 2 to reflect fifteen years of change in the game and real world, and its setting of Seattle. The developer is taking a refreshing approach of weaving politics into the game, both in terms of narrative and gameplay.
“The world is a very different place,” says Clooney. “One of the reasons we went to Seattle for Bloodlines 2 is there’s a lot of conflict in Seattle that is a microcosm of a lot of conflict that’s going on all over the place. It just felt like a good place to start to ground it; the conflict between tradition and progress, conflict between money and artistic endeavours. A lot of those conflicts are happening right now and they’re very real. It seems like the perfect place to dig into something that feels very modern in terms of the conflict and also very timeless; grounding it in 2020 but also very much a descendent of what the original game was.”
While the demo of the early stages of the game I saw hinted at conflict and the politics of warring clans, Clooney says it’s central to Bloodlines 2 that the writers (who include Brian Mitsoda, narrative designer on the original game) are actively taking a political stance in this sequel, with its themes of art versus commerce and technological advances versus tradition.
“One of the reasons why that particular conflict attracted us so much was because it’s an inherently political conversation but it’s one of the few ones where it’s hard to… there are valid approaches. The world has to move forward, right?” says Clooney.
“Technological progress is a big deal and people are going to make money doing it. But what’s the cost? One of the things we really wanted to do was narrow in on a major conflict that can truly, reasonably be seen from both sides. As much as I loved being in Seattle in the 90s, and I’ve lived…