You could say that vampires have been on every cover for the past few weeks. The recent release of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodhunt, the departure of V Rising Early Access, and the arrival of Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong later in the day are largely to blame. As for the immortals, I reentered the world of darkness and was able to test the third part, Swansong, for a while.
Out of all the Vampire: The Masquerade games, this one is the most unique as it resembles the rock star title LA Noire more than a vampire title. Don’t get me wrong, our protagonist is still a bloodthirsty creature of the night, but the plot is more about leading a group of characters in investigating a power struggle to try to wear down the image of the new family prince in Boston Clique. You can play with three different vampires, each belonging to a different clan. Through his special abilities, you must unveil the truth that lies behind the main plot, and this is where the similarity to LA Noire comes into play, as there is no direct path that will lead you to the end of the story – rather, you have to keep your eyes peeled open, investigate and figure out how to connect the clues you find in each level.
It’s very well done, it’s addicting and you’ll have a lot of fun searching every corner of the different levels for clues that will help you confirm your hypothesis. You have several tools at your disposal to help you achieve your goals. Examples of your vampire abilities include seduction, intimidation, or stealth, as well as other options that occasionally appear such as: B. the ability to unlock the password on a locked laptop. The problem is that you need to consider progression to determine which branch to specialize your three vampires in and play the way you want. You can choose whether you prefer Emem to be a character that focuses more on the social aspect, or you want Leysha to focus more on reasoning tasks and studying the environment. Needless to say, you can’t play all three vampires at the same time, which means there will be times when you can’t go through a locked door with Galeb, but you can with another character.
How his abilities work is done through a sort of strategy mini-game. Each character has default stats for each type of skill (seduction, intimidation, etc.) which can be improved by climbing the skill tree for each of them. That means you may need to use a specific character to lure someone into a conversation, since not everyone has the same ability to do so. You can improve a skill’s chances of success by increasing skill points, but that’s where the strategy minigame we talked about earlier comes in, as NPCs can also play this minigame. This way, a 100% chance of success can be wasted if the NPC plays their cards right.
But these abilities aren’t the only ones available, as each character has their own vampiric discipline to use as they freely roam the world looking for clues. Leysha, for example, can become invisible and move around forbidden locations without being detected (unless you get too close to enemies). This ability allows you to read notes and other basic interactions, but physical interactions (like unlocking a door) require you to become visible in order to perform them.
Swansong’s narration is interesting and contributes to the development of the world of Vampire: The Masquerade, something that was not achieved with Bloodhunt. All the characters are well developed and we’ll be able to know the stories of the different NPCs, as well as their motivations and the secrets they keep. Conversations can be long and drawn out, as can the game itself, which is generally slow due to the preference for staging over action. Despite this, the narration is quite entertaining most of the time.
However, one of the aspects that I find most problematic is the visual part. Swan song looks beautiful, but there are times when it’s off-putting. In general, the environment and character models are well polished and of high quality, but when you get close to their faces and take a look at their facial expressions, it’s like an AI trying to show the emotions they think they’re conveying should be a more obvious and real reaction. This leads to awkward cutscenes that creak a bit, which is a shame since the rest of the game is so visually stunning.
But these facial animation issues aren’t the only thing I’ve encountered. I once left a conversation with an NPC in a different location than it started and got stuck in a corner of a room that I couldn’t escape. I tried resetting the level/encounter by clicking the reset button, but found that this required restarting the entire game. Not only that, the new save file was saved over the original game file without warning, causing me to lose hours of progress without being able to restore it. It was really… frustrating.
As you can see, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is far from perfect. In fact, you could say it’s pretty poor. But no matter, it’s still a pretty fun and addicting game of exploration and deduction in the world of darkness. In short, it’s a title that should please any super detective who wants to test his ability to solve a case in the flesh of a bloodthirsty and immortal vampire.