Developed By: Big Bad Wolf
Published By: Nacon
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Xbox One & PC
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
A vampire walks among us or in this case, they talk among us. If I were to imagine vampires taking a more passive route of apprehending humans and subduing them to the vampires will; Vampire: The Masquerade Swansong would be the more realistic approach to this subject. Being charmed by TV series such as Blade, What We Do In The Shadows, and Angel (a spinoff to Buffy The Vampire Slayer); I am eager to see what worldbuilding is like with the same juicy concept.
However, the juicy narrative-driven plot I assumed would be loving, tasted out to be just plain sour as there were various problems I encountered that bogged down my experience down. No wonder the vampires in this world are always grumpy, it’s a pain in the.. neck.
Walking Dead In My Head
The main core gameplay of Vampire: The Masquerade Swansong is if the game series Hitman were to be placed under strict protocols of asking questions first and shooting much later. Or taken on the form of Deus Ex if it were to take away the gunplay action and overcompensates with dialogue, reading, finding clues to unlock keypads/laptops, and puzzles. To me, it’s not so much of an RPG but more of a narrative approach visual novel style tied into a dark adventure with multiple choices and endings. However, the weight of my choices is not obviously felt throughout nor as heavy as near the end of the game.
Firstly allow me to address the elephant in the room, there are so many bugs, darkened scenes, and crashes in Vampire: The Masquerade Swansong right from the beginning to the mid cutscenes and dialogues (error code: CE 34878-0) alongside game-breaking bugs such as a fixed camera not allowing to look up to solve a puzzle segment that blocks progressions as well as auto-walking in the vast level instead of running that makes the whole experience a walking dead in my head aka migraines. Far worst than the game Ascent, I might add. So much so that Vampire: The Masquerade Swansong is almost deemed unplayable and frustrating with no end of constant restarts or as I later found out – exiting via the main menu and coming back would fix most of the issues. Did I mention that this game does not have a saving option? Yeah, so at times it does continue from where you left off, or sometimes it doesn’t. On the controller side of things, the X button is to confirm dialogue while the O button is to confirm interacting with an object is in itself the most confusing button I have ever pressed.
Tips: Press X to run, if unable to do so:
- Restart the game via the exit to the main menu and click continue the game, retry pressing X again.
- Rinse and repeat as certain cutscenes and cinematics auto-disable the running option. Although certain areas directly disable the running capability such as an enclosed room.
The gameplay of Vampire: The Masquerade Swansong puts me in the shoes of three main characters (Leysha, Emem, and Galeb) with their own agenda comprising often of ‘let me speak to your manager’ kinda vibe of needing to talk their way up to the leaders of the opposing organization, evade suspicion, enemies, or rivals in order to get what they wanted. The flow of the gameplay differed in terms of situations but was repetitive at the same time when speaking to these few key NPCs that mostly require persuasion, rhetoric, or downright coercion skills to bend them to do my bidding.
Three main characters start off at the same or different location, occurring at the same time per chapter. After I finish my current character, I will choose the remaining two among them again. Thus, finishing all three characters on one level would only allow me to proceed to the next step of the story. Each either crosses paths indirectly with some choices at play that may or may not benefit one or the other. However, these choices are less noticeable for me except for the beginning and near the end chapter which should be implemented throughout to keep things interestingly invested, rather than far near the end.
Depending on the skills usage, these skills of chattering deduct will point or make me even more hungry. These points can either be regained back via winning dialogues, looking for safe zones or simply feeding on the blood of rats/selected victims at the safe zones. Winning dialogues sounded easy enough at first but sometimes the NPCs alter their points to a better focus that may reduce your chances of winning that said dialogue. So this is where the main RPG-ish elements come into play – be it expending more will points/hungry points to gather more focus in winning the conversation or gain a tie to roll an empty dice in order to reach the final verdict to the conversation. Please note, that the dice don’t have numbers on them, but will inform me if I am successful or not, which is pretty vaguely rigged in my opinion. To me, this so-called RPG banter gameplay really felt lacking that can be simply won by just investing more level-up points into persuading options and choosing the right dialogues in winning the argument.
Level-up points are given at the beginning of the chapters based on prior interactions in previous chapters including achieving goals, hidden goals, and dialogues that differ from one main character to the next. Still, the level-up point felt too low to be excited about as it only accommodates a skill or two to be upgraded per chapter. There isn’t much variation in playing any of the characters due to their similar sharing skillsets with the added skills of warping through zones or disguises. Therefore I don’t feel as excited to try out different characters because they felt similar in playstyle.
Items usage found in environments such as polaroids and coins to be used to replenish will points are but a few. Including a concoction that grants a needed skill to slow down time for puzzle-solving that is actually not covered via hints or tutorials. For a few hours, I was stuck in a prison-like puzzle that the game doesn’t grant hint that such an item usage exists.
I would like to point out that the puzzle elements gameplay is the only aspect that holds true to the gameplay of Vampire: The Masquerade Swansong as it is not only fresh but also has no handholding and expects me to smartly check every nook and cranny in the environment such as remembering someone’s birthday to unlock a PC all the way to complicated findings of the right keywords via Google search to find the clues needed. Additionally, gameplay includes some QTE (quick time event) moments and one-time sneaking gameplay involving hiding from a werewolf is easily forgettable.
Join The Reading Fang Club
In terms of storytelling, among the three main characters – the most interesting character I found best so far is Leysha and her daughter as their twisted story explores aspects of mental illnesses, history, and toxic relationships, along with childlike banters. But other than that, everyone else falls short as uninteresting and straight-up bland.
Do note that some interactions in cutscenes and dialogues are cut short abruptly. Which is a bug on its own.
Fallout Characters In A Nice Place
I would like to point out that the location’s design overall is pretty stellar with the right use of darkness and lighting approach to really bring out the dark cathedral look in a modern city landscape.
Perhaps location design is the most invested part of the Vampire: The Masquerade Swansong however this too affects the character models as they enter a cutscene, appearing pitch-black and flat in the scene. Besides the main characters, the NPC’s 3D models look clunky, uninteresting, with protruding eyes, and inconsistent with plastic hair and arms that appear out of place in comparison to the awe-struck level design. Almost like an unfinished Fallout character in the mix of rosters with many clipping clothing issues. Level designs are pretty vast but mostly lack the activities NPCs needed to keep it lively due to the fact that they are conveniently evacuated or filled with guards standing around, depending on the plot.
Adding on to the bugs department, the main character or NPC characters at times do a split-second T-posing during cutscenes and dialogues while the locations have an odd hazy glaring floor. Overall, this really looks like an unpolished product to me, which is a shame.
Does It Walk The Talk?
The vampiric dread of voice acting is hit and miss for me since there are at times lip-sync issue occurs, as well as different dialogue choices at times, tend to deliver inconsistent tone presentation from one line to the next that felt distant, such as from one line is a medium tone of voice followed by plain loud shouting the next. Don’t get me wrong, I think the voice actors do an ok job in terms of delivering their characters. I believe it’s more of the direction not emphasizing maintaining the same level of consistency throughout gameplay.
In my opinion, the tone approach of the voice acting in general including the NPC is mostly grounded and serious tone of saying what is going on around them. That alone doesn’t garner the right interest for me to stay invested in the world as it remains expected or repetitive in that regard. Suffice to say that perhaps this is the intended worldbuilding that felt bleak, dry, and hopeless.
The songs in Vampire: The Masquerade Swansong appears to be somewhat the softest tunes I’ve ever heard like a soft generic tune playing in the background that felt really underwhelming. Although there is some interesting singing and rock music in the game, I have only noticed these segments at the beginning and the end of the game as it is mostly just mild generic tunes in-between game progressions.
What I Liked
- Gameplay: Dice roll confrontations and puzzle gameplay
- Codex: Plentiful information in the Character codex
- Location Design – Good lighting and interiors
What I Wished Was Better
- Pretty ok voice acting but felt distantly detached – One emotion of selected dialogue is different emotions from the next.
- Inconsistent 3D models – Some designs are nice, but most are bad. Some hair flows but is unnatural yet other NPC hairs are hard as plastic. Some NPC’s body has clipping issues.
- 3D Models – Animation stutters mildly at the end of a cutscene with a split-second erratic T-posing mid-scene. Most NPC models tend to appear plasticky and unpolished.
- Cutscenes – Conversation sometimes ends abruptly, and with lip-sync issues. Some cutscenes are darkened due to location designs.
- UI Design – No waypoints and interactable objects via mini dots are only reachable up close and point-blank.
- Button Interactions – The O Button is selected for checking on items while the button X is for conversations, my mind is in a blender
- Many Bugs including Auto-walking that drives me crazy
- Crashes are many
Look Out! It’s A Energy Vampire
As much as I would like this to work, I do not recommend the purchase of Vampire: The Masquerade Swansong, especially on PlayStation 4 due to multiple crashes, bugs, and unpolished state, even if you are a big fan of point and clicks or vampire based themes. While mainly driven by having conversations yet the delivery of it, in general, doesn’t make it any meaningful nor is it at all engaging to be memorable. Overall, playing Vampire: The Masquerade Swansong feels draining like literally speaking to an actual energy vampire. To me, it feels like a last-minute project being rushed with many ideas presented, unfulfilling progressions, and unfinished designs, leaving it unpolished and filled with bugs, as the deadline draws ever closer to release.
While Vampire: The Masquerade Swansong has a sense of fluidity in terms of multiple choices and endings but it truly lacks a sense of quality as well as gameplay needed to keep things fun and engaging even after ironing out the bugs.