Let's Play Vampire: the Masquerade: Bloodlines

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Let's Play Vampire: the Masquerade: Bloodlines

Post by Stilts » Mon Jul 20, 2009 9:27 pm

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Hello and welcome to my first attempt at a "Let's Play" thread. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, the Let's Play Archive sums it up rather well:
The concept of the Let's Play thread was born on the forums of Something Awful, where they became popular in early 2006 and were given their own sub-forum in March 2007. A Let's Play thread, often abbreviated as "LP", is a forum thread where one person plays through a game, recording his progress by video, screenshots, or both, and then posts this progress in updates in his Let's Play thread. Most of the time, the screenshots and videos are accompanied by informative, insightful, in-character or just plain funny commentary by the author, making Let's Play threads a great way to get to know the ins and outs of a game in a fun way, without having to go through the hassle of actually playing the [darn] thing.
My chosen victim--er...game...is Vampire: the Masquerade: Bloodlines (Colon Movie Film for Theaters), but that doesn't mean it's bad or even mediocre. Having played through it twice, I can assure you it's actually quite good. That said, it's one of those games that I think would be difficult for me to adequately convey my feelings about in a typical review format. Plus, there's some pretty kooky stuff in it (it was developed by the people behind Fallout 1 and Arcanum: Of Steamwork and Magick Obscura, after all), which makes it perfect to practice my--ahem--biting wit.

I pun because I care.

Anyway, I'm writing under the assumption that no one other than me has played (or ever will play) this game; however, I certainly do encourage you to play along if you'd like to. If you want to go the legal route, you can buy it on Steam for $20. If you don't want to spend money, well, I assume you already have an idea of where to go. As far as patches/mods go, all I did was use the last official patch (1.2) and then run the most recent unofficial patch (6.3, which can be found here). The Basic version of the unofficial patch works like a normal patch--fixing bugs and whatnot. I'm using the Plus version, which adds some gameplay modifications and cut content. Alright, with the boring technical stuff out of the way, let's get on to the first part...

Hey, Baby, You've Got A Sweet Stat Array

Character creation!

It's pretty basic, actually, so if you're used to Mass Effect or Oblivion you might be disappointed. Other than your stats, the only things you can change about your character are their gender and what vampire clan they belong to. Pretty much the only thing gender matters for is seduction dialogue options. The strange thing about VtMB is that every seduce-able female NPC can be seduced by both genders, but--to my knowledge--only one male character can be seduced by a male, giving female characters a distinct advantage in the realm of sweet-talking. On the other hand, pretty much everything seduction can do persuasion can do equally well, so choice of gender is still basically up to personal preference (or coin flip).

Now for the slightly more complicated decision--the clan. There are seven clans to choose from: Brujah, Gangrel, Malkavian, Toreador, Nosferatu, Tremere, and Ventrue. Each clan has three Disciplines they can activate that complement what they're good at. First up is...

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The Brujah. They're the vampire version of those kids in high school who slap the anarchy symbol on their backpacks. Their disciplines are Celerity, Potence, and Presence. Celerity, which gives you super-speed, is hands down one of the best skills in the game. At level five (the highest you can bump any of your stats), you can dodge bullets. Potence buffs your melee and brawl damage, which means you don't have to spend so many points on those stats; useful, but boring. Presence is a pretty awesome debuffing skill. Basically, everyone near your character is so awestruck by your stellar vampire bod' that they can't fight as well as they normally do.

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The Gangrel are...interesting. Protean gives a few different combat-oriented buffs in the first four levels that are then combined into one ability at the fifth level. Animalism seems to mix and match less efficient versions of disciplines from other clans. Fortitude increases all your "soak" feats (your defenses), which is pretty nice. The downside to all this is that the Gangrel only get really awesome when they're in a Frenzy, which is both unpredictable and dangerous (you literally lose control of your character's actions).

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Ah, yes, the Malkavians. They're crazy. Auspex is a pretty nice scouting skill, though it's not worth maxing. Dementia is pretty awesome during the first half of the game, as it can kill humans in one casting and opens up special dialogue options; unfortunately, supernatural creatures are resistant or immune to most effects of Dementia, which makes it virtually useless by the end of the game. Obfuscate, however, is right up there with Celerity. Why? It makes you invisible. And at fifth level, you can maintain your invisibility before, during, and after a stealth kill. It's worthless against bosses, but man does it make the entire rest of the game easier.

Oh, and the Malkavians get special dialogue options to match their insanity. Pretty much every choice is rewritten for them, and some are quite hilarious.

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The Toreador are the closest things to Stephanie Meyer's interpretation of vampires. They don't sparkle, but they sure are pretty. They have Auspex, Celerity, and Presence, which I've already talked about.

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The Tremere are vampire mages, who--instead of conjuring normal things like fireballs--can remotely draw the blood out of a victim's body. Among other things. Their unique discipline, Thaumaturgy, employs blood magic for a variety of offensive and defensive purposes. They also have Auspex and Dominate (which is just Dementia of a different flavor).

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Finally we have the Ventrue: the vampire bourgeoisie. They have Dominate, Fortitude, Presence, and start with an extra point in charisma. However, they're very picky about whose blood they drink. Only the high class for these guys.

You may have noticed I skipped the Nosferatu. That's because the Nosferatu actually look like monsters instead of humans who've been inside too long. They can't show their faces to humans, so my character would have to spend most of its time in the sewer system, which wouldn't exactly make for compelling gameplay. That's why I've disqualified them from the choices.

Yes, that's right. Choices. Occasionally I'll ask for some audience participation, and this is one of those times. You get to vote on 1) which gender I'll be and 2) which clan I'll be. Majority wins, and if there's a tie I'll roll a die to determine which suggestion I go with. Since this is a pretty important choice, I'll give people 24 hours to cast their votes. So, after...*checks watch*...8:25 PM MST, I'll choose the winner and plow through the game's tutorial.

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Re: Let's Play Vampire: the Masquerade: Bloodlines

Post by Kei » Tue Jul 21, 2009 12:16 am

My vote is for Malkavian female. Turn up the crazy and yank off the knob! :cat_w:
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Re: Let's Play Vampire: the Masquerade: Bloodlines

Post by Kagami » Tue Jul 21, 2009 1:25 am

Ryoko wrote:My vote is for Malkavian female. Turn up the crazy and yank off the knob! :cat_w:
aww you beat me to it...
I'd vote for a Malkavian because of the invisibility for stealth killing which can be immensely satisfying. And then there is the crazy bit, with rewritten dialogue options...sounds quirky as hell and heaps of fun. As for male/female, i'll leave that up to you...
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Re: Let's Play Vampire: the Masquerade: Bloodlines

Post by Stilts » Thu Jul 23, 2009 10:23 pm

Chapter 1

Well, the readers (all two of them) have spoken: a Malkavian female it is. I sort of expected that would happen, and it's actually a pretty good choice. There will be one very problematic boss, but we'll get to that later. First, let's take a look at my--er...Pandora's stat spread.

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Every character starts with one "dot" in every Attribute and Discipline. I don't really have to worry about the Physical and Talent categories until I'm about half-way through, so I spent most of my points on the subtler arts. In the Social category, only Charisma and Appearance matter; Manipulation is used for Haggle, which isn't worth spending any points on. All of the Mental attributes are useful, but Wits is particularly nice to stick points in early because it raises Defense. The one point in Talents went to Brawl, because it raises my chances of feeding during combat. Intimidation only raises Intimidate, which is just a reflavored Persuade that has far fewer uses; in other words, it sucks, so don't bother. In the Skills category, Security raises Lockpicking, which is incredibly useful; if I was playing any other character I'd add a point in Stealth, but Obfuscate eliminates the need for that. As for the Knowledges, you may be wondering why I put so many points in Scholarship. The short answer is that it's the only one worth bothering with. The long answer is that Finance (which raises Haggle) and Investigation (which increases the chance that items you can pick up will be highlighted by a little spout of stars...and that's all it does) are useless. Computer (which raises Hacking) is nice to have if you're not using any FAQs, but the passwords are always the same; so if you ARE using a FAQ, Hacking is completely useless, too. And yes, I'm going to use a password FAQ. I'd rather spend the valuable XP on stats that are actually fun to use.

Alright, with that gameplay-mechanic explanation out of the way, it's cutscene time!

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I'm pretty sure this is the only game I've played that started with wild sex. Yep, this game knows its audience.

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"Ma'am, I can't help but notice you're carrying some...ballistics. I'm gonna have to strip search you."

Bow chicka-wow wow!

*screen fades to black and our heroine gets bitten*

An indeterminate amount of time later...

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Okay, so now we can add "roleplaying" to the list of Pandora's fetishes. It's a little hard to see with this image, but one of her eyes is gold and the other is a silver-blue.

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Pandora's "Sire". You'll notice that's the character model for the Male Malkavian PC. This is just one of several times where the complete lack of NPC diversity will be quite clear.

Suddenly three other vampires burst into the room. One throws a stake and...

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It misses horribly.
...
Well, actually, it does hit, but the cutscene animations in this game tend to fall somewhere between passable and atrocious.

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Meanwhile, a Toreador goes after Pandora...

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But decides to grab some boob instead.
:cat_s: "Hands off, punk! I don't put out for just any undead."

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We wake up in a theater, of all places, surrounded by a veritable "who's who" of Los Angeles vampires.

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We'll meet of all these people soon enough. The important one right now is the Prince.

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No, not that Prince.

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Er...try again, please.

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There, that's the one. Yeah, turns out the male Malkavian didn't get permission to turn Pandora into a vamppire, and that's a big no-no. Mr. Scowl up there is a few sentences away from executing us.

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:cat_s: "So...I guess this means no second date?"

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The audience wishes they had brought popcorn.

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Somewhere, a JRPG developer became inexplicably aroused.

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"Heeeeeere's the wind-up..."

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"AND THAT HEAD IS OUTTA THERE! If he keeps this up, I wouldn't be surprised if he ends the day with six under par."

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:speechless: "Alright, I guess it's my turn. Has anyone seen my 3 Wood?"

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8) "That sword wasn't tournament legal! This whole golf game is a sham!"

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:cat_s: "JUST KISS ALREADY!"

Thankfully for Pandora, the Prince comes to the belated realization that vampire heads are quite a bit less aerodynamic than normal golf balls and cancels the short-lived Decapitation Cup. Pandora's unlife is saved.

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:cat_s: "Oh, thank Cain. This outfit would look terrible without me in it."

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:speechless: "Right, so...sorry about the whole public execution thing. Tell you what, I'll make you a deal. If you come work for me, I'll send you on a series of quests that net you hundreds of dollars and tons of XP."
:cat_s: "Tons of XP? I'm in!"
:speechless: "Excellent. Walk with me."

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:cat_s: "So, what do I do first?"
:speechless: "It's quite simple really. All you need to do is complete a simple tutorial mission."

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Intrigued by the possibility of min-maxing, Pandora follows the Prince to the highly-scripted environment she'll never see after this. And she apparently has a tramp stamp. Let's see...dingy motel, cheerleader cosplay, handcuffs and suggestively placed body art? I'm sensing a trend here.

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When I finally take control of Pandora, I'm treated to the wonderful scenery of...a back alley. Well, at least I didn't start facing a crate.

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Hey, it's Jack! Jack has some of the best (and cheesiest) lines in the game. This is also a good example of some of the specialized NPC dialogue you're treated to if you're a Malkavian.

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And this is a good example of the special dialogue options the Malkavian gets. Now we could skip Jack's lessons (aka the tutorial) at this point, but what fun is that?
:cat_s: "I will undertake your dark tutelage."

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First on the agenda: blood-sucking. Just sidle on up to an unsuspecting human, press the "F" key, and...

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Feed! By...uh...mounting the victim. Hey, Pandora, what was your job before you became a vampire?
:cat_s: "Public relations. Why?"
Er...just curious.

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After feeding on a human, he or she will go into a trance. Keep in mind that you can feed even if you're health and blood units are full, so you can use the trance strategically by feeding on witnesses you'd rather not have around. Yeah, you could just kill them, but that results in a loss of Humanity, which makes you more likely to Frenzy. We don't want to Frenzy.

The next lesson is on door opening.

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:cat_s: "Yay! I did it!"
Congratulations. You get a gold star.

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Then we do some jumping. Yeah, the first sections aren't exactly mentally exhausting.

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Hey, a lockpick! It might be handy if Pandora, the master of unlocking, takes it with her.

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Jack apparently uses his vampire-ninja teleportation skills to get here first. He directs Pandora's gaze to the view outside.

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The Sabbat--who provide all of the necessary gang violence in the vampire world--are attacking.

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They're stopped by Prince LaCroix's buster-sword-wielding henchman.

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You fools! He's clearly an invincible tutorial boss!

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Can't you see the resemblance?

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Not-Cloud ignores their attacks, of course, and--hey...what's he doing?

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HOLY CRAP!

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Tell me, what kind of person sees their enemy summon spectral wolves and then thinks, "Yeah, I can take him."

Well, other than Vin Diesel.

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Of course, the difference between the Sabbat and Vin Diesel is that the latter would have killed Not-Cloud with a teacup instead of getting disintegrated by a magic whirlwind.

Now thoroughly entertained, Pandora gets to work unlocking the next door.

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...and I get to stare at a bar for a few seconds. Exciting!

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HOW DOES HE KEEP DOING THAT?!

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In order to continue, Pandora needs to get the computer password to unlock the safe that contains the keycard. We could do this the normal way by hacking...

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...or we could just read it off this conveniently placed notepad. Yeah...

Pandora takes the key and heads outside.

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Oh, look. A Sabbat welcoming party.

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Jack takes care of one with his vampire-ninja...uh...wrestling skills...

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...and sends the other one flying with a FALCON PUUUUUNCH!

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After feeding on a hobo to cure her bullet wounds, Pandora sneaks into the next area...

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...past the Sabbat on patrol...

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...and into the--WHAT THE HECK, JACK!

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Yeah, sure. Equip my fists. That makes sense. O_o

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Anyway, time to kill that Sabbat. I'll just sneak up behind him, and--

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Okay, that didn't work so well.

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Thankfully, our brave prosti--I mean, PR practitioner is quite a bit tougher than she looks. After killing the Sabbat, she gets her first new weapon: the tire iron.

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Continuing on, she finds a Sabbat to try it out on.

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Now that was fun.

The next areas teache me how to use Pandora's Disciplines.

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Auspex!

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Obfuscate!

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Hysteria! (One of the Dementia abilities)

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The ability to distract stupid people with small, thrown objects!

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Pandora gets her first gun and learns why we exclusively use melee weapons until we get our firearms feat to at least 4. The top picture shows the maximum hit variation. The bottom pictures shows the minimum. Yeah, it's not very accurate.

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Heading on up a nearby elevator, Pandora meets a human opponent...who tries to hit her with a baseball bat. His incompetence is mildly adorable.

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Well, I was aiming for his chest, but I guess hitting his ankle works just as well.

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With the enemy dispatched, the game decides now is a good time to explain what the colored dialogue options stand for. Thanks, totally-out-of-place text box!

And hey, that's the end of the tutorial! That was a lot longer than I expected, and I promise I'll keep the posts shorter from now on. Anyway, the next chapter will contain seduction, Pandora's very first sidequest and mass slaughter. Look forward to it!

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