Tacticular Cancer: We'll have your balls

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Revisiting VtM: Bloodlines

Discussion in 'General RPG Discussion' started by Prime Junta, Apr 17, 2016.

  1. Prime Juntagender: ⚧ Arcane

    Prime Junta
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    So I noticed that VtM: Bloodlines was 75% off on Steam, and ended up re-buying it, installing Wesp's patch (with the restorations), and firing it up again. I played it when it came out but don't recall revisiting it since; I'm not even sure where the DVD is anymore. This thread has on-the-fly impressions of it. It's not a let's-play; it's a good deal more general than that.

    I will try to mark spoilers with spoiler tags, apologies in advance if I forget.

    "Wow this character creation is... streamlined"

    I roll up a Tremere, put a few pips in random places, and do a test run. Notice when levelling up it costs more XP to buy higher ranks. Realise it was dumb to distribute my pips between things rather than put them all in one thing, and also I decide I don't want to be a Tremere after all, so I try again with a Brujah. Decide I'm gonna play as a good rebellious anarchist -- kind to the oppressed, giving the finger to the powerful. Give her the Academic background, pump Intimidation and Persuasion, put a pip into Potence figuring that since I don't intend to pump Strength much that'll come in handy. And set off again.

    "Wow this looks and sounds pretty good"

    The opening cinematic sequence is really good. Voice acting is top notch, there's great narrative tension, and it's filmed and cut like somebody actually knows what they're doing. The graphics have aged well -- it looks more stylised than outdated, the occasional low-res texture and all. The lighting and colour palette help a lot.

    Tutorial is pretty cool too. Jack's a hoot. Lot of reactivity in the tutorial -- there were material differences between my first autistic Tremere and my second socially-gifted intimidating Brujah.

    (But, the second time around -- yeah I like to restart -- I notice I can't skip it. Bleh.)

    "Wow is this floaty"

    Movement feels terrible and (in third-person view) looks awful too. It's like I'm driving a hovercraft. Combat is just about as bad as I remembered it; fire up Potence and click madly to see the enemies go down. In fact it's so bad that for a bit I feel like I just can't put up with this. Then I figure out I can just run up to people, hit FFFFFFF and drink them dry, or sneak up on them to stealth-kill them, and decide I'm gonna focus on brawling and stealth so I can do that and avoid the whiffing/popamoling as much as possible.

    "Holy shit this writing is fantastic"

    No really it is. I can't think of any cRPG with dialog that flows as beautifully as this. Even bit players are fully characterised, have loads of personality, and talk ... naturally. There's no typical "let me tell you about my mother" RPG-ey bullshit. There are also lovely little twists that almost, but not quite, break the fourth wall -- like the one guy named "E", which is also the key you press to talk to people, and that piece of advice from the spaced-out thin-blood with the accent. (That voice and accent though. Where have I heard it before?)

    The lore-dumping in the intro was a bit heavy but it was comparatively well-executed and now that it's out of the way, things are going even better.

    Also, Deb of Night is rad.

    Just hit a minor lore inconsistency (unless I'm missing something):

    Show Spoiler

    Thin-bloods aren't supposed to be able to sire; that's what makes them thin-bloods. Yet Lily sired E, even though Lily is by her admission, and according to her German sire, also a thin-blood. What's the deal with that? Is she just confused, and not a thin-blood? If so, then how come her sire just dumped her there?


    All of it is really nicely voice-acted. The facial animations are great too, they've aged extremely well, and in fact I find the somewhat low-fi facial animations easier to relate to than newer, more realistic ones which are deeper in Uncanny Valley.

    "Why are all these ladies walking around in their underwear?"

    Yeah, that's a bit jarring. It also lessens the impact from where it counts: nothing is as un-sexy as a nudist colony, and VtM:B is a bit too far in that direction. Jeanette for example would make a much stronger impression if there weren't all those other ladies walking around wearing next to nothing.

    "Is this really going to be this easy all the way through?"

    So far, it's been... really easy. I've done a bunch of stuff in the first hub and am about to head off on a mission for Therese. There have been a few closed doors but nothing to stop me from easily reaching my objectives. Lots of dialog checks for Intimidate and Persuade with pretty neat results, some hacking. The only combat I've encountered so far was really really easy, and I haven't built up my combat skills much at all (picked the Academic background which dilutes some of the Brujah's built-in combat skills.)

    We'll see how it goes later on. I notice a tendency to hoard XP just in case, trying to fight that actually.

    So far... it's really good actually. The character development is a bit too streamlined for my taste and the moment-to-moment gameplay is frankly bad, but I find that easy to forgive because of the great writing, numerous skill checks (skill checks everywhere!), and sound and visual design that's aged surprisingly well.

    To be continued...
     
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  2. Make America Great Again Tacgnolgender: ⚧ Arcane Patron

    Tacgnol
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    They made really good use of the Source engine's facial expression feature. It added a lot to the dialogues.

    It's a shame they had to use a really untested version of the engine.
     
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  3. Athelasgender: ⚧ Arcane

    Athelas
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    Don't worry, there'll be plenty of combat later for you to benefit from taking those skills. :greatjob:
    Show Spoiler
    :negative:


    Hoarding XP is actually sensible, with the way skill books work (they become useless once your skill exceeds a certain level). Not that it's necessary from a difficulty standpoint.
     
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  4. ArchAngelgender: ⚧ Magister

    ArchAngel
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    Let me just leave this.. in how many games do you still remember a random black street merchant 10 years later.. they made so many characters memorable in this game!
     
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  5. Eirikurgender: ⚧ Arcane Patron

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    I'm still puzzled by the sudden shift in your vernacular when you speak with Regent Strauss. Seems so out-of-place to use phrases like "dude that's WACK", "gotta cruise, see ya", and "uh thanks DAD" when speaking with him in particular, and nobody else. Plus referring to him (one of the most formal and highly ranked vampires you'll meet) as "Max".


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  6. Prime Juntagender: ⚧ Arcane

    Prime Junta
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    Was talking about the opening cinematic.

    LOL at the Chinese vampire BTW. Looks like I do need to put some points into combat, cuz the twitch part really is awful...

    Edit: okay LOL I didn't. Beath him by spamming Blood Heal and Potence and punching, plus used a blood bag. But man that was terribad.
     
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  7. ArchAngelgender: ⚧ Magister

    ArchAngel
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    Even with combat in Bloodline not being the best I still preferred it to twicher 2 and 3 which consist of rolling on the ground half the time.
     
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  8. Eirikurgender: ⚧ Arcane Patron

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    If you're rolling all the time in W3 you're being inefficient. The best approach is to use dodging against monsters and parrying/dodging against humans. I mostly just roll when I'm becoming surrounded, and when battling bosses who use area effect attacks. Besides, your energy doesn't regenerate while rolling, but it does while dodging.
     
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  9. ZagorTeNejgender: ⚧ Arcane

    ZagorTeNej
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    Complaints about Bloodlines combat, movement, feel etc. are common but personally it never bothered me, I've always felt it plays OK for an ARPG, has interesting powers that allow for different builds and thankfully no idiotic rolling (my pet peeve with modern ARPGs). Of course if melee combat annoys you, it's best to go with guns (later on atleast when Bloodbuff and rudimentary melee skills aren't enough), aside from the starting peashooter they're very strong (easily stronger than melee in the 2nd half of the game and quite OP by the end game especially when you have Celerity), the downside is that they drain your money reserves but it's not like you have much else to spend it on anyway.

    Brujah are ok but very straightforward, never found them terribly interesting to play. Tremere are much better IMO, have interesting powers (especially blood magic, discipline unique to them), get the unique pad/haven, I like how both male and female models look with different clothing and Strauss is fucking awesome. Still as far as I'm concerned, you haven't truly experienced Bloodlines until you beat the game with every clan (or atleast with Malkavian and Nosferatu + one of the regular clans).

    Sure the game aged well visually (despite all the glitches because Troika worked with an unfinished source engine and were rushed by Activision vultures) but so did any game from that period with mid to high production values (Riddick, Doom 3, Half-Life 2, Far Cry, Crisis etc.). The graphics race stagnated around that time, when multiplatform games were slowly becoming the norm, not to mention that Bloodlines has excellent art direction which is the most important thing for game's visuals to age well.

    Yeah, the writing in the game flows naturally (which is probably the one crucial thing to nail when it comes to video games) which aided by excellent voice acting and facial animations make nearly every character memorable. The atmosphere is pretty unique with its urban horror style and not shying away from showcasing the dark, sleazy parts of LA which really fit with the whole vampires being the undead predators, walking husks struggling to retain some traces of their lost humanity theme. It really stands out from the vanilla, sunshine and rainbows kumbayah settings of today.
     
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  10. Jedi Exilegender: ⚧ Arcane Patron

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    Yeah, it's certainly overpowered.
     
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  11. ZagorTeNejgender: ⚧ Arcane

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    Strange, you should be able to skip the intro cinematic with Wesp's Plus Patch (as long as you've watched it once). Is there a skip intro check in your character sheet when you're starting a new game?
     
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  12. ZagorTeNejgender: ⚧ Arcane

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    Yeah, it's especially annoying when you're playing as a Ventrue or Tremere, feels really out of character. It was probably an oversight, the game was rushed out of the door afterall.
     
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  13. Prime Juntagender: ⚧ Arcane

    Prime Junta
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    Didn't check, just hit Esc when it started. If so, good on Wesp. :thumbsup:

    -- I did play it to death back when it came out. I beat it with Nosferatu, Toreador, Tremere, Malkavian, and Gangrel at least. Couldn't abide Ventrue so not with that. Don't remember playing far as Brujah. I remember digging Tremere which is why it was my first pick, switched to Brujah because I don't remember beating the game with that and figured it might be different.

    Another thing I'm digging by the way is the environmental storytelling and the way the world hangs together. Following up on quests just feels so logical and natural. Need some morphine, go look for it at the first aid clinic. Come across a bail bond, look for a bail bondsman. Come across a driver's license, remember that said bail bondsman had a handy crime-puter where you can look stuff like this up. And so on. No handholding, no quest compass, just a world where shit works like you'd expect it to work.
     
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  14. Matt with a full stop at the endgender: ⚧ Arcane Patron

    Matt with a full stop at the end
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    Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    One of the things I like about Bloodlines is just when it feels like it is winding down (Hollywood), you suddenly get to do more interesting things. Hollywood and Chinatown were horrendously buggy the first time I played and I missed most of the optional quests, but playing through again with the unofficial patch, it was a much more enjoyable experience. And yeah, Wesp is a bro.
     
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  16. Make America Great Again Rogueygender: ⚧ Arcane Sawyerite Sawyerist Sawyer's Bride No Fun Allowed

    Roguey
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    White Wolf didn't call it the storytelling system for nothing. It's deliberately not crunchy so it doesn't get in the way of the storytelling.

    Well, they're prostitutes and LA trash.

    Games are supposed to start out easy. :smug: Combat doesn't get demanding until Chinatown when you're practically done but man does it annoy people with bad builds. Some people will claim it starts with the Hollywood sewers but to be honest I never found that difficult, just a boring combat crawl that takes about 20 minutes if you do it all at once.
     
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  17. Prime Juntagender: ⚧ Arcane

    Prime Junta
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    Okay, Ocean House. Won all the awards for level design and all that. I'm a bit ambivalent about this one actually. Yes it was just as spooky as I remembered it, but the "connect the dots" design shines through a bit much. It is ultimately a corridor -- there's very little room for exploration actually, as each step in it opens up the next step. Also I thought the newspapers left lying around at strategic points was a bit of a lazy way to tell the story, although off-hand I can't think of a better one.

    I.e., it was a good area, but not so good it'd win any awards today IMO.

    Then the blood guardian fight? Ugh I hate the combat. Hate hate hate. I haven't invested any points in either melee or brawlling yet; I used the sword I got from the Cathayan and it was clearly more effective than unarmed, even with the extra point I had in it from being Brujah. So it looks like melee is the way to go after all.

    I think I'd told a few too many fuck-yous to Therese and Jeanette to be able to resolve their dispute in the "best" way. That was some dark stuff right there, I didn't remember it was so dark. Reloaded a few times to try it, but no dice. Ended up siding with Jeanette of course.
     
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  18. Starwarsgender: ⚧ Arcane

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    I think the point about solving things logically (going to the hospital to get morphine and so on) is something that always makes me want to have RPGs set in the real world, or semi-real world as in Bloodlines. I mean, you don't have to toss that logical thinking out just because it's fantasy (Arcanum had those bits where you go research old newspapers for example, loved that), but I believe those solutions would just suggest themselves easier to designers if they're working with "their own world" so to speak. I love that in Bloodlines, even though it's obviously fantasy and sort of "exaggerated reality" (though I've never been to LA so maybe it is indeed very realistic, heh), it's very easy to latch on to.

    And yeah, Ocean House was scary the first time but when you replay it, it's just a really weak level with nothing to *do* other than run from point A to point B to point C.
     
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  19. Carriongender: ⚧ Arcane Patron

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    The Ocean House suffers from the fact that you never really feel vulnerable, which makes it feel more like just an homage to certain horror movies rather than something that's scary in itself. Quite early on you realize that it's just a scripted ride of scares, and at that point all sense of horror flies straight out of the window.

    The most underwhelming aspect of Bloodlines for me is that Santa Monica starts out as a really promising tutorial, which has a number of nice little quests that allow you to do things in different ways, through combat or stealth or even diplomacy. The Ocean House is kind of an anomaly in this context, but it's still kind of fun, so you don't mind. The early parts of the game manage to make you think something along the lines of "this game is going to be so good when it finally gets going". Then you realize that it isn't actually a tutorial at all but more or less the best the game has to offer in this regard, as you only get a handful of quests with a similar amount of freedom later on until you hit the endgame, which is... well, you know what the endgame is like. The game of course has other strengths, like pretty much the best first-person dialogue in any game ever, but I started resenting it a bit after it gave me those nice Deus Ex vibes early on and then terribly let me down soon afterwards.
     
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  20. Make America Great Again Rogueygender: ⚧ Arcane Sawyerite Sawyerist Sawyer's Bride No Fun Allowed

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    The Ocean House was the "Gone Home/Firewatch/walking sim" of its time. There's no gameplay.

    Looks like the plus patch breaks the intended progression (a sword doesn't drop in the base game). It's supposed to go unarmed>melee (downtown)>guns (can start in Hollywood but don't get great until after a certain point in Chinatown)
     
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  21. ZagorTeNejgender: ⚧ Arcane

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    Well you still can't interrupt it once it starts I think, you just check the "skip intro" box during character creation screen and it skips to tutorial automatically.

    I'm shocked ;). Not to worry though, you haven't missed much, they have little in terms of clan-specific dialogue, Dominate dialogue options are pretty boring compared to Dementation, Fortitude makes you a walking Terminator if you heavily invest in it, not being able to feed on rats makes a certain section of the game more challenging and that's about it, well they also have great looking trenchcoats though if you wanna larp JC Denton or something.

    Personally, the clan I was disappointed the most with was Gangrel. Animalism is decent but their defining feature which is supposed to be Protean is pretty underwhelming in the game, claw attacks are just clunky, slow and unwieldy (especially in the War form).

    Oh yes, unfortunately such quests dry up by the last third of the game but it is what it is. Santa Monica is probably the best in terms of quest design.

    Kinda agree, it's still decently atmospheric and creepy but it loses it's novelty quickly on subsequent playthroughs (unlike Grout's mansion for example which I'll never get bored of, one of the best characters in the game despite never meeting him in the flesh). It's too scripted and linear with boring jump scares and flying dishes and lamps. Level design was never Bloodlines forte anyway by any stretch of imagination, it pales compared to other FPS/RPG hybrids like Deus Ex and I'd say even System Shock.

    That said, today's gaming awards are meaningless (if they ever had any value in the first place) and level design on the whole is a lost art (except in rare exceptions like Dishonored) so it's a moot point how it compares to modern junk.

    Blood Guardian is one of the most annoying fights in the game considering how early it takes place, it was much easier before Wesp tinkered with it, he removed the aggravated damage but increased damage output to compensate which made the fight harder.

    Unarmed is also nerfed in patch plus as it was considerably more powerful than nearly all available early weapons which didn't make much sense. It effectively removed it as a weapon choice compared to melee and guns but I'm fine with that personally, it still has it's uses as feeding during combat depends on it.


    You have to pretty much kiss both of their asses on every occasion and pass a persuasion check in the end to get the optimal outcome of the quest (and yes the quest overall is very morbid, dark, fitting for the game) but it hardly matters on the whole, no need to powergame in Bloodlines.
     
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  22. ZagorTeNejgender: ⚧ Arcane

    ZagorTeNej
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    Doesn't matter, still could have been executed better. Compare it to Chateau DuClare in Deus Ex for example.

    You also get Fire Axe very early (in the Ocean House) in the plus patch, definitely disrupts the :balance:.

    That said, you're wrong about guns. Starting pistol is weak (though serviceable despite its lousy accuracy) but Shotgun already packs a nice punch and has a knockback effect, Glock and Braddock you get in Downtown are comparable to Fire Axe and once you reach Holywood and get your hands on Colt Anaconda/Magnum and semi-auto Shotgun they're just plain better, later on Desert Eagle, Steyr Aug and Flamethrower leave melee in the dust.
     
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  23. Make America Great Again Rogueygender: ⚧ Arcane Sawyerite Sawyerist Sawyer's Bride No Fun Allowed

    Roguey
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    As I recall, that actually had gameplay. You had to search for things and find a way to get to where you wanted to go and in the end you have enemies to fight/sneak past. In the hotel, all you have to do is just keep walking.

    The accuracy on the guns in Santa Montica and Downtown is so bad that they're not worth using. The anaconda is the first good gun, yes, but not immediately necessary since the sledgehammer can also carry you through the Hollywood sewers (and you pretty much have to use it against the gargoyle).
     
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  24. Liluragender: ⚧ Arcane

    Lilura
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    Indeed, though this would require knowledge on how to build your character, which scrubs don't possess (hence their dumb viewpoints).
     
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  25. Make America Great Again Rogueygender: ⚧ Arcane Sawyerite Sawyerist Sawyer's Bride No Fun Allowed

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