Vampire: The Masquerade is a series that has enthralled audiences with the different types of games it has made up in the last 22 years. However, for 15 of those years, the IP laid untouched like a sleeping vampire in its tomb. This is the first 3D role-playing game from Vampire: The Masquerade since Bloodlines was released in 2004.
This game comes shortly after Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodhunt was released earlier this year. Bloodhunt is a battle royale game inspired by the World of Darkness video games. While it’s also a 3D game, it’s more focused on action and using the cool powers that the vampires have. Swansong is not that or anything else that has come out of this series before.
The game drops a bunch of exposition for the first hour of the game but remains pretty constant throughout. Players are forced to learn every single piece of slang if they’re expected to understand half the conversations that are happening. While the player is trying to figure out what everyone is saying, they likely miss out on some of the narratives.
For a 3D game, there is a lot of reading in the menus. Each character has their entire backstory written out in the information part of the game. Every character has an extensive backstory where they conflict in ways you’ve only briefly been told about.
It’s overwhelming to be overloaded with so much information early in the game. There’s no hope that the player will remember the tiny details when they meet them later. Instead, the player must constantly refer back to the information section to consult the list of characters and a hundred other important facts.
The game didn’t have to be this way, the developers just chose a story and conflict that is so complicated that it feels like players are being thrown into the deep end of this world. Those familiar with the whole series are likely happy with the characters and references, but it doesn’t do much for new players who have never been in this world before.
That doesn’t mean the world is uninviting, as there is enough drama that the player can easily become interested with each new level. The dark and dismal world never fails to bring a surprised laugh, even if those moments are few. The characters are interesting enough, even if their backstories sometimes outweigh more than what they’re doing in this story.
Something else that feels like a lot to deal with is the level of menus that players have to navigate through. In addition to that, the tutorials just dump all the information in your lap and expect you to remember it through the rest of the game. This is okay with some more understandable mechanics, but complicated actions take some practice.
This does little to get the player’s attention, with most of the conversation options being on par with the worst moments of games like L.A. Noire. The puzzles in this game are often poorly explained, so the player has no choice but to fumble around and hope they luck into the right answer. There’s one specific puzzle with rotating discs that can easily be misunderstood and frustrate the player.
The voice acting in Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong ranges from pretty good to being downright grating at times. Some of the character’s audio seems quiet, while others require you to turn down your speakers. This wouldn’t be the worst thing, but paired with the mouth animations, it is extremely distracting from the game.
As the three protagonists, the player engages with the story without any warmup or other introduction. Because of that, they have no understanding of why the vampire world must be protected, just that it’s threatened. This lack of proper intro prevents the player from being fully invested when they’re investigating a location or watching a cut scene.
While each character is unique, they don’t offer much outside of their individual aesthetics. Using their individual powers is cool, but you’re only allowed to play with them in very strict confines. The game is very structured and linear, with no exploration outside of your specific investigations.
These investigations are fun for the most part, walking around crime scenes looking for clues and hiding evidence. Some of the information is pieced together in really interesting ways, and the player doesn’t have to think hard about where to find the answers they need. However, there is always at least one hidden objective per level that the player is bound to miss on their first playthrough.
While there is plenty of viscera in Swansong, players won’t actually fight at all. There’s no combat system as players will need to handle things verbally to keep from attracting attention. While the game doesn’t let players fight, they still have to drink blood from victims. But first, they have to find a secluded area where they can hide the victim after they drain them.
The mechanics for drinking blood are interesting, with the player choosing how much they want to take. By holding for half a second too long, the player can easily drain their victim of blood and make other people more suspicious of you and other vampires. While this suspicions meter is a core mechanic, it’s hard to notice its actual impact on the game’s difficulty.
Players who are looking for something like Bloodhunt that offers roleplaying in addition to an action-packed game will likely be disappointed. Fans of detective games like Sherlock Holmes and L.A. Noire will likely enjoy the story and mechanics that Swansong has. Just be prepared to be disappointed when you can’t punch someone when they get out of line.
The Final Word
Overall, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong feels like something that might’ve been released five years ago when it would be hailed as something special. However, it doesn’t do anything new besides telling a story that is already too complicated by the time players first take on a role. The mechanics are tightly contained, never allowing the player to fully explore the better parts of this game.
Try Hard Guides was provided with a PC review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website!