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Vampire: The Masquerade Swansong on PC
Before playing Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong, my experience with nosferatu mostly came down to making fun of Twilight and having fun watching What We Do In the Shadows. After about 20 hours with the game, though, I was really impressed with how it managed to dominate my attention.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong takes place over the course of three nights in Boston in 2019. The Boston Court of vampires continues to grow its powers, now under the control of a new Prince, Hazel Iverson.
Right as the game starts, The Prince’s kingdom is under attack, and it is up to three characters to save it: Bazory, Leysha, and Emem. Each of these characters is controlled separately, experiencing their own special overlapping stories and boasting just as unique powers.
Bazory is a veteran of the Court, and is able to investigate and see through the nature of situations that the other two can’t, making him the perfect detective. Emem can use an ability that lets her teleport from place to pace, giving her routes and vantages even some of the most skilled Kindred can’t access.
Leysha is arguably the most powerful of the three, as she not only has the ability to go invisible and copy human disguises but also has powerful visions. More importantly, this character has one thing that the others don’t: the most adorable daughter ever, Halsey, AKA Suger Fangs.
As soon as the two are introduced, you can’t help but adore their chemistry. Whether they are playing Riddles with one another, snooping around invisibly, or making sure they’re keeping their beasts tamed, every interaction between this mother-daughter duo made me want more. The relationship between these two is adorable and easily makes for the best narrative of the three, as the writers did a really good job at conveying the character’s strong bonds amid conflict.
Without spoiling anything, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief when I was successfully able to overcome their difficult situation and reunite them in the end. That isn’t to say that the other stories aren’t enthralling either, as each features so many different and interesting dialogue choices, subtext, and lore that are really rewarding to find.
The choice to split the game between three characters works out surprisingly well from a pacing and structure standpoint. As each one has their own mission to go on simultaneously, you get to see different reactions to the events that are going on from each of their perspectives. This is easily one of the game’s coolest aspects, as you’ll occasionally find yourself in situations where all three characters are unknowingly affecting each other with their actions, and it’s fun to see how it all plays out.
While Bazory may have had an easier time because he set out a certain diversion, Leysha now has to divert time and energy to avoid said diversion instead of just having an easy route. Getting to go back and forth between these characters throughout also provides some much-needed nuance in between sections.
As much as I enjoy solving thought-based puzzles with Emem as she tries to escape prison and recover her memories, it is nice to know that Bazory’s section will be based more on detective work. On top of that, having three different narratives going on at once makes for an interesting payoff in regards to character development as well.
With one character, I wanted them to better themselves and try and do the right thing, as it seemed to fit their story arc a bit better. With another, I wanted to cause absolute chaos, which, again, seemed right based on the harrowing situations they were put through throughout the course of the game. Getting to have these different play styles and developments made it feel like I was playing multiple games at once, resulting in a satisfying experience.
Regardless of who you’re controlling, just about every scene in Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong features a treasure trove of secrets and alternate ways of approaching things to be found. While you may be searching to find out who killed one of your people, searching around and finding enough clues will uncover information that isn’t on your to-do list.
For example, simply following the goals that are given doesn’t let Bazory find the decapitated head that is located in the locked dumpsters that a Thin Blood was hiding. He also wouldn’t have been able to find out there was a Ghoul on the police force without using his unique skills.
Alongside each character’s unique skill, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong also lets players invest points into universal traits and distinct upgrades too. The next time you play as that character, you can invest those skill points into areas like Rhetoric or Intimidation. This will allow them to pass certain skill checks and investigate certain leads they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
The crux is that using these either decreases Willpower or increases Hunger. Willpower is what is necessary to complete skill checks, while Hunger is used to perform each character’s unique skill or pass specific dialogue checks. Running out of either can be deadly in specific situations, so it is a balancing act when it comes to knowing when to use each vs when to save them for an interaction that might be more difficult.
Since each character has their own identities and scenes, how you invest the skill points you earn can vary, allowing you to experiment with how you think each one would approach scenarios. Skill points are unlocked by doing well and completing hidden objectives throughout each level.
What is nice is that every scene ends with letting you know what you succeeded in, what was missed, alternate routes, and what you failed in. Combine this with all of the different dialogues, branching narratives, and important decisions that can be made, and it goes without saying that Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong boasts a ton of replayability.
Even on my first playthrough, I couldn’t help but replay levels multiple times to explore things that I’d missed or take a different approach to situations I wasn’t pleased with the outcome of. Despite all the replayability that the game boasts, though, there are also a few pretty significant issues that pop up in this regard.
The first is that the game only lets you skip through dialogue and cutscenes after you’ve played through the scene all the way once. This means that it is impossible to skip through any of the conversations or situations if you’re playing it for the first time or are restarting the scenario. This seems like something that wasn’t entirely necessary and is definitely a bit frustrating.
The fact that there isn’t a new game plus for Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is also a huge bummer. I was super excited to go back and try and perfect every scenario with Bazory, Leysha, and Emem immediately, but the game doesn’t offer that as a reward, and it killed my want to replay it for fun – at least for now.
Lastly, it’s really odd that there isn’t a manual save option. I love how each scenario gives the player a Hitman-like ability to explore, but not having the chance to explore and try out new things by save scumming was a letdown.
Despite these issues, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong was a really fun experience. An interesting plot, creative gameplay system, bevy of choices, and three distinct, cool main characters, each with their own interesting personalities and stories, made for one hell of a satisfying narrative feast.
If you’re looking for a solid, story-driven adventure, then Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is a must-play in 2022, even if you haven’t played the original.
Reviewer: Andrew McMahon | Award: Editor’s Choice | Copy provided by Publisher.
- Massive amount of choices and replaybility.
- Three likable and unique main characters.
- Fun dialogue system that makes for an interesting gameplay loop.
- Enthralling narrative for veterans and newcomers of the series alike.
- Sugar Fangs
- No new game plus or manual saves.
- Can’t skip dialogue until you’ve beaten a sequence all the way through at least once.
May 19, 2022
Big Bad Wolf Studio
Nacon, BIGBEN INTERACTIVE
PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, & PC