Directly inspired by the world of paper role-playing games, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong invites us to follow the adventures of three vampires, gathered in the heart of Boston to resolve a crisis situation. Did this narrative RPG satisfy our thirst for action? Find out with our review of this game by Nacon and Big Bad Wolf Studio.
Code Red in Boston
It was a simple ceremony. A party to celebrate the reunification of the Boston Camarilla. However, everything quickly turned sour, transforming this joyful event into a real bloodbath. How could things have gotten so bad?
The Red Code, synonymous with alert, has been launched to all creatures of the night in Boston. Our story begins as the vampires come together out of sight to deal with this crisis. The mystery hangs over these dark events, and it is up to you to solve it! Through three main characters, you will survey different places related to the investigation in order to disentangle the true from the false, and bring out what really happened that night.
Successively, you will thus alternate between the points of view of the flamboyant Emem, the distinguished Galeb and the tormented Leysha. Each character has their own story, both our protagonists and the other vampires of the Dark World. If you can access it from your “Boston” menu, the veil on certain elements of their past will also be lifted as the adventure progresses, which will continue to enrich the plot… for our greatest pleasure.
Their task will however prove to be much more complex than it seemed, as the underside of the World of Darkness conceals terrible secrets…
… But we won’t tell you more. History is the heart of Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong, and discovering it for yourself will only make this experience more successful. Like a puzzle that comes together little by little, the game’s plot will gradually gain in meaning, until it takes the form of a magnificent painting.
We could criticize a rather slow implementation, with longer moments and much less thrilling than others. However, the universe of Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong fascinates. Besides the main plot, each character is finely crafted and has its own identity. Their diversity is a great pleasure to see, whether physically or psychologically. The game thus highlights unique individuals, with whom the player will certainly bond in one way or another.
Between storytelling and RPG, every choice counts
Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong puts forward an original concept, which works wonderfully. In this game, you will frequently alternate between phases of investigation, brief moments of action to be taken, as well as phases of dialogue with the other characters. If we had to identify one great quality, it is the feeling of freedom. Depending on what you decide to do or not, the plot could take a completely different turn.
Thereby, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is an experience that will rarely be the same for everyone. To the Life is Strange, multiple roads will open up to the player, leading them to different endings based on their past interactions and decisions. The game therefore has a very good replayability, increased by the presence of a summary at the end of each scene played. Will you be able to discover the fifteen different endings of Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong ?
But if this narrative adventure is particularly original, it is thanks to the RPG elements that it highlights, in particular thanks to its skill system. At the end of each scene, your characters will earn experience points to distribute among different talents. Between Persuasion, Security or Deduction, you can choose the weapons of choice for each protagonist in order to solve the mysteries of the Dark World.
The character sheets and their disciplines are clear, well organized, we always know what improvement can concretely bring us in game. Most of the interaction choices will display the level of your mastery of certain skills, indicating if this you wish to undertake is accessible to you or not. On this point, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansongis once again a resounding success.
For each action carried out, you will use different types of points. Using a skill will cause you to lose Willpower, while using your vampire powers will cause you to gain Hunger. A lack of Willpower can block your interactions and their success, but too much Hunger can quickly become dangerous for your character. If he wants to regain his health, he will have to “feed” somewhere, and discreetly so as not to increase the suspicion that weighs on you…
Objects can also help you manage these gauges, to be used carefully according to your needs. Finally, be aware that some of your actions may earn your characters Traits or Talents. It can just as well be a bonus as a penalty, so be careful!
The gameplay thus constantly encourages you to reflect on your actions. Use your assets wisely, and you will undoubtedly succeed in bringing to light the terrible affairs surrounding this nocturnal ceremony.
An immersive but perfectible atmosphere
To accompany the rich narration of Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong, an atmosphere worthy of the name is necessary. The bet here is rather successful, with the presence of elaborate decorations, which we will appreciate digging into every nook and cranny. The unique character of the characters is also well supported, with an interesting character design for each of them. From a simple glance, we can guess the diva side of Emem, or even the nobility of Galeb.
Where the graphic aspect fails, however, is in its technique and its animations, the big black spot of this narrative RPG. Several small bugs are encountered here and there, at times breaking the immersion quite radically. Crazy hair textures, slight teleports, models that haven’t fully finished loading… Without harming the gameplay, these few inconveniences can however cool. The same goes for the expressions displayed by the characters, which deserve to be more striking and much less rigid to stick with the intensity of the story.
We can, however, salute an intoxicating soundtrack. The OST of Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong truly transports us into his universe, with several themes that will try to mark you during your progress.
An easy-to-access narrative experience
If we were to point out one of the great strengths of Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong, it is its accessibility. Whether you are a complete neophyte of the “Dark World” or a big fan of the role-playing game universe, you will never be lost or drowned in a flood of information. To better understand the lore, all you need to do is be patient, don’t rush the scenes, and take the time to study the descriptions of each term listed.
During dialogues, you can access your menu at any time. So if what the characters are saying seems totally incomprehensible to you, don’t panic! A short passage in the Codex will refresh your memory or teach you new concepts, enough to regain control over the context. The few so-called Confrontation phases, decisive for the turn of the story, also generally give you the right to make mistakes. In the worst case, you can restart each scene at your leisure, which will allow you to try the riskiest options.
On the gameplay side, the handling is not very complicated either. Its experience point system is accessible to novices of the genre, as are the dialogue and exploration phases. Even the few QTEs shouldn’t be a problem, as they go straight to the point. We can also highlight the presence of elements, such as Auspex (a power stimulating your five senses), to guide you through your objectives. Their use will not be without cost, but you will never be completely lost in the process to follow to progress.
Our final opinion
Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is a great introduction to the world of paper role-playing games. Thanks to a gripping story, whose scenario depends on each of our actions, we feel constantly involved in its rich universe. It is pleasant to see the evolution of the characters, the turn that the plot takes, but also to have the constant feeling of playing a full role in it.
If the technicality of the graphics would aim to be refined, the atmosphere is nonetheless very pretty. Many gameplay elements, which can be improved with experience points, also constantly enrich your progress. Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is thus an experience worth trying, if only to follow the thrilling adventures of Emem, Galeb and Leysha.
Strong points :
- A fascinating storyline, with multiple twists
- A simple and accessible understanding of his universe
- Interesting RPG and investigation mechanics
- A charming overall in-game atmosphere
Weak points :
- A certain lack of technique
- The animation and the expressions of the characters, whose rigidity can break the immersion
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