Saturday, December 10, 2016

V:tM - Bloodlines ! Clan Selection

"We're the low art gloominati and we aim to depress"

Marilyn Manson - The Golden Age of Grotesque

So here I am about to re-re-re-re-re-embark on another playthrough of Bloodlines. Last decade I first experienced the game as a Gangrel, which role suited me just fine. Over the next couple of years I replayed the game ... oh, about three and two halves times? Hard to remember.

See, Bloodlines earned its lasting fame not least through its shockingly high replay value. Albeit almost entirely linear and story-based, the seven different playable clans offered an excellent mix of playstyles. The missions didn't vary much. You killed the same bosses, got more or less the same rewards. Yet still different clans felt different on a very fundamental level. Your ability to make money, the way you acquire blood, the simple acts of walking and talking all caught different flavors. Not all seven choices were completely different, granted. Some blurred into each other, but overall, playing a Gangrel or Tremere in Bloodlines felt much more like a true choice than playing a warrior or mage in other RPGs.

This was accomplished by addressing more than just numeric values, more than how hard you hit or how hard you're hit. Frenzying at the wrong time got me killed a few times as a Gangrel, but wading into fights with maxed-out defenses was still fun. My Tremere barely needed weapons, kiting most things with her stupidly overpowered blood strike ability. Bloodlines was also one of the few games whose aesthetics prompted me to play female characters. The female Tremere's nerdy/bohemian look contrasting with her pugnacious bearing serve as a pretty close approximation of my Jungian anima. Shockingly, despite my antisocial Gangrel basic personality, I thoroughly enjoyed playing a female Ventrue as well, enjoying the interpretation of the pinnacle of vampiric society as not necessarily manipulators but self-possessed imperious dictators.

The most interesting clans to play are the ones suffering limitations on their movements and feeding. Unfortunately, the game's highly urbanized setting offered few options for a Gangrel roleplaying take on things. As a Ventrue I was forced to pass up most feeding opportunities while hunting down the cream of the crop. It gives the game a different flavor, sneering past countless rats and bums while on the lookout for some guy in a suit. In contrast, the most lauded addition to the game was the Nosferatu's need to avoid ever being seen by humans, both greatly ramping up the difficulty and providing a unique skulking boogeyman roleplaying style. In fact, it's best not to play either a Nosferatu or Malkavian your first time through, as their way of interacting with the world is so... "off"... as to heavily warp the core game experience.

As for Malkavians, it was the last clan I tried before finally wandering away from the game years ago, only getting halfway through with mine. So as I've decided to play one all the way through now I won't get into their weirdness yet except to say their +2 inspection stat is the least of their concerns. The Bloodlines skill system itself is fodder for another post, but suffice to say biting the proverbial bullet and investing heavily in firearms (the low-damage option) combined with Malks' relative lack of brute force should make boss fights interesting for me. Since I'll likely need to buy warehouses' worth of ammo, I've also decided to be an expert haggler.

I remember enough of the game to know in general terms what's supposed to happen, but after five, six or seven or however many years I'm not likely to remember the correct dialogue choices.

Hey, what could go wrong?

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