Almost 20 years ago, Troika unleashed Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines on the world, engulfing us in a world of undead political struggles and thrusting us into Santa Monica fangs first. It’s a game that I return to far too often, each time choosing Malkavian and yelling indiscriminately at innocent stop signs while internally urging myself to ‘play another clan next time around.’ Bloodlines has all seven of the tabletop game’s original clans, each with their own unique attributes and playstyles, executed perfectly. Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines 2, by contrast, has four at launch, and I can’t deny that such an immediate step back has come as a disappointment.
With Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines 2 apparently dropping in fall 2024, The Chinese Room has slowly but surely drip-fed its four different launch clans: the Brujah, Tremere, Banu Haqim, and Ventrue. While Malkavian always felt like it was off the cards because our player character, Phyre, already has a voice in her head and probably doesn’t need any extras, each reveal has left me feeling a little more deflated.
The non-beating heart of the World of Darkness’ vampire game is its clans – now numbering an impressive 13. Despite the sequel’s protracted, bumpy development and change in developer, I had hoped we’d at least see all of the mainline clans again in playable form. The Chinese Room has confirmed, however, that there will only be four clans at launch, and two as part of DLC – one of which feels like it’s destined to be Nosferatu. After this long of a wait, that news stakes my excitement right through its core – and, quite honestly, has killed off some of my interest in the game.
And it’s not because they’re bad clans, don’t get me wrong. While I’d maybe have preferred Toreador over Ventrue, the selection we have is pretty good. I’m excited to see how the Banu Haqim play – especially as someone who loves that stealthy assassin-style combat.
Instead, I’m more concerned with how the game feels like it’s pigeon-holed our clans – horses for courses, as they say. It’s clear that The Chinese Room has gone the traditional route of tank, melee DPS, ranged DPS, and support, but it feels so constricting in a world fraught with endless possibilities.
Take the Tremere as an example. While in Bloodlines they had a variety of different spells that were largely ranged, you could still run up to some unsuspecting human and whack them with a drain pipe if you felt so inclined. In Bloodlines 2, by contrast, they’re clearly the ranged DPS-style archetype, firing out their own blood to take down foes from afar.
It’s a similar story with the other clans: the Brujah is the tanky melee fighter, the Banu Haqim is the assassin, and the Ventrue is the classic silver-tongued menace who can control the minds of mortals and Kindred alike. Each one fits into a specific mold – and the thing I love about Vampire is its flexibility.
What Baldur’s Gate 3 did so well is capture Dungeons & Dragons’ illusion of limitless choices. Your character could be whoever you envisioned them to be. Sure, some rolls function better as tanks, while others work as healers, but there was so much choice that no two felt the same. The original Bloodlines was similar – my myriad Malkavians all feel like separate entities: Swan isn’t Morri, who isn’t Drac. They’re all the same clan, yes, but they’re oh-so unique.
Imagine playing as LaSombra and having technology explode around you – payback for my Malkavian’s misgivings with televisions. Imagine playing the stealth assassin Toreador and channeling LA By Night’s Nelli G. What makes the original game so special is the fact you are a vampire. You command the night, you can do what you want – there are no rules (except the Traditions, of course). Your fledgling Kindred had no set path; fancy being a sexy Nosferatu? You could, well, try that. In Bloodlines you can be the creature your twisted heart wants to be, whereas in Bloodlines 2 I’m worried that it’ll feel like you’re just another DPS.
Instead, I’d rather see the game cook for a little longer and offer more flexibility and choice in its base experience. There’s a whole World of Darkness out there, but it feels like the scope to explore and experiment using the foundation laid by its predecessor has already had to be clipped.
I’ve waited this long for the Bloodlines 2 release date. I can wait some more; time, after all, moves much faster in our immortal undead lives. Perhaps it’s unreasonable to expect an already heavily delayed game to draw that cycle out even longer to give me the Toreador, the LaSombra, the Gangrel – but at the heart of my concern lies a deep desire to see Bloodlines 2 live up to the VTM name. The Chinese Room is an interesting developer with a strong track record. I’m holding out hope.