Vampire The Masquerade Swansong Art
Image via Big Bad Wolf

Review: Vampire The Masquerade Swansong

Is Big Bad Wolf's vampire RPG worth your time?

Vampire The Masquerade is a tabletop role-playing game created in the 90s. Players take the role of vampires and have to survive in a world with vampire hunters and other things that threaten vampires. It eventually received a few games but it wasn’t until 2004 when Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines was released on PC. The game became a cult hit among fans of the franchise and RPGs in general. 

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Recently, Vampire The Masquerade Bloodhunt was released and its become beloved by fans of the battle royale genre. Meanwhile, fans of the Vampire The Masquerade franchise were left craving a game with more story and role-playing elements. Thankfully these fans don’t have to worry as Vampire The Masquerade Swansong is a great RPG experience.

Biggest Take Aways

  • The game features three playable characters: Emem, Galeb, and Leysha.
  • Choices are important in this game with every dialogue decision factoring into the ending. While it doesn’t feature traditional combat, it offers challenging puzzles and a battle of wits.
  • I encountered minor bugs during my playthrough, but they didn’t distract from my experience.
  • Overall, Vampire The Masquerade Swansong is a worthy addition to the franchise.
  • Final score: 8/10

Vampire The Masquerade Swansong Explores the Dark Side of Boston

The game takes place in Boston and features three playable characters: Emem, Galeb, and Leysha. Each is a member of the Camarilla, a sect of vampires. Galeb is essentially a fixer for the Camarilla and is called in to clean up messy situations to preserve the Masquerade, the conspiracy to convince society that vampires aren’t real. Emem is a woman with connections thanks to her ownership of some clubs around Boston. Leysha is a vampire who has vague premonitions about the future and has recently been discharged from a mental hospital. She is usually accompanied on missions by her daughter who can turn invisible just like her.

Galeb is probably my favorite of the three protagonists but Emem felt the most relatable as she seemed to be more of a free-thinker than the other two. Many of her decisions allow you to directly defy Hazel, the prince of the Camarilla.

New to the job, Hazel is faced with a crisis when vampire hunters attack a party only the Camarilla knew about. She tasks the main three trio to find out who was behind this attack. Their mission will take you to a variety of locations across Boston including warehouses, underground bases, and nightclubs.

Mission objectives usually require that you find a specific person to have a conversation with or a specific area to do something like hacking a computer or finding an item. You accomplish these objectives by using each character’s disciplines. Disciplines are special abilities that can be upgraded between missions. Emem has Celerity which allows her to access areas using teleportation. Meanwhile, Leysha uses Auspex, a detective mode-like power that senses past moments by scanning objects.

Players Have to Balance Power Versus Insatiable Hunger

Leysha Vampire The Masquerade Swansong
Image via Big Bad Wolf

Some powers add to your hunger meter. If the meter becomes full, your character will have an insatiable hunger for blood. They’ll end up feeding on the nearest human they find. You don’t want this to happen as it will increase your suspicion meter which can end the game if it becomes too full. To keep your meter down, you can feed on humans in safe rooms found in each level or by eating rats but this can slightly increase your suspicion. I made the mistake of not keeping my meter down and during a critical story moment, I lost control.

Using these powers can be pretty fun and rewarding but it’s more fun when you don’t use them. Sure you could use Celerity to easily get into a building but by doing that you rob yourself of a conversation with an NPC that might lead you to a side objective. The level of choice and freedom the game has is pretty amazing to me.

Aside from powers, you also have other skills that can be upgraded. These include things such as education, security technology, and deduction. If you have enough points in the security skill, you can easily lockpick doors. Have enough technology points and you’ll be able to hack devices. To use these skills you’ll also have to spend Willpower but more on that later.

Every Decision Is Crucial

Galeb Vampire The Masquerade Swansong
Image via Big Bad Wolf

I finished Vampire The Masquerade Swansong and got an alright ending but one of the major plot points of the story remained unsolved. This wasn’t due to poor writing. It was my poor decision-making. I didn’t investigate enough when I should have and as a result, I doomed the Camarilla. Everyone’s first playthrough will have mistakes and screwups like this so just buckle up and enjoy the ride.

I always found myself messing up during the conversations with characters. To learn important information from a character, you may need to complete a skill check. Your success will depend on the level of your skills. Having a high enough persuasion skill may get someone to open up and reveal a secret to you. To use a skill like this, you have to spend Willpower. Each character has about 15 Willpower at the start of the game but this can be upgraded later on. If you’re not careful, you can quickly run out of Willpower during a level and be locked out of certain conversation options

If you find yourself low on Willpower, you can always find items to help replenish your meter. The same can be said for many skills in the game. Scattered throughout each level are items such as business cards or potions which quickly boost or replenish your skills.

Sometimes skills alone aren’t enough to be successful in conversations. If your skill isn’t high enough you can spend Willpower to focus and increase its level. The problem is so can the A.I. Vampire The Masquerade Swansong may lack combat but it does a great job at making a simple conversation feel like a battle.

These conversations become tense during confrontations, in-game moments where failing to choose the right dialogue choice can lead to severe story consequences. At one point near the endgame, a character’s life depends on passing one of these confrontations. I wasn’t too big of a fan of these since you have to guess the exact answer, unlike the normal conversations where you have more freedom.

Vampire The Masquerade Swansong Isn’t Open World But Features Large Levels

Galeb Vampire The Masquerade Swansong
Image via Big Bad Wolf

Outside of conversations, you’ll be completing puzzles in each level. For the most part, these are fine but some are ridiculously difficult. In fact, I spent two hours on an early puzzle involving a mythical Greek king. Unfortunately, the puzzles can distract somewhat from allowing you to explore the levels.

Unlike Bloodlines, Vampire The Masquerade Swansong is not an open-world game. Instead, it’s a linear game with open levels. While open-world games are all the rage, there are plenty of gamers who still enjoy short bursts of linear story-telling, myself included. It’s nice to see a game not overstay its welcome.

But these levels are filled with many secrets to find. At some point during a level, you’ll reach the point of no return which is why you should do your best to explore every nook and cranny before then. I constantly found myself exploring levels and thinking that I was finished only to have the game tell me I missed five secrets.

My only gripe with the last few missions is that some basically put you on a timer and force you to rush. This clashes with the game’s well-designed loop of slowly exploring a level and then moving when you think you’ve found everything there is to find. There were also a few minor game glitches I experienced. One had me stuck looking at file cabinets unable to move while the others were a few crashes. These didn’t ruin my experience too much on PS5 but they’re important to note.

These complaints aside, I enjoyed Vampire The Masquerade Swansong and recommend it to any fan of the franchise. It’s an RPG that’s a little rough around the edges, doesn’t take too long to finish, and features a story that takes your choices into account no matter how bad they are. If that sounds appealing to you and you’re a fan of Vampire The Masquerade, then this is a game you’ll want to sink your teeth into.

This review was completed on a PS5. Vampire The Masquerade Swansong is also available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, and through the Epic Games Store.

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Brendan Bell
Brendan Bell has been in love with gaming since Pro Skater 2 on the PS1. He has previous bylines on CBR, The Verge, and Dot Esports.