Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines Retrospective

Entitled "The Last Masquerade", The Escapist's three-page retrospective for Troika's Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines covers the game's strengths, weaknesses, and the reasons why it ended up being the company's final game.
Bloodlines was unparalleled in letting players define how they handled the challenges the game threw at them, but it was clear that some options benefited from more of the developers' time and attention than others. It was possible, for example, to complete much of the game using only its dialogue options, and the characters actually had interesting and unique personalities rather than just serving as ciphers that handed out quests. The smarmy Sebastian LaCroix, nominally in charge of Los Angeles' vampires, rubbed shoulder with the monstrous information broker Bertram Tung, the beautiful but crazy Voerman sisters, owners of the Asylum Club, the irreverent and itinerant Smiling Jack and more besides. The cast list for Bloodlines reads like a Who's Who of voice acting, and the game featured sterling performances, excellent writing and wonderfully expressive facial animations that put many modern titles to shame.


But while the Los Angeles that Troika built may have been conceptually complex, its actual construction was a much simpler affair. Many of the buildings were crude things, with details and decorations relegated to textures on flat blocks, making much of the city look like a painted backdrop in a high school play. Troika tried to hide it where they thought you wouldn't notice - typically anything above the ground floor - but it was easy to spot, even by a casual observer. Moreover, Troika's efforts to populate the city fell just as flat. The small number of NPC models meant that you saw the same people, with very little variation, over and over again as they shuffled awkwardly and silently around the city. It wasn't uncommon to see half a dozen identical hobos roaming the streets, or two identical goths lined up to get into a club with a third walking past. And while this didn't actually spoil the atmosphere, it certainly didn't help.
I'm way overdue on a replay of this game. I'm going to have to sneak one in sooner or later.