Long-time fans or newcomers alike should enjoy this detailed retrospective for Troika's Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines over at Gear Diary. Game mechanics, storyline strengths and weaknesses, character progression, and Wesp's series of unofficial patches are all discussed at length:
Before you start the tutorial, you need to build a character. Let me be blunt compared to Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, class selection in most other role playing games is like choosing a plastic toothpick: they are all basically the same except for the color. Bloodlines offers classes that not only alter the core combat capabilities and certain dialogue options, but the very flow of the game. You can be choose from one of seven clans, including Brujah, Gangrel, Malkavian, Nosferatu, Toreador, Tremere, or Ventrue. Brujah tend to be savage and violent, tending towards anarchy; Gangrel are also warriors, but are the most animalistic of clans; Malkavian are insane, but utterly hilarious; Nosferatu are grotesque and unable to mingle with humans; Toreadors are leaders in both social and political circles; Tremere are vampire mages; and Ventrue are the nobility. Great times, great times.
While it can be argued that some of the classes present a fairly standard set of gameplay variation, others offer ranges of choices and subject the gamer to an array of restrictions that make for truly unique experiences. The Tremere class is the vampire mage, and offers an array of Blood Magic that is stunning from a combat perspective, but also gets a special haven in the Chantry. That really isn't a huge gameplay differential from the warrior classes of the Brujah or Gangrel, each of which play differently from one another as well. The Toreador and Ventrue are focused away from combat as a primary means of getting things done based on their charm and nobility, but based on choices can also find plenty of chances to mix it up. By playing across several of these classes you will see a wide variety of gameplay options that is fairly similar to what is offered in the majority of RPG experiences.
Bloodlines also features a top-notch melee engine. In fact, the first battle you have uses a tire iron as a weapon! Given super-human speed and strength, melee combat seems more suitable for a vampire. The melee battles are full of typical ragdoll physics action, and look appropriately exaggerated in terms of impact of hits based on the game's 2003/2004 vintage. When engaging in melee combat the game switches to third person view, so you can see around your character and gauge better how to attack. Similar to gun-based combat, your melee damage is a combination of the weapon's inherent damage factor along with modifiers based on skills and attributes you can choose. One thing that is very clear you will not get enough skill points to excel at both guns and melee combat, especially if you plan to advance any of your disciplines.
Because overall my favorite clan to play is Tremere, I was also able to avail myself of the Thaumaturgy class discipline tree to unleash some devastating '˜blood magic'. As with any other mage class, the balance of mana (blood) vs. using spells is a concern early on, but becomes less so as the game progresses. Since every vampire is a wrecking machine, I was able to combine magic and melee very effectively. My personal favorite spell is Blood Boil, which incapacitates a single enemy until they explode.