I, like many in Summer 21, was skeptical about the idea of a battle royale set in the world of Vampire: The Masquerade. It didn’t make sense to me to combine a classic cult RPG with an action-packed genre completely divorced from the political intrigue and colorful characters that made the series so special.
It seemed like mixing oil and water to me and although I think the game is lacking in some spots that will hurt Masquerade fans, after consecutive days stuck to this title I came out pleasantly surprised by its merits of it. Sharkmob somehow made it work.
Let’s start with Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodhunt’s elevator pitch. The game is a free-to-play third-person battle royale set in the dark streets of modern-day Prague. As a vampire belonging to one of four clans, venture out and battle other creatures of the night until you or your team are the last standing. Once you’ve finished a game, you’ll return to Elysium, a social hub where you can interact with other players, accept quests from a variety of NPCs, and customize your character. As such, the game is split into two parts, the battle royale itself, where all the action and actual progression takes place, and the center, where some of the game’s RPG roots show their teeth.
The battle royale itself – you know, going out and fighting other players – is awesome. This is the aspect of the game that the development team has nailed best, and in almost every way. The game showers you with abilities, even at entry level, that give you tremendous freedom of movement; They can easily scale buildings and move around without hindrance, and this mobility unlocks even further after investing some time in the truss systems. It all leads to frantic combat (reaching the bar of other highly mobile battle royales like Apex Legends) as opposing players run, climb, slide, and jump around each other in a matter of seconds.
As a Vampire: The Masquerade game, you also get a choice of classes – or archetypes – with unique abilities and passives that go a long way in defining the ideal playstyle for each. At the moment there are a total of seven in four clans. As you can imagine, each clan has archetypes that fit the background they belong to. Brujah are headstrong fighters who can quickly jump into fights, while Toreador are eye-pleasing charmers and tricksters with tricky abilities that easily confuse other players. Right now I wouldn’t say that any class feels particularly unbalanced, which is important for a starting lineup. The classes, as well as the random match modifiers applied at the beginning of each Bloodhunt game, allow for real variety in the gameplay and approach you need to take if you want to win.
Combine all of this with a viable selection of weapons, each with a specific combat purpose, alongside a “Blood Resonance” system that allows you to gain powerful passive buffs by feeding on mortals on the street, and There’s a dynamic here that I’m attracting I don’t think you can find anywhere else right now. At the time of writing there is no ranked mode, but once it is there I can absolutely see a dedicated community growing around the solid foundations that exist in what Sharkmob has concocted.
The map itself, a modern day rain-soaked Prague, is a nest of twisting lanes and sloping roofs. Aging Gothic structures collide with more modern constructions, while the different regions are illuminated in subtle colors, making jumping between areas feel like stepping through scenes in a John Wick film. It would be so easy to create a deck of cards in this universe as a boring bunch of bricks and bushes, but the environmental design team pulled it off here. It’s early days, but it might be my favorite map in a battle royale.
If there’s one thing I’m missing from an otherwise outstanding performance, it’s The Entity. This is a PvE squad present in Prague that all players can take on in a variety of camps. From what we’re told in the story and promotional material, they’re a big deal. Out in Prague, they’re a good source of loot and extra blood resonate points, sure. But they’re just guys with shot guns. Yes, they can take you out if you’re not careful, but they’re hardly the threat you’d expect them to be. Even the addition of sword-wielding entity soldiers like the ones we see in trailers would mess things up enough to bring some of that peril to these otherwise lackluster foes. It’s something I’d like to see more explored in future seasons.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about the live service aspect of the game. Yes, this game has a Battle Pass and tons of paid cosmetics. The Battle Pass itself is your normal XP-based affair, with daily and seasonal challenges offering big splashes of progression for those looking to climb the ranks quickly. You don’t get much as a free-to-play player – apart from the occasional piercing, tattoo, or basic clothing options – but as a free-to-play title with no lootbox option, that’s not entirely surprising. If you really want to explore a decent amount of character customization, the options are pretty limited unless you’re going to blow your wallet.
They’ve got about two or three months of content in a single season, which is roughly in line with other high-profile games, and judging by what’s happened in early access (and interviews we’ve had with the team), we can expect you new quests, cosmetics, and other visual changes throughout the season. I would of course like to see Prague itself change over the coming seasons rather than the main additions being limited to just the social center and cosmetics I can buy. It would be cool to see the team continue to disfigure Prague as the narrative gets more frantic.
With this in mind, the game loses some of its power when it comes to the social hub: Elysium. It’s the heart of the game, and while the area itself is decent enough thanks to its gothic-club aesthetic and clear room for expansion over the years to come, it’s not home to a fluid narrative that I was hoping for. Obviously, it would be totally unrealistic to expect an engaging story like we’ve seen in other Vampire: The Masquerade games in a battle royale. Yet even when the excitement returns, the quests, which play a big part in keeping a player up to date with what’s happening in Prague, are painfully simple.
Here’s an example: One of the clan leaders in Elysium wants you to go out and find a VHS tape. Okay, there’s room for interest here, and given enough clues, it could prove to be pretty fun, right? So you go downstairs and grab a bag with the duct tape on it, but it turns out to be the wrong bag when you get back to the quest giver. So you have to go back to the same spot and grab another bag… but the tape isn’t in there either, so you have to go back outside to finally grab the tape. Why do I have to return to the hub to look in a bag and see it’s empty? Why does this feel like homework? In any other game, you might just scrape this off as side content best ignored, but this tiresome cycle applies to every task here. I can only hope that over time additional time is spent making these a little more invigorating.
So how does the game fare as a first release? It’s solid! Thanks in large part to the exceptional action present here, it’s brilliant to crank it up, either solo or with friends, hop into a match or two and battle it out. That alone provides a buffer that dampens the negative impression left by some of the game’s weaknesses. Add to that the constant addition of new modes – including a ranked mode and a duos mode, which has literally just been added as I write this – and this title can serve as a great evening game for groups of friends looking for their next big game to bridge them into the coming dry months.
Can it compete with some of the greats of the genre? Your Warzones and Fortnites? Absolutely not, but that’s obviously not the goal here. However, it will surely seduce a part of the players. Hopefully the players it can siphon off from other games will be enough to slowly build a community here. With that, and with a slow drip of new archetypes, weapons, and other significant changes, I can totally envision Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodhunt becoming that slow burner you hear about every now and then. A great game to jump right into and try out, and a title to keep an eye on for years to come.
https://www.vg247.com/vampire-the-masquerade-bloodhunt-review Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodhunt Review: An authentic newcomer that thirsts for competition