Last week I had the sudden urge to go back to the Vampire the Masquerade video games, as I wait for hardcover Vampire the Masquerade 5th edition books to arrive in the mail. I have fond memories of both games and thought it would be amazing to relive some of them, perhaps try new builds or characters. I’ve yet to go back to Bloodlines, but Redemption isn’t what I remember…
My most vivid memory of Vampire the Masquerade: Redemption is of the last playthrough I did before this year, I can’t tell you how long ago that was, because I don’t know. But I do remember having a Max Humanity playthrough, being extremely careful to be good and nice to point of blatant stupidity and melodrama–one of those reasons people assume Lawful Good characters are moron–and being right there before the final battle. I returned to my haven to restock and reload before the big battle, with my coterie in full armor and wielding miniguns, because heavy weaponry trumps mysticism. It was all going well, until I left the have to reach the weapons store and forgot to turn off the party’s aggressive stance. So in but a moment, my coterie opened fire on dozens of police officers and lowered my humanity to subterranean levels, ruining the entire thing. I panicked and left the room instead of reloading, ensuring that the max humanity autosave would be overwritten by the mass murdered autosave. I quit the game and never looked back.
So that was my goal this time, to not screw up and finish the maximum humanity run. The early bits were as I remembered, some hack and slashing as Crusader Christoff, meeting the anchor of his humanity, the nun and love of his life Anezka, and his inevitable turn into a Brujah by the ancient vampire Ecaterina the Wise.
From there I remembered a complex adventure that had me meet vampires from across the clans, dealing the Cappadocian necromancers, Ventrue Princes and clashing with the Tzimisce and Tremere, even meeting a Lasombra so pious he chooses to die by sunlight while resting on a pure silver cross. I remember then arriving in the modern era and assuming the classic urban fantasy vampire look of Leather coat, sunglasses and Katana. I was only missing the prerequisite motorcycle for the full combo. My adventure then took me to Setite temples, Tzimisce churches and a final confrontation with the villain Vukodlak.
But what I found this time around was that the hack and slash sections never ended and there was little roleplaying involved. You only ever interact with major plot characters and vendors, there are no side-stories and your choices extend as far as humanist or uncaring/cruel choices to gain or lose humanity. But nothing of consequence really. I found only dungeon crawls against great odds and vampiric disciplines robbed of anything but their pure combat effectiveness.
I found a game that bore the Vampire the Masquerade name but adapted its contents in the most shallow of ways. There are no skills, there isn’t a social or mental aspect to the game, only physical and only combat and incredibly repetitive combat at that. The attributes, while sharing the names of those found in a Vampire the Masquerade character sheet don’t work the same way, even lacking the 5 dot maximum value and instead feeling like stats in Diablo II, where they can reach up to 100 or more. The game’s systems don’t even bother to explain how these attributes impact your performance. The formulas for combat, for the effectiveness of disciplines and resistances remain internal and out of your grasp, meaning that unless you have access to the internet to check on those, you will build a character blindly.
The vampire characters joining your coterie lack the clan identities at the core of Vampire the Masquerade, down to the fact that they can learn any and all disciplines in the game by just finding a book, as if they were spells ins Dungeons & Dragons. Some of these characters are quite memorable, with Pink being the best among them, but others are just bland, two-dimensional beings whose only contribution is being another meat shield. And this is because, again, there is no role playing aspect, there are no conversations with the party, you don’t know what their stories are. They are just your companions and only speak to let other plot characters know that they are your companions. As I played this time, I couldn’t help but wonder how much more could have been done with these vampires and the world they lived in.
Vampire the Masquerade: Redemption is not a good adaptation of the amazing tabletop RPG. It lacks the wonderful intrigue and the Gothic horror themes. It’s a mindless hack & slash dungeon crawler and where I once found enjoyment, I now could only feel irritation.
Let’s just say that during this playthrough, the nostalgia tinted glasses fell off and cracked.