Vampire: The Masquerade - Swansong
released on May 19, 2022
by Big Bad Wolf
Based on the cult role-playing world and developed by specialists in the genre, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is a narrative RPG in which your every choice determines the fate of the three main characters and of the Boston Camarilla.
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If there's one thing I enjoy it's a strong story driven narrative game with RPG elements and Vampire: The Masquerade - Swansong is a good one. A very good branching story with intriguing characters and a lot of different ways to go about it. This is a very good game and I'm happy I gave it a chance. You should too.
It's (or, rather, it could have been) a solid, narrative-driven adventure-RPG with quite a good story, three protagonists and multiple endings. However, it's so full of glitches, performance issues and game-breaking bugs, even now, months after its release, that it's quite difficult, or even impossible to focus on the game's few merits. Some scenes I had to restart from the beginning several times because I got stuck in a room or in the middle of a puzzle (but only after some heavy swearing and rage quitting). If you want something similar, you should just play The Council instead, trust me. Should you decide to give this one a try anyway, be very familiar with the lore, or be prepared for a lot of reading on the World of Darkness, otherwise, you might feel a bit lost, especially during the first few scenes.
The biggest let down of 2022 for me. I enjoyed Big Bad Wolf's previous outing, The Council, and assumed that putting the formula to work in the World of Darkness setting could yield nothing but positive results.
Unfortunately, Swansong suffers from uneven character build diversity, strange pacing decisions, and huge story threads that can be easily missed. While the use of RPG elements in a narrative adventure is still a neat concept, Swansongs three POV characters basically need to be built a certain way to make the most of their story paths. If you decide to play through Swansong, do yourself a favor and use a wiki to build your Kindred with the ideal skillset so that you can avoid needless pressure points.
This was a disappointing one for me. I enjoyed this studio's previous game, The Council, for bringing role-playing style stats into a TellTale style game. I wasn't blown away by the story, and the graphics and voice acting could've definitely been better, but I enjoyed it well enough paired with the gameplay mechanics that I had an overall positive experience with it. One of the things Swansong revealed to me about how I play games now, is that I'm just not willing to read through a bunch of superfluous text unless it's exceptionally well written. I used to be the type of player who would read every single codex entry in a BioWare game, and when I played The Council which also has tons of reading, I read through everything I found even if I found it boring sometimes. My playstyle has since changed however, and I'm no longer willing to give my time to something like that unless I view it as being worth my time, and in the case of this game I don't think that it was. My only prior experience with the Vampire: The Masquerade universe being Bloodlines, I've already had an experience with a very well done role-playing style story in this universe in video game form. The central conflict between the Camarilla and the Anarchs in that game is thematically rich and compelling. The conflict in this game just didn't grip me in the same way, and didn't compel me to scrounge through in-game books to try to learn more about it, especially when not everything you can read is crucial or even interesting. When a large amount of the game is about investigating, and I'm too bored to care to read up on the things I'm investigating, that's a bad sign.
I also think that Disco Elysium has just ruined this kind of game for me because it did stat-based storytelling too well. In Disco Elysium every possible way you could think to build your character is valid, and the game itself is more about playing it the way that you want, because there are options for every build imaginable. Swansong on the other hand, having only played through once, really feels like there are certain stats that you could min/max to simply get the "best" outcome. Investing points into your four core dialogue stats seems way too strong, and I never felt like I was choosing between these in an interesting way. It was more "sometimes this will come up and if you have points you'll win easier" and less "multiple of these will come up and you'll make an interesting character choice." I do hope that this studio can get a couple more shots at refining their formula because I do love the concept of RPG meets TellTale. Hopefully they look at how a game like Disco Elysium does this in a CRPG format and can apply it to the kind of game they make. But for this game, it just didn't really grab me.
Una fantástica puerta de entrada al universo de Mundo de Tinieblas y, como ya ocurría con The Council, una buena aventura gráfica cuyos puntos fuertes son el guion y las batallas dialécticas.