The Vampire series seems, much like the undead denizens who thirst for blood, to be cursed. Ok don’t get me wrong. I want this game to be good. I want all games to be good. But I’ve been hurt before, and I’m afraid to love again. And also the limited hands on time that reviewers have had is throwing up some serious red flags.

First of all, there’s the debacle of Bloodlines 2, a Masquerade game which has been stuck in development hell. The game’s release has been postponed several times, and high level staff members were replaced or left during 2020. Not a good sign. But Bloodlines is being developed by Hardsuit Labs, with an entirely different publisher, while Swansong is coming from French studio Big Bad Wolf. Different devs, still not a great look for the IP.

Big Bad Wolf Studio

Just standing and listening with a totally natural, engaged look on my face. Nothing to see here.

The game has you playing as modern, sexy vampires, with skill trees unique to each character. But the skill trees look underwhelming, though from all reports what points you put where will affect the gameplay. This will enable you to unlock additional dialogue options, solve puzzles, and overcome narrative obstacles in different ways. Sounds good, except initial gameplay reviews even stated that sometimes you’ll be shown a 100% success rate on an interaction and it still won’t work because of an unknown opposing ability the NPC has. I love a twist but I don’t like it when games make their own UI untrustworthy.

Big Bad Wolf Studio

100% success unless it's not.

Will your skill tree choices really matter? I definitely want to know what it feels like to be a powerful, immortal vampire. (Not bad enough to try these IRL attempts though.) There are three protagonists (one of whom is named Galeb, pronounced like Caleb if you have bad congestion) that you’ll be piloting in alternating chapters. How cool would it be to be able to spec out your favorite of the three and be forced to find your way through a chapter using only the skills that they have, could lead to some fun problem solving and emergent narrative! Or how about looking at a chapter’s challenges and picking the character best suited to take them on? You’d feel pretty smart and savvy and in communion with the game right? That’s not what’s happening here. Each chapter can only be played as one character. Which means there’s really a limited amount of choice you have to navigate the world. 

Finally, the animation. It looks like something from 10 years ago. Super stiff characters, boring textures, and inexpressive faces that look more like The Sims 3 than a game released in 2022. 

Big Bad Wolf Studio

These arms plunging anyone else into the uncanny valley?

I’ve heard Vampire: The Masquerade - Swansong compared to Hitman, Detroit: Become Human, and games from the Telltale series, but it’s looking like the game won’t be near as good as any of them. I hope I’m wrong. 

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