(This is part of my journey going playing through 2004’s Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)
Downtown’s nicer facade doesn’t do much to cover the atrocities that happen just beyond its surface in this game, and by this point, I’m up to my neck in cults, monsters, and all sorts of sordid affairs. The question that persists is, how much do I embrace my own inner monster — and how much do I try to hold on to my humanity?
The plaguebearer storyline eventually led to a hotel populated by misguided fools (aka zombies) who thought they’d be better off being infected for some reason.
Morgan Freeman’s voice-over: They were not.
Bloodlines does have a streak of fantastic black humor that runs through most of the game to offset the unrelentingly grim atmosphere. Such as allowing the player to play basketball with a severed head (I didn’t sever it) and then hear a buzzer go off if the shot is made.
The more I replay this, the more I’m convinced that The Secret World’s designers drew a lot of inspiration from Bloodlines. Because yet again, I’m plunging myself into a monster-filled underground parking garage and going through all sorts of PTSD flashbacks from Funcom’s title. Wasn’t quite as scary, but the deja vu was uncanny.
In one of the most unsettling missions of the game, there’s this creature that lurks deep inside the bowels of an abandoned hospital. She’s not a vampire, but rather… some sort of spider thing that looks like a human. Human-ish. There are a lot of webs and I kind of didn’t want to know more. There’s a choice here to either work as her agent or kill her, which brings us back to that “monster vs. humanity” theme.
I eventually hopped back onto the main storyline to investigate the mansion of Dr. Grout for more information about this sarcophagus. The Anarchist Nines wanders out of the mansion, dazed, and I have no idea what to make of that before I’m plunged into madness.
A common horror trope is that of the mad doctor who experiments on people with the thought that the ends justify the means, somehow. Dr. Grout took this on a different track, experimenting on ghouls to somehow help his wife. He makes a deal with the Malkavians and gradually goes mad because of it.
The mansion itself isn’t scary, just a little eerie and weird. It tilts a little toward puzzle-solving, but nothing really that complicated.
The gradual progression of the mansion leads up to a double tragedy: Dr. Grout, now a vampire, has been chained to a bed and staked, and his wife, frozen in suspended animation, doesn’t look as though she’s going to be making a recovery any time soon.
Plus, a vampire hunter shows up and torches the place, forcing me to evade the “quick to kill me” flames and jump out of a window. While I normally use a combination of my knife and the Visions of Death skill for combat, in this instance I switched over to a shotgun because I didn’t want the flaming ghouls to touch me and light me up.
Speaking of black humor, I love this guy. Always has a weirdly oblivious comment at hand. I’m rooting that he wins the game.