VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE is near and dear to my heart due to the fact I started playing it when I was fourteen and have not really stopped since. It’s a heavily social game that is probably best experienced with Bloodlines by Troika games but was still fun with the visual novels Coteries of New York and Shadows of New York.
BLOOD HUNT is not one of those games and barely has any plot whatsoever (sort of-see below). It is a battle royale game where you pick a vampire archetype, go out into the streets, and fight other players in an increasingly smaller ring until only one of them remains. Sometimes, you can fight computer-controlled enemies as well.
There actually is a plot to the game that was being steadily updated by the developers until recently, but it is something that is incredibly hard to engage with. Something about Prince Markus of the Ventrue hosting a peace conference between Anarchs and Camarilla agents before the Second Inquisition attacked as well as the attempts by the Brujah Sheriff to take over the city. However, finding out these details is very hard since the characters aren’t voiced and there’s no Codex for describing who is what or what they’re up to.
I give credit to Sharkmob, the developers, that Blood Hunt is an extremely pretty game. The city of Prague is well-realized, and the Elysium has a lot of character to it despite its small size. It looks like a Triple A game, and you can practically smell the environment. There’s a lot of verticality to the setting as well as environmental storytelling. Prague is presently under a lockdown by the Second Inquisition (called “The Entity” for some reason) and there’s little bases spread throughout the map. I think they did a fantastic job on the graphics and give them a lot of credit for capturing the “look” of what I think a Vampire: The Masquerade game should appear like.
I also really enjoy the use of verticality in the game with the fact that all the vampires can climb the buildings around the location. If you’re losing a fight against a fellow vampire, then it’s entirely possible to just leap over the side and fall forty feet to get away. There’s ladders on the side of buildings that aren’t meant for the undead but help immersion. I also like the Blood Hunt rules where you suddenly become a huge target for other players if you feed on a mortal with witnesses or kill an ordinary human for no reason (or more likely mistake them for a fellow vampire). Solo players get two lives, which is a great innovative idea to encourage players.
At heart, the game is a battle royal, though. The rules are simple, thirty players or however many players and some bot enemies, jump into the fight only to hash it out. There’s a magical circle that gradually tightens around the player characters before eventually leaving only one victor. You find weapons in the area, you feed on bystanders, and you try to survive until the end. You level up, you try to win cosmetics, and you switch around the various kinds of vampire you can be. It’s fun if you like that sort of thing.
Unfortunately, this review comes at the tail end of the ultimate failure of Blood Hunt as a successful franchise. Despite starting strong, it just couldn’t compete in the extremely competitive and ruthless field of battle royal franchises. It reminds me a bit of Marvel’s Avengers in that it wasn’t that the game wasn’t fun, it just wasn’t what the player base really wanted from them. It looks like a game that would have been extremely fun to explore as an RPG or single-player adventure game, but it doesn’t have the story for such or the craziness of a successful battle royale.
Even as a long-time vampire fan, it was hard to get into the manic energy that the battle royal required. If I’d been designing this game, I would have given the option to side with the Anarchs or the Camarilla rather than making the Camarilla the default option. I would have added the Second Inquisition as a “team” to play on and/or eventually werewolves. It seemed like there’s a lot of fun things they could have done with this game that, admittedly, may just amount to, “It’s a battle royale game and everyone who wants to play those sorts of games has other options.”
It’s unfortunately probably too late to save this game and I really hope they save the assets of the game for something else. They really could do a great Vampire: The Masquerade game set in the Prague open world they created. It probably is a backhanded compliment to the developers that it would be awesome to do a single player game made from their game’s corpse, but it just wasn’t what I was looking for.