After years of fan support through mods and other means, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines is finally getting a sequel. Paradox announced today that Hardsuit Labs is working on Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2, a new game set 15 years after the original game.
Bloodlines 2 will be a faithful update of the original, which has been a cult favorite since first being released 15 years ago. You will once again take on the role of a newly-turned vampire, who is forced to cope with the politics between the various clans while trying to maintain "The Masquerade"—the line between the human world and the supernatural one. Rainy Seattle takes the place of LA, which was the setting of the original game, serving as an open-ended sandbox in which to find quests and story threads.
I got a chance to check out Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 earlier this week at GDC, with the development team taking me through a 30 minute demo. My main takeaway is that the graphics are already looking very nice, without sacrificing the dark atmosphere of the original game. In a clear nod to the first Bloodlines, Bloodlines 2 begins in a kangaroo court in which the various clans accuse one another of perpetrating a "Mass Embrace," vampire jargon for multiple people being illegally turned at once, after which you are forced to flee a sudden fire. Social features like dialogue trees return, as does the potential to lose humanity if you feed too much on innocent bystanders.
The main differences are in the combat and how you choose your clan. Bloodlines 2 will still support guns, but it will put much more emphasis on melee combat, which is an odd hybrid of first and third-person perspectives. As for choosing your vampire type, you will initially begin as a "Thinblood Vampire," which will earn you access to one of three new discipline tracks: Chiropteran, which will allow you to control bats; Nebulation, which lets you become mist, and Mentalism, which gives you telekinetic abilities. Choosing a clan will come much later, after you've had a chance to acclimate to the game.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, the Malkavians will indeed be in this game. I wasn't able to get a lot of details on how Vampire: The Masquerade's representation of mental illness will be realized in Bloodlines 2, but the team is keen about being faithful to the original game while also being respectful to the disabled community.
The original game's co-director, Leonard Boyarsky, obviously won't be involved with the project, as he is now working on The Outer Worlds. Bloodlines designer and writer Brian Mitsoda is returning as lead narrative designer though. He is working with Hardsuit Labs, an Seattle-based indie studio formed in 2015 that previously worked on the lightly regarded cyberpunk shooter Blacklight: Retribution, which shut down just last month.
Mitsoda said in statement, "When Paradox announced they were acquiring the World of Darkness IP, I immediately started thinking about what it would be like to return to Vampire: The Masquerade. Our aim has been to carry on the signature themes that made Bloodlines unique—particularly its dark tone, atmosphere, and humanity—and I think that fans of the original will love what we're doing with Bloodlines 2."
A Cult Classic RPG Returns
First released in 2004, the original Bloodlines was developed by Troika Games, which was formed by the creators of the original Fallout. Bloodlines went through an extremely difficult development process, and was famously buggy when it was finally released, but its outstanding quest design won notice from hardcore RPG fans. I put the original Bloodlines at number 22 on our Top 25 RPG countdown.
Alec Meer wrote in a 2016 retrospective for RPS, "There is so much wrong with Bloodlines, and it isn't [aging] as well as one might hope. It doesn’t matter. None of it matters. Because there is so much right, so much that seems somehow more startling now. This was a game from Activision. Activision! And it's about sex and abuse and power and sadism and humanity and loss and regret and, yes, also a lot of fighting things in tunnels. Its heart is dark, its mind inquiring and it haunts my memory still."
All signs point to Bloodlines 2 being much the same. Its narrative team includes former journalist Cara Ellison, who won notice for her deep dive into the series back in 2014, and the development team as a whole expresses a great deal of admiration for the original game. Creative director Martin Ka'ai Cluney told USG bluntly, "We know the consequences of fucking this up." So far, so good.
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 is set for a 2020 release on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Stay tuned for additional thoughts on our RPG podcast, Axe of the Blood God, as well as a full interview with the development team in which we explore the quest structure, the story, and more.