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A sprawling town mystery in the Vampire: The Masquerade setting, August 20, 2021
This game is the second in Choice of Games's deluxe series of Vampire the Masquerade games. It is long (the 12th longest CoG game), has at least a dozen high-quality character portraits, and uses the White Wolf system of attributes.
Inevitably, this game will draw comparisons with its (unrelated, story-wise) predecessor, Vampire: The Masquerade—Night Road. That game featured you as a solo vampire making their way up the ranks of the city's undead through elaborate and high-powered missions. This game, in contrast, focuses on a human protagonist inheriting an old shop in a small Illinois town that has a dark presence lingering. I can't think of a more apt comparison than Jojo's Bizarre Adventures. Night Road is more like seasons 1-3 of that story, big battles and crazy powers, while Out for Blood is more like season 4, a smaller story where we meet locals with different interests and abilities and the main enemy is a sort of lurking, hidden figure.
Mechanically, there are a lot of statistics to sink points into. This is an RPG, so we get a lot of experience points over 12 chapters. I sank most of my points into Intuition and the Occult. I found this satisfying, as I was able to get flashes of insight at different points (although I'm not sure if this was from my ability or built into the story), and I was able to use magic extensively to curse people, place wards, and to scry. Given the different achievements and options I saw, I'm sure I would have had a very different experience with a different stat build.
Mechanically, the game has a few distinct threads.
-You have ownership of your late grandfather's shop, and you can decide who to hire to work there, what to invest in, how to pay for it all, etc. It starts you off seeming like it will have numerous recurring options, like Metahuman Inc., but it never really circles back to it, so you only get one real shot at setting up the shot and then many sub-choices after to affect minor details.
-There are numerous romantic options, including the sultry vampire villain, a goth/punk human friend, a handsome disabled attorney friend, a friendly vampire hunter, etc. I had numerous romantic encounters with my chosen relationship and it seemed fleshed out better than many CoG games. Occasionally there were scenarios with my love that may have seemed out of place given our current history, but they were few and far between and none spring to mind immediately.
-(Early spoilers)(Spoiler - click to show)A wealthy and powerful vampire seems to have set up in town and is manipulating affairs. This thread forms the main plot.
-(Middle spoiler but not giving a lot away)(Spoiler - click to show)A group of weaker vampires is also in town.They form the second-biggest thread.
-A lot of complicated town history is also floating around.
The game definitely was affected by my choices, and I re-evaluated my viewpoint multiple times as I realized a group I trusted was pretty bad, etc. Near the end, I felt like the whole weight of complex machinery the game is built on began to break down, as I double-crossed a lot of people without too much punishment. But while it pushed up against disbelief, it never really crossed the line. I think a lot of things depend on the relationship statistic alone, and I had had a lot of built-up trust before the betrayals.
Overall, the game is very long, but many people have said it feels short. This is likely because the game has so many options and avenues mid-game that it doesn't really get a sense of building to something. The other VtM game, Night Road, had the regular structure of missions and payments and handled increasing tension well, but here it's hard to feel much progress until near the end. I don't think this game is short or small or linear, but I think it could be paced or structured a bit better to indicate its length. Someone in the CoG forums said it has 12 chapters and 12 endings, and that really helped me set appropriate expectations.
Overall, I would rank this as one of the better Choice of Games titles. I think it is worth its purchase price, and that fans of Vampire the Masquerade or White Wolf in general will be pleased, as well as fans of small-town stories. It's a story that I wish I had written, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.
I received a review copy of this game.