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About the Story
Slake your thirst, without becoming a monster! Blessed with the blood-soaked gift of immortality, will you tend the flock of humanity—or twist it to your whims? When a brash young country butts heads with a brash young vampire, who will come out ahead?
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Number of Reviews: 2
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This game is like a text version of the Winchester mystery house. That house was built upon continually for over 30 years, with constant extensions added, some leading nowhere, others connecting with each other in strange patterns.
This game was one of the earliest Choicescript games, and with that has some of that early-choicescript strangeness (now manifested primarily in its large number of stats and the occasional habit of the narrator addressing the reader directly). Since then, though, it has been expanded on considerably. This game contains 4 sub-games, two of them free and two not. So it's simultaneously one of the oldest and one of the newest choicescript games.
Its overall structure is very different from other titles from CoG. It has a periodic narrative arc. Instead of tension rising to a peak and falling in one grand swoop, it features a single vampire moving about America throughout the 1800s, experiencing a variety of historical events in addition to dealing with vampire society and the curse of immortality.
This episodic structure gives a sense of deja vu and ennui to the main character, as you see so many historical fads and people come and go.
Just like the Winchester house, there are a lot of dead alleys and lost construction. I tried beta testing the game before, but died in the second sub-book. Playing it for this review, I died twice at the end of the fourth book. Similarly, there are huge chunks of the story that can be skipped out on, such as romances, and the opening is completely different depending on your chosen background.
In another departure from Choicescript games, this game addresses race in a very direct way. This game is largely a history of black people in America, with each chapter containing large segments in relation to black history: the liberation of Haiti, the Exodusters, Cuba, lynchings, vodou, the treatment of former slaves after the civil war, etc. Black characters speak in heavily accented text, and for most of the game they are the only ones to do so, with Germans, quakers, and Jews receiving some accents later on.
A game that deals so intimately with black history and black stories risks embracing stereotypes or profiting on stories that don't belong to the author. However, I've seen in the forums mention of several sensitivity readers, although I don't see them listed in the credits the way that Fox Spirit has done (might be worth considering). From what I've seen from PoC authors on Twitter, many consider sensitivity readers a way to make sure that PoC voices are heard, considered, and paid.
The history in this game is detailed and heavily researched, especially in the fourth chapter. If you're interested in silver arbitrage resulting from the Coinage Act of 1873 or the invention of the modern celebrity via Oscar Wilde, the 4th act should appeal to you heavily. The third act deals with a lot of letter-writing and numerous social engagements with other vampires leading to political maneuvering. The 2nd act deals with the Civil War and deprivation, while the first has the most material dealing with you, yourself, as a vampire, and your feelings about that decision.
This game will appeal to a certain type of reader, those who consider themselves interested in philosophy and history or fans of vampires in general.
The game is not yet complete, but due to its plot structure you can pick up and stop off just about anywhere in the journey. A unique choicescript game, huge and detailed.
Choice of the Vampire was one of the first Choice of Games, which in October 2020 received a major DLC/expansion, bringing the 3rd (or 4th?) major segment of the story.
I feel like there has been a recent proliferation of vampire-related interactive fiction and visual novels recently. It is difficult for me to talk about this game without comparing it to the Vampire: the Masquerade franchise. Much of the vampire lore is similar, with the international vampire Society, the masquerade, and political conflicts between different vampire factions, as well as the basic vampire "biology". In some ways CotV almost feels like a fanfiction of VtM. However there are no vampire clans here.
CotV is as much a game about American history as it is about vampires. Sometimes it feels like having the game be about vampires is just an excuse to have a character who lives through lots of interesting moments in American history, like a 19th century vampire version of Forrest Gump. There are a lot of references to both major events, like the War of 1812, Reconstruction and its downfall, and the labor movement, as well as somewhat more obscure events, like the early days of baseball (or “base ball”). The quantity of historical references increased in the Memphis and especially the St. Louis chapters as opposed to the New Orleans chapter. Playing the game reminded me of high school US history class, in a mostly good way.
There are a few opportunities to work against the tide of history, but the tide of history is always stronger. You can play as a vampire who is a former slave or a free person of color or a Choctaw, with all that entails. You can help or hinder the destruction of the Confederacy at Vicksburg (the city falls no matter what you do). You can support the freedmen in Memphis, but they inevitably fall prey to the KKK and the yellow fever. You can try to support the labor strikes in St. Louis, but they are crushed. Or you can do the opposite of that: own a plantation with slaves, literally join the KKK, help the Pinkertons crush the labor revolts. Either way, the broader historical forces never change.
In some ways, I feel like the game tries to do too much. There is a very large number of characters; I could not keep up with all the different senator candidates, governors, praetors, quaestors, and so on, and often forgot what those titles even meant. There were just so many names, and while the characters were reasonably distinct, they sort of blended together. They were all just a bunch of jerks. Some supported Stone and others supported Adonis. I didn’t even see how they were different; they both seemed like jerks too. The glossary of vampires was nice, but kind of difficult to navigate. This is not to mention all of the mortal characters, who are often actual historical figures.
In addition, there are a lot of short-term plotlines, but the long-term plot is not very present. New Orleans was about trying to rise in society. Vicksburg had the siege. Memphis had the senator election, looking for Wilson Maddox, the yellow fever, and the municipal bonds. St. Louis had West and the Columbian Exposition. Sometimes, there are so many different things going on, it's hard to keep up. There are also many brief plot points that are brought up once and quickly abandoned. There are a number of romance options, all of which end poorly. The long-term plotlines are basically the Stone vs Adonis revolution, your chosen long-term vampiric goal, and general technological/societal change. The “metaplot” doesn’t feel as developed as VtM; there’s no Gehenna or Inquisition or Anarch Revolt or Sabbat or stuff like that. Much of the deep lore about vampires remains mysterious throughout the course of the game so far.
The story tries to tie in the historical struggles with the vampiric struggles, but it doesn’t really succeed at giving a sense of urgency to the latter. Compared to VtM: Night Road, there is not so much of the "personal horror" or pervasive dread that each night will be your last. Hunger frenzies and turning into a wight do not seem to be present. There’s little sense of danger even when you really are in danger due to West in St. Louis.
(Spoiler - click to show)Speaking of which, I ended up getting killed by West. I wasn’t sure if it was That Kind of Game, since I didn’t seem to be in danger of death in any of the previous chapters. It felt kind of sudden.
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