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Vampire adventure, July 17, 2019
We’re in vampire territory here, and it’s the “living in a sewer and keeping herds of thralls and human cattle” kind of vampire. Clan Nosferatu, maybe, if we’re thinking in terms of Vampire: the Masquerade, which the author is probably not. There’s some in-game indication that not all vampires live this way, since both the protagonist and their rescuer are or can be animated by much less selfish desires. Indeed, the game starts out by giving us a choice of goal: freeing the other thralls, avenging ourselves on the elder vampire, or obtaining an amulet that will allow us to withstand the light of the sun. The game might have been more interesting if we had actually been forced to choose between these three goals – as it is, we can simply do all of them. It’s not so much a choice as a list of goals, then, although we can decide to murder the thralls if we so prefer.
The caverns that we traverse are a curious combination of good and not-so-good world building. The dungeon is especially effective, conjuring up images of horror without descending into gory details. But there are also numerous points of the “you’re at an intersection and can go in these and these directions”-type. I did enjoy traversing the catacombs, but it seems there was a lot more potential here for atmosphere and memorability.
There did seem to be a bit of a mismatch between the way the game tells us that the elder vampire is really scary and powerful, and the incredible ease with which one can depose of him. How did this guy ever earn his fearsome reputation if a newly freed thrall can kill him with no trouble at all? I certainly didn’t dislike the ending, but I again felt that there was untapped potential here. (What if you could only become strong enough to defeat the enemy if you first sucked every last drop of blood from the two human prisoners? Okay, I realise that that is the kind of game design that takes us squarely into the realm of my own obsessions, and the current author might not be interested in it at all. Still, it’s one way to make victory feel more costly and more consequential.)
I ran into a couple of bugs – a game-ending one if you tried to avoid the pit trap for the second time, and a bug where you can repeat the fight with the elder vampire as if it had never happened before – but those can easily be fixed.
All in all, enjoyable, with some strong moments, but more could have been achieved.