Imagine trying to compete with Half-Life 2 on the same day it was released. That's what happened to the original Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines. A contract with Valve prevented Bloodlines from being released before Half-Life 2, but Activison didn't want push the release date for Bloodlines back. So, not only did Bloodlines have to compete with one of the greatest PC games of all time, but Bloodlines was marred with bugs. Commercially, it didn't do well, though it did eventually end up on our list of the best RPGs of all time.
Still, Vampire: The Masquerade fans were drawn to the cast of characters, the story, and fell in love with many of the missions. Given the circumstances around its release, Bloodlines was still widely loved and accepted, and obtained cult status. If that wasn't evident back then, it's evident now.
Paradox Interactive announced Bloodlines 2 at GDC in 2019, but the long-awaited sequel has had a rocky journey since. Bloodlines 2 has been delayed multiple times and will be changing development studios too.
Until it does eventually release, here's everything we know about Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines 2.
What is Bloodlines 2's release date?
Honestly, we don't know.
Bloodlines 2 was originally scheduled for March 2020 and then was pushed back to an unspecified time later that year. It eventually delayed into 2021 and was expected in the second half of the year. Its launch has now been delayed out of 2021 while Paradox replace Hardsuit Labs with a different studio to lead development.
Bloodlines 2 might end up targeting a 2022 release window, but even guessing a year feels optimistic right now.
What's going on with Bloodlines 2 development?
Bloodlines 2 has been hit with troubling news several times beyond just the repeated delays.
Lead writer Brian Mitsoda, who was one of the main faces of the game since its unveiling, was fired from the project along with creative director Ka’ai Cluney in 2020. According to a blog post by developer Hardsuit Labs, the decisions came as part of "organizational changes" to the development team.
Speaking to Rock Paper Shotgun via email, Mitsoda said that he was "suddenly terminated" on July 16 and that "this came to [him] as a shock would be underselling it".
In October 2020, senior narrative designer Cara Ellison left Hardsuit Labs as well to join League of Geeks.
As of February 2021, its Hardsuit Labs that's been fired. Bloodlines 2 publishers Paradox Interactive announced that the game would be delayed past 2021 while they change developers. "We have started a collaboration with a new studio partner to finish work on the game," Paradox said. "This has been a difficult decision, but we are convinced that it is the right way forward to do the game justice."
Here are all the trailers and gameplay videos for Bloodlines 2
This teaser video from Xbox 20/20 in May 2020 is a cinematic trailer with only a smidge of gameplay and not much new to see. It is fun though, set to Wayne Newton's Danke Schoen. Near the end you can spot some jumping across rooftops, a bit of telekinetic combat, and that bat swarm ability that you can find below in the Chiropterans skills.
Here's a 30 minute gameplay demo from Gamescom 2019. It gives a good sense for what it's like to roam around open Seattle and approach missions the way you want. The commentary from the two developers is also helpful for understanding what's going on at this point in the story. If you prefer, here's the version without commentary.
The extended gameplay trailer from 2019 gives a look at a mission to track down a thinblood named Slug hiding in the Seattle underground along with a choice at the end on how to deal with him. You can spot some vampire powers and regular old guns at play in between.
The announcement trailer suggests a much darker Bloodlines than the original
We move on from the city of lost angels to the Pacific northwest—Seattle. Here, the vampire community has been fragmented, and several factions are vying for power all at once. At the start of Bloodlines 2, your character is caught up in the middle of a mass embrace—a group of vampires kidnapping and forcibly turning humans into vampires. It's a huge no-no to even turn one human into a vampire without permission from a city's Primogen (clan leader) or Prince (ruler of a city). If you get caught, it usually means the final death for both the sire and their childe.
The Camarilla was once the faction to keep things like that in-check, to punish vampires for breaking the Masquerade. But if things are that chaotic in Bloodlines 2, it seems like the Camarilla doesn't have the power it once had. In the new Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition roleplaying book, elder leaders of the Camarilla have disappeared, most having been called away by something called the Beckoning. With many cities around the world now missing Primogens and Princes, their dominions are left open to rivals from opposing factions. Cities like Seattle are ripe for the taking, leaving the possibility for even a newly turned vampire to establish some power over a city.
Given the controversy around the 5th Edition, it's hard to speculate how closely, if at all, Hardsuit Labs and Paradox will stick to that canon. The Bloodlines 2 website mentions that players will be able to "meet the old blood founders present since the city’s birth," so maybe some old vampires are still around. But I bet the mass embrace is the least crazy thing in store for us in Seattle.
How long is the campaign?
Hardsuit Labs estimates a single playthrough will take around 25-30 hours, depending on your playstyle. Paradox also said during their clan Brujah reveal stream that if you play only the main questline without speed running, you'll get your first non-Thinblood powers roughly five hours into the game.
Like the first game, there will also be a branching narrative and many side quests, so the developers encourage multiple playthroughs. And, like Bloodlines, the entire game will take place at night.
Do I get to create my own character?
Unlike the original Bloodlines that limited your character’s physical appearance to the clan you choose, it seems like character creation in Bloodlines 2 will be more robust. The unofficial patch added the ability to choose your character's background in the original game, but it did not have much effect on the overall story. That's going to change this time around.
No word on how much control players will have over the character creation process, but an integral element to the story is being able to choose who you were in your human life. If you say you were a cop or a coroner and you walk into a police station—the people in there are going to react to you differently compared to giving your character a different background. Little things like that seem like they will make Bloodlines 2 a different, personalized experience for everyone, which is a great thing when it comes to RPGs.
What clans will be playable?
Paradox has confirmed the first five clans coming to Bloodlines 2. First revealed was the Brujah, which is one of the seven playable clans from the first Bloodlines game. In Bloodlines 2, there are few of them left in Seattle and the ones that remain are from the failed Anarch movement.
The Brujah are the rebels, rabble, and rejects in modern times. Historically, they were a clan of warrior scholars, but they have always been against institutions and authority, especially the Camarilla. They still follow The Masquerade, but as Smiling Jack put it in Bloodlines, you don't need to be a part of an institution to have common sense. Their powers include Potency and Celerity.
Second are The Tremere clan, a powerful group of warlocks that have learned to control and wield vampire blood, or Vitae. The Tremeres' ability to weaponize Vitae makes them feared even among vampires. Their magic comes in two forms—Auspex and Thaumatergy. Auspex abilities are allowed under the law of the Masquerade, but the destructive power of Thaumatergy is prohibited.
The third revealed is the Toreador clan, a collective of vampires that use beauty and seduction techniques to lure their prey. Obsessed with the arts, the Toreador prefer to turn musicians and painters to their side. In-game, these qualities translate to Celerity and Presence, abilities that boast the clan's incredible speed and charming wiles.
Next is the Ventrue clan. Paradox describes the Ventrue as "the clan that has already won." As the founders of the largest vampire sect, the Camarilla, they ensure the Masquerade remains unbroken by bossing folk around from a big tower. They wield the powers of Dominate and Fortitude, making them great at manipulation while easily taking a punch.
Most recently, Paradox unveiled the final clan (for now), the Malkavians. A fan favorite of the last Bloodlines, the Malkavians stand out thanks to their unique abilities to see glimpses of the future and receive helpful information from a voice in their head. They wield the powers of Dementation and Auspex. They're great at manipulation and information gathering.
Players start off as newly created vampires called Thinbloods, aka 14th or 15th generation vampires, which makes them joining another vampire clan seemingly unorthodox. However, the story will apparently explain this by having players join another clan as an outsider later in the game, rather than pick one before starting like in the original Bloodlines.
Thinbloods are generally their own clan, but some have the characteristics of their bloodline or are able to develop their own powers. In Bloodlines 2, they will be more powerful than how they are usually portrayed in tabletop lore.
That's all the clans Paradox is talking about right now, but the company also mentioned that more clans will be added to Bloodlines 2 after the game is released.
What are my disciplines (aka vampiric powers)?
Like the original Bloodlines, players will have a few vampiric powers at their disposal to aid in combat or other harrowing situations. In Bloodlines 2, you can get up to a total of six active disciplines. There will be many clan-based powers too choose from, but since you start out as a Thinblood, you can choose only one of the following powers:
Derived from the scientific name for bat, Chiroptera, these are your—you guessed it—bat powers. You can briefly Glide like a bat and swoop down on enemies or summon a Bat Swarm to attack enemies.
These are your telekinetic powers, or the ability to move stuff with your mind. You can Pull objects with your mind and eventually learn to Levitate enemies and NPCs in the air.
You become your own fog machine, except way cooler. You can summon a Mist Shroud to hide yourself and the sound of your footsteps or Envelop your enemies in a choking vortex.
As previously mentioned, Thinbloods generally don't have powers, and are considered the weakest of all vampires, but on rare occasions they are able to learn strange and rare disciplines without training, while others develop their own powers.
Joining another clan later in the game will unlock other powers (you'll get to keep your Thinblood powers).
Below are the rest of the powers Paradox has revealed for its clans. To see which clans hold which powers, see the section above about clans.
You can use Aura Sense to see NPCs through walls and mark their weaknesses or Psychic Projection to detach form your body and explore as an astral projection.
You're strong. Like, scary strong. You can use Fist of Caine to knock down walls and throw enemies or Earthshock to punch the ground and send out a violent shockwave to knock down enemies.
This is a 'move faster than a blink of the eye' discipline. You can disorient your enemies with Unseen Storm or use Accelerate to slow down the world around you to dodge bullets and punches both.
Use Skewer to turn your own blood into dangerous spikes or Purge to make your enemy vomit blood that heals you. At higher levels you can use Boil Blood to make an NPC explode from the inside and damage those around them.
You've got a deadly je ne sais quoi. You can Awe a room full of people and turn them into mindless worshipers or Entrance your admirers to follow you around shielding you from harm.
You can Mesmerize an NPC making them oblivious to surroundings and pain or Command an NPC to attack enemies or move objects for you.
You can use Absorb to deflect attacks and heal wounds or Personal Armor to turn your skin into stone like The Thing.
You can Haunt an enemy, causing them to flee in a panic or use Berserk to fill them with uncontrollable rage to lash out at everything around them.
Source: Kotaku on YouTube
Oh, you can dance.
Can I choose my faction?
Absolutely. Another main difference between the original Bloodlines and Bloodlines 2 is that the story won't be so linear this time around. Given the volatility between vampire factions in Seattle, you'll not only be able to pledge your allegiance to one of them, but you can change your mind at any time. Be a double agent. Go rouge. Be completely loyal to one faction. Whatever you want.
Paradox has revealed many of the factions you can join in Bloodlines 2. You can read even more about each faction at their specific pages on the Bloodlines 2 website which we've linked for you. We'll just go over the gist of each here.
The first was the The Pioneers, who were among the first to settle in Seattle. They're old power, but have recently had to give up influence across parts of the city. They're a group of idealists, romanticists, and distinguish themselves from their more "hot-headed" vampire peers. The Pioneers are the definition of "old money" and cling to past glories of the bad old days.
Next to be revealed were the Camarilla, who represent institutional power in Seattle. They're boardroom types: sophisticated, high-priced, and like to keep things quiet. In Bloodlines 2, the head of Camarilla is Prince Alec Cross, a skilled negotiator and strategist. The Camarilla are playing the long game, remaining at the top of the food chain for 20 years.
Paradox then unveiled The Baron, the shady crime organization beneath Seattle. Those loyal to The Baron of Aurora do the dirty work. While The Baron is happy to enlist Thinbloods like the player character, Hardsuit warns that the jobs you'll do for him won't be glamorous. Although other factions may see themselves above the seedy Baron, they know that the services provided are a necessary evil. The Baron himself lays low, guarding his position as kingpin by working through his lieutenants.
Next came The Newcomers, a group of blood mages and academics that reside in the University District. The Newcomers seem like a natural fit for the Tremere clan, vampires that specialize in blood magic. In Bloodlines 2, The Newcomers unite under the charismatic leadership of "Professor" Viktor Goga.
Lastly, Paradox unveiled The Unseen, a faction of Nosferatu vampires that can't be seen above ground due to their disfigured appearance. But what the Unseen lack in social skills, they make up for in trades of sneaking, hacking, and information brokering. In the Bloodlines 2 gameplay demo, an Unseen member helps the player with some much-needed info.
How do "resonances" work in Bloodlines 2?
Bloodlines 2 will adapt the emotional blood "resonances" from the tabletop Vampire the Masquerade which give different qualities to blood. Where the tabletop RPG had four resonances, Bloodlines 2 will have five: Delirium, Desire, Fear, Pain, and Rage. Devouring blood with different resonances will lead to additional abilities. Resonances act as a secondary XP to unlock and activate Resonance-specific buffs called Merits.
With heightened senses, you'll be able to see into a character's cardiovascular system, which is colored differently depending on what emotion they are feeling.
"The idea is that not all blood is the same. These characters might be filled with delirium, others might be filled with rage, and by drinking different types of resonance [blood] we're treating it as sort of a secondary type of experience that further allows you to customize your character based on your preferred tastes," said creative director Ka'ai Cluney in the gameplay commentary above.
Hear developer insights from the gameplay trailer in the Bloodlines 2 segment at the PC Gaming Show
And what about romances?
There will certainly be relationships in Bloodlines 2 but whether or not they will be romantic, exactly, is another story. During the PC Gamer Show segment above, Bloodlines 2 writer Cara Ellison told us that they will be very "fragile, volatile, and mature."
In a panel at PAX West 2019, USGamer interviewed also interviewed Ellison about a number of topics, including romance. Ellison explained that Bloodlines 2 is aiming to be less transactional than other RPGs when it comes to flirtation and sex in Seattle. It won't be as simple as inserting the right number of coins (or gifts) into a character to make more of your relationship. "You can give people everything they want and they might never give a shit about you," Ellison says. "And that's the way things are." It's a properly grim outlook for a dark game.
Bloodlines 2 is avoiding stereotypical depictions of mental illness
In a recent interview with GameIndustry.biz, Bloodlines 2 writer Brian Mitsoda spoke on his desire to avoid the mental illness tropes that the original Bloodlines (which he also wrote for) trafficked in.
"I'm pretty tired of any weird, over-the-top, or violent characters being dismissed as 'Well, they're crazy.' That's just lazy. I still see this in movies, games, and TV all the time," he said. This change will be reflected the strongest with the Malkavians clan, a group of vampires with unique abilities that suffer from mental illness in the form of hallucinations.
Though, Mitsoda was clear that Bloodlines 2 isn't meant to be a "one-to-one" portrayal of mental illness that real people suffer from. "But at the same time, being a stand-in for people with similar problems, I don't want them to be purely comic relief. As I said before, I'm pretty tired of mental illness being used as a crutch in writing—the twist or punchline being the character is crazy. It's pretty obvious when a writer has just written themselves into a corner if they use the 'They're crazy' excuse to justify sudden shifts in motives or character traits."
Here's a preview of Bloodlines 2's RTX support
Real-time raytracting is coming to Bloodlines 2 to make everything look a bit shinier and more reflective than it did before. The devs put together this handy video to show before and after sweeps with RTX on and off.
Alright, I'm excited.
Us too! Are you excited for the same reason's we are?