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 on March 21, a sequel that, by the time it releases, will have been 16 years in the making (which is a mere blink in vampire years). And until Bloodlines 2 is released, we'll be collecting every bit of news here for you to devour. Or sip casually. Whatever your feeding style.
Here's everything we know about Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines 2 so far.
What is Bloodlines 2's release date?
While we won't know the precise date for a while, Bloodlines 2 will release sometime in March 2020, less than a year away. So, if you need to brush up on your vampire lore or play through the first game again, you have plenty of time.
Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines 2 gameplay is here, check it out
That was some rootin' tootin' 2019 vampire action, right there. Bloodlines 2's gameplay looks promising, but we still have a lot of questions unanswered.
Hear developer insights from the gameplay trailer in the Bloodlines 2 segment at the PC Gaming Show
Hardsuit Labs promised that players' relationships with other vampires will be mature, volatile, and always fragile in Bloodlines 2.
There's another VtM game, Coteries of New York, coming in 2019
If you need more masquerade in your life before Bloodlines 2 comes out next year, there's a narrative game Vampire: The Masquerade—Coteries of New York made by indie studio Draw Distance planned for the end of this year.
Coteries will apparently be a "single-player narrative experience" with "morally challenging dilemmas, and many potential paths leading to the story’s finale." It's primarily text-based, with appropriately moody art, and plenty of dialogue options.
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.
Where can we buy Bloodlines 2?
Paradox seemed happy to announce that Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines 2 will not be exclusive to any one store. The game will be available on the Paradox store, Steam, GOG, Epic, and you will also be able to buy it on PS4 and Xbox One. However, eager neonates and elders alike can pre-order a copy now at the same storefronts.
There are three different editions available for pre-order: digital standard edition, digital Unsanctioned edition, and digital Blood Moon edition (which includes two DLC story packs and a werewolf-themed expansion called Season of the Wolf on Steam). Those who pre-order the Unsanctioned edition or higher will get some exclusive launch add-ons and bonuses, like Jeannette's outfit, Damsell's beret from the original game, or the Voermen family portrait.
No word yet if physical copies of the game will be available—but there will be NO loot boxes in the game, so that's good news.
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.
- Glide is the first active power in this discipline. With this, your bone density and body mass become as light as a bat's, giving you the ability to briefly fly. Use this to reach high-up areas and then swoop down on enemies when they least expect it.
- Bat Swarm is the second active power. You can summon a small swarm of bats to attack and disable enemies, and it's upgradeable it to a full-on protective bat shield made of bats.
- These are your telekinetic powers, or the ability to move stuff with your mind.
- Pull is the first active power in this discipline, which allows you to grab and pull objects toward you, like weapons, with your mind.
- Levitate is the second active power. You start off with the ability to suspend enemies and other NPCs in the air, and can develop this power to the point where suspending everyone and everything in an area is a cinch.
- You become your own fog machine, except way cooler.
- Mist Shroud is the first active power in this discipline, which allows you to summon a cloud a mist for a short while that muffles your footsteps and makes it hard for others to see you. You can also transform into mist yourself, which can come in handy if you need to travel via ventilation shaft.
- Envelop is the second active power that creates a vortex around your enemies, blinding and choking them.
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.
- Aura Sense: Spot NPC's through walls, mark enemies over a long distance, and highlight an NPC's weaknesses
- Psychic Projection: Detach your consciousness from your body to explore as an astral projection. Combined with Aura Sense, this can be used to mark NPC's. It can also overwhelm a target's mind for a short while.
- You're strong. Like, scary strong.
- Fist of Caine supercharges your strength, and is upgradable. Knock down walls. Throw people far away. You may not start every fight, but you'll finish it.
- Earthshock allows you to punch the ground and send out a violent shockwave that will knock down anyone within a certain radius. Upgrading this ability will add damage on top of that.
- This is a 'move faster than a blink of the eye' discipline.
- Unseen Storm can let you severely disorient your opponents. You'll disappear so fast they'll still be trying to figure out where you went before they realize they're dead. This ability can be upgraded.
- Accelerate is more or less the opposite: this ability allows you to slow the world down around you. Dodge punches. Dodge bullets. You'll look like you are moving at superhuman speed to you opponent. Accelerate is upgradeable, as well.
- Skewer: Form dangerous spikes form the user's blood that spread across the ground
- Purge: Causes the target to vomit blood, damaging them heavily. A stream of blood flows back to the caster.
- Blood Boil: A high level ability, user can cast Purge again on an affected NPC to boil all of their blood from the inside and cause them to explode. Heavily damages the target and everyone within its vicinity.
- You've got a deadly je ne sais quoi.
- Awe: to turn a room full of people into doting worshippers that are oblivious to everything else
- Entrance: your admirers will follow you around, shielding you and distracting enemies
- Mesmerise lets you hypnotise one NPC, putting them in a trance. The NPC ignores everything going on around them and won't feel any pain. A very handy skill for undead surgeons.
- Command gives you control over a mesmerised NPC, so you can tell them to attack enemies and move objects.
- You can enter a combat stance and use Absorb to deflect attacks and even heal wounds for every impotent strike an enemy makes.
- Personal Armour turns your skin into stone, letting you shrug off damage and join the Fantastic Four.
- Haunt imparts an unseen spectre in the victims’ minds. Unable to control themselves, they’ll try to flee in a panic.
- Berserk fills the vampire’s targets with an uncontrollable rage, causing them to lash out at anything nearby - even the air itself, if no better target is available.
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.
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."
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.
You could do this in the original Bloodlines, but on a much smaller scale. You were given only one opportunity to choose between three factions—Camarilla, Sabbat, Anarchs—or you could become a lone wolf. Paradox hasn't said exactly what factions will be available in Bloodlines 2, but at least choosing between them will be more fluid this time around and more heavily integrated into the story.
Can you dance?
Source: Kotaku on YouTube
Oh, you can dance.
Anything else we know?
Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines 2 will support ray tracing and DLSS, as Nvidia announced March 21. Bigger news: Mod support. The original game supported mods as well, so it only makes sense to allow that again this time around.
Ray tracing/DLSS support also seems like a perfect fit for a setting all about moody lighting. Vampire stories are generally cast in a dark and ominous world (because of the whole not being-able-to-go-into the sun thing), so ray tracing should make those midnight shadows at the end of an alleyway look more threatening to both humans and the supernatural alike.
Also, it wouldn't be a complete vampire party if a few developers didn’t return for more blood. Brian Mitsoda, designer and writer of the original Bloodlines, is on board again as Bloodlines 2's lead narrative designer. Rik Schaffer, who composed the OST on the original Bloodlines, confirmed via fan email that he has already been working on the Bloodlines 2 score over the last year as the main composer.
The VO cast "might be one of the best VO casts of all time," claim Mitsoda and Hardsuit Labs' creative director.
Alright, I'm excited.
Us too! Are you excited for the same reason's we are?