REVIEW: ‘Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong’ Fails to Enchant (XSX)

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Vampire: The Masquerade can be boiled down into a few key components: style, supernatural intrigue, and deep social interactions. With all of these elements in mind, the developers at Big Bad Wolf Studio and publisher Nacon made Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong to try and create a unique and deep narrative RPG within the setting. While some of its accomplishments are impressive when considering its assumedly limited budget, there are a few too many issues preventing it from being worth sinking your teeth into (pun intended). 

The narrative takes center stage in Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong, which makes it all the more disappointing that its story isn’t engaging enough to carry an entire game. It takes place in Boston as the council of vampires there has just received a Code Red, an alert that evidence of their existence might have leaked out. 

The particular incident that makes them think is the slaughtering of dozens of vampires at a party to celebrate their alliance with another group in the city. So, yeah, it definitely seems like somebody knows what’s going on unless they just murdered a party of people with stakes to the heart and happened to get lucky that it was filled with vampires. 

To get to the bottom of what is going on and deal with the event’s fallout, players are put in control of three different vampires. There’s the intimidating but suave man Galeb, the seductive club owner Emem, and the future-seeing Leysha. The player is given the option of customizing each character’s playstyle by selecting from one of three disciplines and are then able to level up skills and traits as they see fit. 

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However, each of the three characters can pick from the same three disciplines, so if you want you can just pick the same one for all three and have them play almost identically to one another. Because of this, all that really sets the characters apart from one another are their personalities, which aren’t the best. 

Emem is the best of the trio, which is not saying much. The only reason she is better than Galeb or Neysha is that she didn’t leave much of an impact at all and felt more like the protagonist of a Battlefield campaign that never speaks and is only spoken to. Galeb, on the other hand, is a close second. Some scenes and conversations with him are actually pretty interesting, but the wind is quickly sucked from his sails from how often he mumbles lines under his breath or in his head that sound like they were taken straight from the notebook of an edgy teenager that wants to impress the goth girl in class. 

Then there is Leysha, who is one of the most unpleasant characters I have ever played in a video game. For some reason, Leysha has the ability to see the future and has a history of making accurate predictions that helped your clan in Boston. She also has the ability to turn invisible and copy the outfits of NPCs you find like vampire Hitman

That’s all pretty cool, but it is ultimately ruined when her personality and child companion comes into the picture. Yes, that’s right, Leysha has a kid who she calls “sugar fangs” that is always with her. The two characters combined are a torturous combination of poor vocal performances (just try to count how many times the kid loses and then suddenly regains her lisp), retreading the same plot points over and over in a single scene, and clunky dialogue that takes ages to wade through. 

With those three characters, players have to progress through a little under a dozen scenes, searching for clues, navigating dialogue with NPCs, and managing their character’s hunger so they don’t randomly attack a nearby mortal. Some missions have gimmicks like unique traversal mechanics or stealth sections, but overall there is little variety. 

These sections of the game are actually quite fun unless you’re playing as Leysha. Piecing together clues and using them to unlock unique dialogue options is really rewarding, and the consequences of your decisions have real, satisfying impacts on the story. The only problem is that while the individual levels are fun to play through the overarching story that they connect to is as dull and predictable as any other, ultimately leaving you with a bad taste in your mouth when credits roll. 

Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is also subject to extremely rough technical performance. With the game’s smaller team and budget I wouldn’t expect it to be groundbreaking, but even playing on the Xbox Series X whenever the camera cut multiple textures would take a while to load in, frequently making people and environments look like mushed clay at the start of the shot. This grew increasingly annoying over the course of the playthrough and never subsided. 

The game’s facial animations are also unpleasant to look at, which is unfortunate when you’ll be doing so for 90% of your time with the game. The only effective part of the game’s visuals is the environments, which feature some really cool architecture and design to look at while you pass through them. 

I really wanted to love Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong. I already am a fan of its setting, desperately want AA video games to rise in prominence again, and love slow burns that are focused on character dialogue and interactions. However, there is just too much getting in the way of Swansong’s success. There is no way of knowing exactly what happened, but the final product is one that I can’t even recommend picking up on sale. 

Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is available now on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.


Vampire: The Masquerade - Swansong
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    Rating - 3/10
3/10

TL;DR

I really wanted to love Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong. I already am a fan of its setting, desperately want AA video games to rise in prominence again, and love slow burns that are focused on character dialogue and interactions. However, there is just too much getting in the way of Swansong’s success. There is no way of knowing exactly what happened, but the final product is one that I can’t even recommend picking up on sale.