Like many in Summer 21, I was skeptical of a Battle Royale set in the world of Vampire: The Masquerade. It made no sense to me, combining a cult classic RPG with an action-packed genre entirely disconnected from the political intrigue and colorful characters that made the series special.
It felt like mixing oil and water to me, and while I think the game is missing some places that will hurt Masquerade fans, I came away after consecutive days stuck to this pleasantly surprised title. by his merits. Sharkmob somehow managed to make it work.
Let’s start with Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodhunt’s uplifting pitch. The game is a free-to-play third-person Battle Royale set in the dark streets of modern Prague. You, as a vampire belonging to one of the four clans, venture out and fight other creatures of the night until you or your team are the last ones standing. Once you’re out of a match, you return to Elysium, a social hub where you can interact with other players, take quests from a range of NPCs, and customize your character. As such, the game is sort of split into two parts, the Battle Royale itself where all the action and real progression takes place, and the hub where some of the game’s RPG roots show their teeth.
The Battle Royale itself – you know, going out and battling other players – is fantastic. It’s the aspect of the game that the development team has done the most well, and they’ve done it in almost every way. The game, even at an entry level, gives you abilities that provide tremendous freedom of movement; you can easily scale buildings and move about without hindrance, and that mobility opens up even more after investing time in traversal systems. This all leads to hectic combat (which hits the bar set by other highly mobile battle royales like Apex Legends) as opposing players dash, climb, slide and leap around each other in seconds.
As a Vampire: The Masquerade game, you also get a selection of classes – or archetypes – which contain unique skills and passives that go a long way towards defining the ideal playstyle for everyone. Currently, there are seven in total in four clans. As you can imagine, each clan has archetypes that match the background they belong to; The Brujah are headstrong fighters who can jump into battle quickly, while the Toreador are easy-on-the-eye charmers and deceivers with tricky abilities that easily confuse other players. At this time, I wouldn’t say any class feels particularly unbalanced, which is important for a starting lineup. Classes, along with the random match modifiers that apply at the start of each game of Bloodhunt, allow for real diversity in how the game plays out and the approach you need to take if you want to win.
Combine all of this with a selection of usable weapons that each fulfill a certain combat objective, as well as a ‘Blood Resonance’ system that allows you to gain powerful passive buffs by feeding yourself sucking mortals into the streets, and there’s a dynamic here that I don’t think you can find anywhere else right now. At the time of writing, there’s no ranked mode, but once it’s there, I can definitely see a dedicated community growing around the solid foundation present in what Sharkmob has cooked up.
The map itself, a rain-covered modern Prague, is a nest of intertwining alleys and sloping roofs. Aging Gothic structures clash with more modern construction, while different regions are lit in subtle colors, so jumping between areas feels like moving through scenes from a John Wick movie. It would be so easy to create a map in this universe as a boring bundle of bricks and bushes, but the environmental design team nails it here. It’s early days, but it might be my favorite map in a Battle Royale.
If there’s one thing I’ve found lacking with an otherwise stellar effort, it’s The Entity. This is a PvE force present in Prague that all players can face on various sides. Judging by what we’re told in the story, as well as the promotional material, that’s a big deal. In Prague they are a good source of loot and additional blood resonance points, of course. But they’re just guys with busted guns. Yeah, they can take you out if you’re not careful, but they’re not the threat you expect them to be. Even the addition of sword-wielding Entity soldiers, as we see in the trailers, would mix things up enough to bring some of that danger to these otherwise lackluster enemies. It’s something I’d like to see explored more in future seasons.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about the live service aspect of the game. Yes, this game has a battle pass and heaps of paid cosmetics. The battle pass itself is your standard XP-based affair, with daily and seasonal challenges that provide big infusions of progress for those looking to climb the ranks quickly. You don’t get much as a free-to-play player – other than the occasional piercing, tattoo, or basic clothing option – but as a free-to-play title with no loot box option, that’s not quite surprising. If you really want to explore character customization to a decent extent, you’ll be pretty limited with options unless you break your wallet.
You get about two or three months worth of content in a single season, which is roughly in line with other high-profile games, and judging by what happened in Early Access (and the interviews that we made with the team), we can expect new quests, cosmetics and other visual changes throughout the seasons. Of course, I’d like to see Prague itself change over the coming seasons, rather than having the biggest additions limited to just the social hub and cosmetics I can buy. It would be cool to see the team continue to disfigure Prague as the narrative gets more hectic.
With all of that in mind, the game loses some of its vigor when it comes to the social hub: Elysium. It’s at the heart of the game, and while the area itself is pretty decent thanks to its gothic club aesthetic and room for expansion as the game develops over the coming years, it’s not the place for the smooth narrative that I had hoped for. . Obviously, expecting a radical story in a Battle Royale like we’ve seen in other Vampire: The Masquerade games would be totally unrealistic. However, even arriving with levels of excitement reigning, the quests that play a big role in keeping a player up to date with what’s going on in Prague are painfully basic.
Here’s an example: One of the clan leaders in Elysium wants you to go out and find a VHS tape. Okay, there’s room for some interest here, and with enough clues, it could turn out to be quite fun, right? So you go downstairs and pick up a bag with the tape on it, but it turns out to be the wrong bag when you return to the questgiver. So you have to go back to the same place and grab another bag… but the tape isn’t there either, so you have to go back to finally grab the tape. Why do I have to go back to the hub to look inside a bag and find it’s empty? Why does this look like homework? In any other game, you can eliminate this as a bit of side content that’s best ignored, but that drudgery cycle holds true for every quest here. I can only hope that as time progresses, additional time will be spent making them more invigorating.
So, as an initial version, how does the game behave? It’s solid! Thanks in large part to the outstanding action present here, getting it started, jumping into a match or two solo or with friends, and battling it out is awesome. This alone provides a buffer that lessens the negative impression that some of the game’s flaws leave behind. Add to that the regular addition of new modes – including a ranked mode and a duos mode that literally just got added as I write this – and this title can serve as a great party game for groups of people. friends looking for their next big game to tide them over during the dry months ahead.
Can he tackle some of the greatest of the genre? Your Warzones and Fortnite? Absolutely not, but that’s obviously not the point here. However, it will surely tempt a part of the players. Hopefully the players it can suck up from other games are enough to slowly grow a community here. With that, and a slow drip of new archetypes, weapons, and other significant changes, I can totally see Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodhunt becoming that slow burner you hear about from time to time. A great game to try right now, and a title you should keep an eye out for in years to come.