Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York Review

Developed by Polish indie developer Draw Distance and adapted from the tabletop pen and paper game, Vampire Masquerade: Coteries of New York proves to be a great introduction into the series. While the last third of the story proves to be weaker than the strong opening and better middle, the game does a great job at laying the foundations for a greater world.

The game follows a standard branching narrative format. Gameplay is entirely text based and the game operates on a system of hunger, which opens and closes dialogue options and actions.

Plot

Three starting points are open to the player: a man with rebellious ideas, a top level female corporate and a struggling young artist. While the prologues of each game differ depending on which character you choose, they all ultimately diverge onto the same story path, where there’s very little deviation from the various storylines given to you.

No matter which starting point you choose, you navigate the game as a young fledgling vampire interacting with much older and established members of the Camarilla, the vampire society. You’re encouraged to follow the laws of the Masquerade, which allows vampires to operate anonymously and in safety.

As a new vampire, your mentor encourages you to form your own coterie, or group of allies, with other vampires. The individuals you approach are all colourful and interesting characters, and are far and away the best part of the game. Their personalities shine, and your interactions with them can change greatly depending on how you talk to them. Getting to know them is truly a joy, and the emotional heights of the game’s writing lies within these characters as you navigate different avenues of vampire culture. The cast is diverse and interesting and getting to know the characters, their personalities and relationships is a rewarding process. Acquiring their trust feels earned.

Side quests are also a welcome distraction from the main plot. They vary from a journalist who is a bit too curious, a stalker who has taken an unhealthy interest in you, to a sibling of sorts who questions the history and very core of what it means to be a vampire.

All the while, your mentor sends you on menial tasks and quests that quickly prove to be pieces of a larger whole. A conspiracy is unearthed, and you find yourself to be in the centre of the political machinations of those far older than you. Unfortunately, it is this main plot that proves to be the weakest point in the game’s writing, where it all hurtles towards a rushed ending that doesn’t make much sense, both when experienced and if you think about it too hard. On top of that, the ending is triggered when only two of the coterie members have achieved friendship with you, which means it’s impossible to experience all content in a single playthrough. In fact, it’s possible to reach the very abrupt ending of the game without seeing any of the game’s side quests, including the building of the game’s titular coterie, completed.

On the one hand, the three starting points and the need to prioritise storylines means there’s a lot of potential for replaying the game. As it’s impossible to experience all content on a single playthrough, you’ll need to play the game at least five or six times to experience all the content it has to offer.

On the other hand, this means the writing is rushed, and you could be abruptly cut off from a story path you were pursuing, which is quite annoying.

Mechanics

The game is a standard text based branching narrative, which works well for the story and the history of the series.

The game works on a hunger system, using the classic vampire trope of thirst. The option to feed on humans you encounter, and whether you decline or accept can change your situation, depending on who’s watching. Be warned though- if you go too long without feeding, your hunger will increase, blocking off dialogue and action choices, and eventually resulting in dire consequences. Hunger is gained over time, and is increased when vampire powers are used, including healing.

One of the biggest problems with the mechanics of the game is the save system. If you choose a path that results in death, the game ends and that save file is erased. It’s impossible to go back to fix a mistake, and the only option is to start a new game from the beginning, which is problematic f you were several hours in. Additionally, once you complete the game, the file is erased and you have no chance of replaying anything you might have missed. For a game that has several options and paths where you can’t experience everything in a single playthrough, this process can become tedious, especially as there’s little difference between paths on the main quest line.

The game does throw a lot of new terms at you, for which there’s a helpful dictionary. New words are highlighted red in the dialogue text, and can be accessed via the UI. The dictionary and past conversations can be accessed at any time.

Visuals and Sound

The characters are presented through visuals in a classic, oil painted style. The character designs are catchy and attractive, as colourful as their written personalities.

Aside from the cast, the painted backgrounds are pretty and eye catching, reflecting the various shades of New York. Enhanced with a few visual effects, the nightscape of New York is elegant, dark and threatening. Despite the fact that you’re a vampire and belong to this landscape, it’s presented to the player as somewhere that’s as multifaceted as the members of the Coteries: dark, dangerous and beautiful.

The sound and music fulfil its purpose, but nothing more. There aren’t any standout soundtracks, and the sound plays its part in Foley design. As is typical with a text-based game such as this, there is no voice acting, but the visuals and writing are so strong that voice acting isn’t necessary.

In conclusion, Vampire Masquerade: Coteries of New York is a good introduction to the series. The colourful characters, dynamic plots and navigating vampire society are compelling and exciting, but are darkened by the disappointing, confusing and rushed ending.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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Vampire: The Masquerade - Coteries of New York Review
  • Gameplay - 8/10
    8/10
  • Graphics - 7/10
    7/10
  • Sound - 7/10
    7/10
  • Replay Value - 8/10
    8/10
Overall
7/10

Summary

Vampire Masquerade: Coteries of New York is a fun and dynamic text based adventure that sucks you into the ancient world of vampire society.