Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Draw Distance
Release Date: Dec. 11, 2019

About Lauren "Feffy" Hall

I am a freelance writer based in Canada, where it's too cold to go outside; therefore, we play a lot of video games. I'm an expert zombie slayer (the virtual kind), amateur archer (for actual zombie slaying and general apocalypse purposes - it could happen), and a work-in-progress wife and mother (IRL). My claim to fame: I completed the original MYST without looking up cheats. It took several years. What other accomplishments does one need in life?


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PC Review - 'Vampire: The Masquerade - Coteries of New York'

by Lauren "Feffy" Hall on Feb. 3, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York is a unique, atmospheric, single-player narrative experience, set in the rich, fully licensed, globally recognized universe of Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition.

As regular ol' human beings who don't generally wander around in a fog of bloodlust, we've found the idea of vampires to be intriguing long before RPGs were ever a "thing." Vampire: The Masquerade - Coteries of New York, the single-player, text-driven RPG by Draw Distance based heavily on the world created by White Wolf's '90s tabletop RPG, Vampire: The Masquerade, isn't the first game of its kind, and it won't be the last. Fans of the franchise worldwide have enjoyed the traditional RPG since 2004, and the dizzying craze will continue with its much-anticipated successor, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, which is due to be released this year. We'll also see Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood and Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong released later this year. Unlike many other exciting RPG games of the genre that are on the horizon, the lure of this ever-expanding vampire obsession lies not in fancy graphics or exciting combat, but rather, in the story itself.

And what a story. In Coteries, a text-driven visual novel that's rich in seduction and political intrigue, you begin by choosing one of three characters, each from different clans: Brujah, Toreador, or Ventrue. Each choice comes with special powers, called "disciplines," as well as diverse ethical responses and dialogue options that make each character's gameplay unique. For my playthrough, I chose the career-ambitious Amanda from clan Ventrue, who finds herself in a strange place one morning after a fuzzy business meeting that she has no real memory of, with a new and intoxicating hunger for human blood.

Poor, unsuspecting Amanda. It's not her fault; weak humans are no match for the seduction and charm of vampires, and it's really going to be a rough journey as a newborn fledgling. The story takes off from there: no cheesy tutorial or hand-holding.

The lack of a gameplay tutorial works out just fine because, well … what gameplay? Beyond the occasional dialogue tree, which is not unlike any other text-driven RPG, and opportunities to use your skills, there really isn't any gameplay to speak of. Simply put, there is just an awful lot of left-clicking. In Coteries, the story is the game, so you can sit back and enjoy the ride as the artistry and storytelling unfold before you like a dark, blood-drenched graphic novel.

As in many adventure games, the majority of what you do to progress the storyline is to simply read and make the occasional choice. The lack of an in-game save option makes this frustrating at times, since you can't go back and make a different choice to see how that alters the story. For some reason, your only way of saving your progress is to "save and quit," even though you have been provided up to three save slots. Presumably, you are given those slots to save one game per character choice, which is great, but an in-game save option would also allow you to test the waters and try out different responses or actions, giving you a chance to really sink your teeth into the plot. Despite this lack of player control, the game is chock full of charm and beauty, so I didn't feel like it was a deal-breaker.

Set in beautiful, mysterious New York City after nightfall, the dream-like art and ambient music in Coteries sets the tone for your new, bizarre social circle, which consists of an eclectic mix of secret clubs, shady thugs, high-class socialites, and various intellectuals. Everything and everyone operates stealthily in the shadows, keeping their true identity secret from the unsuspecting world around them, and you are expected to follow suit. It becomes clear fairly early in your new life that you are a useful, albeit expendable, pawn in the Camarilla, the ruling body whose main goal is to preserve the "masquerade." In simplest terms, preserving the masquerade means doing everything possible to keep the existence of vampires a secret from the rest of the world. This means that you have to be selective, not only in your dialogue options, but also in your feeding opportunities and when using your skills. It's all too easy to annoy the wrong people in this game, and being an outcast in the vampire world is pretty much a death sentence.

Much like in real life, it's all about who you know: If you thought being a vampire would be a solitary, socially stunted life, you would be mistaken. The Vampire: The Masquerade Fifth Edition universe, which this game is based on, is heavy with lore and diverse characters. The sheer volume of mysterious, strange characters you meet on your first few nights as a vampire is dizzying, and each conversation and nightly outing provide a deeper insight into your new world, your place in it, and of course, the intricacies of your growing hunger.

Your hunger is frequently on your mind, and if left unchecked, it can prevent you from exploring certain plotlines, as indicated by red, unusable options in your dialogue choices. This insatiable hunger denies you the chance to respond or react as you might like to. This would be a great place to reload your saved game, but as you can't do that, learning how to handle your thirst and feeding opportunities is helpful as you navigate through the "coteries," which are basically vampire gangs or creepy social clubs you can ally with. It takes some finesse and smooth-talking (or in some cases, brute force) to coax allies into your coterie, and sometimes, you aren't all that successful. It's OK, though, as there are several allies to recruit and benefit from.

Beyond the frequent requests of the powerful and mysterious socialite Sophie Langley (who has seemingly taken you under her wing as a henchman of sorts) and side plots by means of cryptic invitations that appear under your door or become available on your map, your evening activities are mostly your choice. One thing this game does provide you with is a map, which is really more of a visual directory to the coterie companions and various phases in their plotlines, and you simply click on their portraits to advance that particular story or questline.

Another helpful tool in the lore-heavy world of Vampire: The Masquerade is the continuously updated in-game dictionary. Each time a new term — to anyone who may be unfamiliar with the VTM universe, that is — appears in the text, it will be displayed in red, which alerts the player to an update to their ever-expanding dictionary. The dictionary was helpful to get a better understanding of each character and their respective ranks, as well as their kindred's history and goals, so I could make better decisions in my quests. The coteries you choose to interact with provide you with quests, asking that you meet with people or obtain items for them to increase their standing with a high-level vampire, which is similar to a typical RPG questing experience.

Your choices as you traverse these questlines do matter, as certain decisions set you back in your progress or take you down a different path. Choosing to feed on the wrong person or not satiating your hunger in time and denying yourself a usable action as a result, can really irritate your new fiendish friends. Let your hunger get completely out of hand, and you can temporarily turn into a bloodthirsty, nonsensical monster. It's OK; you'll get better.

Ultimately, I left Vampire: The Masquerade - Coteries of New York feeling hungry for more, with several quests left untouched and many loose ends untied, especially considering that it only took me two hours to complete. The good news is that the different clans you can choose, as well as the various coteries that I didn't have a chance to explore, lend some replayability to the game. Coteries of New York was released on PC in late 2019 and is due to be released on gaming consoles in early 2020. It's a little text-heavy, but with nearly 30 years of lore under its belt, the VTM universe has plenty of compelling storylines to cover. Although this game consists of quite a lot of reading, the story and overall feel of the title should keep VTM fans and newbies alike entertained from start to finish. It is a shame that there is no time to experience each and every storyline, and the inability to save multiple games is a bit of a deterrent. Overall, this indie RPG is a pretty good distraction for vampire fanatics to delve into as they anxiously await the upcoming releases this year.

Score: 7.9/10

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