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What The Critics Are Saying About Vampire: The Masquerade - Swansong

As players nearly approach the halfway point in another year without "Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2," "World of Darkness" fans are eager for more games that take advantage of the rich, horror-filled setting. While "Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines" is still revered as a cult classic, the esteemed title didn't exactly carry out player experience with flawless execution. A clunky and sometimes disjointed experience, "Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines" persists in popularity not because it was a perfect game, but because it's the best available "World of Darkness" title.

Now, as players continue to eagerly await any scrap of news pertaining to "Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2," a new "Vampire: The Masquerade" game is hoping to catch fans' attention and offer a little something to keep players busy in the interim. "Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong" wraps players up in a detective story unfolding in the "World of Darkness," and so far critics are mixed on how they feel about the title. Some love the latest outing of the Kindred, while others find the game a bit lacking. Here's what critics are saying about "Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong."

Swansong shines when highlighting the World of Darkness

One of the more universal praises "Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong" has been receiving is the way it handles world-building and its place within the greater "World of Darkness" lore. Originating from a tabletop RPG, the "World of Darkness" has a deep history to pull from — and that's what's catching the attention of many reviewers. 

In particular, many critics pointed out the in-game codex as a wonderful source of information for those who aren't intimately familiar with the setting. Alexis Ong of Polygon wrote, "There's a ton of lore to absorb, but it's manageable if you're used to navigating jargon-heavy genre fiction (hard sci-fi trained me well for this)." Ong went on to say that the codex was instrumental in understanding the game world for newcomers to the "World of Darkness."

That said, the codex isn't only useful for those who have zero experience with the setting — it's also a great tool to refresh those who haven't wet their fangs for a while. Some critics have referred to the game's codex as a fantastic feature to supplement the dense "World of Darkness" lore. Destructoid's Eric Van Allen said, "I enjoy the moments where Swansong leans heavily into the lore of Vampire: The Masquerade...It doesn't hurt if you don't know the difference between a Toreador and a Nosferatu, and a Codex is available to handle more esoteric concepts like the Beckoning."

Swansong's strengths are also weaknesses

While "Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong" is at its best when it's immersing players deep into the narrative of the "World of Darkness," critics have found the title often stumbles in its delivery. While the overall lore and inclusion of a codex to help players parse through the unique vocabulary has been commended by reviewers, some have pointed out that lore-specific terminology comes up so frequently in the story that it can become a hassle.

Gamesradar's Rachel Weber described this aspect of "Swansong" to be confusing, as the codex exists to keep players up to speed in the fast-moving narrative, but if used as intended, players will find themselves constantly pausing the action to research unfamiliar terms. Similarly, it seems the writing in "Swansong" is just as liable to kill the mood. The "World of Darkness" is full of intrigue, but it takes a compelling plot and interesting characters to deliver a narrative that resonates with players.

Rick Lane of PC Gamer felt the title could've done more to keep players entertained as the story develops, notably calling out flat characters and dialogue. Lane says, "Nearly every character is droningly serious, delivering exposition in thick, flavourless spoonfuls like cod liver oil. This isn't to say that everyone should be quipping like they're in a Marvel movie, but compared to the fireworks-display of a script that Bloodlines has, Swansong's dialogue is flatter than a hedgehog on a highway." Lane went on to say, "The lacklustre writing undermines the rest of the game, which is a shame, as there is some ambition on show. Narrative choices are both extensive and genuinely affect the trajectory of the plot."

Unimpressed call Swansong boring

While setting a game in a beloved world full of beloved history and beloved characters is a good start, as other video games have demonstrated in the past, it's not a proven path to success. That seems to be the case with "Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong." Among its narrative hiccups, plenty of critics have pointed out that when the game slows down, it goes from janky-but-interesting to flat-out boring. IGN's Gabriel Moss pointed out that for large sections of the game, players will find themselves completing simple actions like hacking computers or picking locks  — as opposed to, you know, the stuff vampires are known for. 

Moss said, "most of your time in Swansong is spent doing the same mundane things that any regular human could've done. You begin each mission with a limited pool of Willpower points to spend hacking computers, picking locks, and displaying your flair for rhetoric while discussing the finer points of human blood." Though Moss does acknowledge that vampiric powers and preying on humans can bring a little fun, it's all overly simplified and banal.

Those looking for their next "World of Darkness" fix until "Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2" sees the light of the moon might find some joy in "Swansong," but it seems like that'll be highly dependent on the player's love for the source material.