“Sailors stumbling around with pockets full of cash, a citizenry plagued with vices, and law being bottom cheap. Sixteen hours of darkness for part of the year, miles of forest, and cold, deep ocean to hide your problems. It was a paradise…” Welcome to Seattle, Washington. Welcome to Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2.

At Gamescom 2019, Paradox Interactive used NVidia’s GeForce RTX technology to show their spookier Seattle at its finest. Ray-tracing brings vivid details like reflections and lighting (or lack thereof) to late-night noodle shops and blood-spattered warehouses. Each scene of the Gamescom trailer gives you not only glimpses of Seattle’s darkened streets – from grimy alleys to the neon-lit Seattle Great Wheel – but also gives a great player perspective. We see the Ferris wheel not from the boardwalk, but far below the pier. We see parks from the alleyway across the street, and cars driving on the freeway overpass above our tent. The essential essence of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 is a life in hiding: even during the relative “safety” of nighttime. Make one mistake, and the factions of Seattle will bleed you dry…perhaps even literally.

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Ever since Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 was announced earlier this year in March, there has been a lot of buzz around the sequel to 2004’s cult favorite action RPG video game. Set in the World of Darkness from White Wolf Publishing’s tabletop RPGs, Bloodlines 2 is set in a darker, more crime-ridden version of our world: a world in which supernatural creatures like vampires (referring to themselves as “Kindred”) have helped shape human history for thousands of years…their influence mostly hidden thanks to a code that helps maintain the secrecy of the Kindred’s existence (hence, the titular “Masquerade”). In Bloodlines 2, you play as an unlucky victim of a “Mass Embrace”: an event in which a large group of mortals is transformed en masse into vampires. Who employed this unsanctioned and reprehensible attack?  The status quo of Seattle’s Kindred community is thrown into chaos and whether you like it or not, your character needs to get to the bottom of the mystery.  Your character can eventually join one of five Kindred clans: Clan Brujah (clan of rebels and anarchists), Clan Tremere (a clan infamous and skilled in its practice of blood magic), Clan Toreador (clan of artisans and seducers), Clan Ventrue (clan of power-brokers and the self-proclaimed rulers of Kindred society), or Clan Malkavian (a clan gifted with visions of the future, but cursed with insanity). Each has its own unique Disciplines that the player character can use to help navigate, talk, and/or fight their way through the game’s world.

For those unfamiliar with Vampire: The Masquerade, it might help to learn the secret vampiric history of Seattle before diving into Bloodlines 2. Some Kindred clans form leagues with each other into a social organization known as a “sect”. The three main sects in the World of Darkness are the Camarilla (who act as the de facto Kindred government and enforce the Masquerade), the Anarchs (revolutionaries who seek a more republican alternative to their perceived mistreatment at the hands of the tyrannical Camarilla), and the Sabbat (the nomadic dog-eat-dog packs who seek to tear down the Masquerade and rule humans openly). All five playable clans are officially members of the Camarilla, as Seattle is a Camarilla city. When the Anarchs first rebelled against the Camarilla in the 1940s, Seattle became a fortress and the frontline for Camarilla offensives on the so-called “Anarch Free State” in California. As such, the Camarilla in Seattle is more hostile than average to Anarchs, with some radicals actively hunting them.

The streets, alleys, and buildings of Seattle are recreated and re-imagined for a world where vampires prowl and hunt at night.

In 1998, the Anarch Free State collapsed, and a group of Anarchs came to Seattle to try and rally support for reclamation. The Camarilla ignored this “Seattle Committee”, though the Sabbat answered.  The Sabbat had made several attempts over the decades to take Seattle, but they were always thwarted by specialists from Clan Malkavian and Clan Toreador. Thus, the Seattle Committee and Sabbat united against their common foe, with the Sabbat funneling weapons and financial support to the Anarchs through Tijuana. Tensions between the Camarilla and the Anarchs boiled over in 1999. The 1999 World Trade Organization protests also occurred in this alternate Seattle, but resulted in far more violence and property damage than our own history, when Anarch rioters mingled with the anti-globalization protesters and attempted to assassinate the ruling Prince of Seattle’s Camarilla.

It is unknown how much of this history will impact the players of Bloodlines 2, but one thing for sure is that the 21st century holds a lot of changes for the World of Darkness. The Anarchs began the 21st century with little-to-no power or influence, but in 2012, most of Clan Brujah left the Camarilla to join the Anarchs. Seattle has become a dangerous and ruthless place for Kindred of all sects and clans, especially after the Mass Embrace. Who made your character a vampire? Who is pulling the strings in the literally blood-soaked war between Seattle’s factions and clans? One interesting fact to note is that Mass Embraces are a military tactic primarily used by the Sabbat, to produce an army of cannon fodder. Is the Sabbat really behind the ruthless attack…or is another faction attempting to frame the Sabbat for their own ends? It will be up to you the player to unravel the story as you explore the darkly beautiful streets of the Emerald City.

Fans of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 will get their first hands-on opportunity to play the game at PDXCON 2019: Paradox Interactive’s annual convention in Berlin this October. For everyone else, we’ll have to wait until Bloodlines 2 releases in early 2020.

Tyler Boyce
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