Perhaps that was a little obvious if you follow the path of my posts on it: I’m putting Wizardry 7 to the side because I was stuck in a level called the Dane Tower which took forgoddamnever to get through, which I realized I was underleveled for somewhere around floor 648, and which was full of so many cruel traps as to pass challenging and move right on through frustrating. It took me the better part of three days to explore a lot of the tower and escape it; more wandering through endless forest finally got me back to where the game started–much of the map is essentially constructed as a giant loop, which I’ve just finished; I have also found out that I made some sort of error along the way with my mapping and things aren’t matching up by, like, a square or two, and while that’s not at all damaging to my game–it’s not an error that will cause me to get lost–it’s a little disheartening considering that I like to display these things on my wall because, you know, I’m That Guy. So I needed a little break, anyway, so I’m putting it to the side for now. Writing about it right now is making me feel a slight itch, actually, so maybe that’s a sign I’m not going to give up on it forever and ever, just for a little while.
Well, in the meantime I picked up Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines, and mentioning this on Twitter got me, like, all of these responses from people who were all telling me what a great time I’m going to have. Bloodlines is one of Those Games, it seems: Played by a few people, all of whom fell in love with it immediately, one of those cult classic RPGs–and, dammit, so far I’m finding them all to be right. Even Eric Brasure, who hates just about every game he plays except for a handful which are all near-perfect, admitted that Bloodlines is “that kind of good, solid RPG that they don’t make any more.”
So many of these things are based on whether or not the atmosphere hooks you. If I don’t want to play in the world a game sets up, I’m probably not going to like it. There’s no formula for this–either a game’s world casts its spell or it doesn’t. Bloodlines hit me right from the beginning–that it’s based on a decade and a half of pen-and-paper RPG sourcebooks is very noticeable and goes a very long way. There is something extraordinarily satisfying about playing a game where you get to stalk around, pop up behind people, and bite them on the neck.
The game hits a particular sweet spot in terms of the amount of *work* it is. After Wizardry 7 and all of the Might and Magic I’ve been playing, I genuinely could use something a little less cerebral and obfuscated, but at the same time I don’t want Ken Levine grabbing me by the head, forcing me to look at shit that he thinks is important, and intoning a very stupid story into my ear, making sure he doesn’t use any big words. Everything feels just enough–there is no blinking arrow showing you exactly where to go, enough flexibility in each goal that you can figure it out in a way which suits you, enough exploration that it feels like you’re exploring a detailed world with lots of secrets, enough to do that you’re never without at least an immediate goal. And by the same token, your goals are always extremely clear. The hub worlds take up a few city blocks and are easy to pick up in terms of layout, and because they’re dense rather than broad, you end up crossing them enough times that you learn the routes quickly enough. Mostly, I am, so far, finding Bloodlines to be very respectful of my time. It’s never so esoteric that I find myself lost or stuck–Wizardry 7’s puzzles just aren’t clicking for me for some reason, and prior to that I was playing Might and Magic 3 which is very heavy on the riddles–but it’s never so broad that it’s insulting my intelligence. It knows how to reward the player, and it’s got a nice story–trashy enough to be salacious, philosophical enough to be interesting. I’m not sure I’m going to have that much to say about this one–I’d much rather play than write about it–but I’m glad I picked it up.