Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong Review – Nights To Remember

The World Of Darkness is such a fascinating IP borne from tabletop RPGs. It’s a world like ours but the many mystical creatures, myths and horrors play a more tangible part in history. The vampires, as portrayed in the Vampire: The Masquerade has to be the most recognisable of the lot.

So when developer Big Bad Wolf and publisher Nacon announce they are making a Vampire: The Masquerade game, I’m intrigued. The gameplay and storytelling style of the developer’s last game The Council, dubbed as a narrative RPG, seems like a perfect fit for Vampire: The Masquerade.

I’m happy to say that the Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong delivers on that promise. With some faults, sure, but in general it’s still a well put together package.


If you’ve seen Big Bad Wolf’s previous game The Council, you might remember it for its rather… uncanny art style. Thankfully, this time around the people, be it mortals, vampires or some other creatures you might see mingle around Boston look more normal this time around.

Now don’t go and expect Quantum Dream-esque visuals here in Swansong, though. There is repeated use of pre-canned animations and the scenes can be terribly lit leaving character close-ups to be in the dark. You know, things you won’t be a thing in a full AAA production where they polish the presentation with an obscene amount of effort and time and money. Since this game isn’t of that scope- which is totally fine and should have a place in the market- just expect a bit of jank here and there.

That said, Swansong can be a looker. The locales you’ll be visiting during the nights are mostly lavish buildings filled with opulent decorations, fit for the high-society lifestyle of the vampires in the Camarilla. But you’ll also be exploring the more seedy places of the town.

The UI and UX can use a bit more work though. The interface is sleek with its minimal design, and visual effects are used sparsely as simple flourishes. But there are many parts of the game that left me scratching my head not understanding what the interface is telling me, or the interface is not making it clear enough that I’m doing something irreversible.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out that the Hunger meter works opposite of the Willpower meter. The Hunger meter counts up when you use abilities in contrast to Willpower which counts down like a usual resource meter. I also accidentally activated an action that leads to progression (marked as “No Return”) when I wasn’t actually ready to move on, as the game didn’t prompt a confirmation if I really am committing to proceed, for most scenes.

The voice acting is solid. The three main characters you’ll be playing has their voice fit for their different personalities. The early sequence in the opening hours may feel a bit rough performance-wise, but it steadily improves later in the game.

Though could have benefited from better voice direction as some of the line reads don’t really convey the proper emotion you expect from some scenes. When I pass an Intimidation skill check I expected some of the dialogue to be more… intimidating to reflect the response of the person on the receiving end getting nervous or scared.

Swansong has an original soundtrack composed for the game, and while there are not many tracks, the devs make good use of them to build tension and hype in the dramatic sequences you expect them to be. You’ll hear the same music a lot, but thankfully the songs themselves are bangers that are great to listen to.


In Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong, you’ll be juggling between three different Kindreds, as the vampires call themselves, all members of the Boston Camarilla.

A catastrophic event has happened, and the Prince has tasked the protagonists to perform different missions. All of this is in hopes of uncovering the plot behind the event, who is to be blamed, and how can the seemingly untouchable immortals survive another night.

If you’re unfamiliar with Vampire: The Masquerade lore, the game slowly introduces you to the many aspects of Kindred unlife, as well as the larger World Of Darkness as a whole. But not in a “press this dialogue option to reveal lore dump” as if for some reason your characters suddenly don’t know the basic knowledge that they should already be familiar with.

Instead, there’s a Codex you can refer to, and every time a particular lore concept is mentioned a prompt appears to explain what it is, with a very brief but concise explainer. And there’s enough context of when a lore keyword is used for you to just deduce what it means during conversations.

Looking up terms in the Codex is a good read, something I don’t really say about codex entries in most video games.

Vampires Walk Among Us

In Swansong, you’ll be playing and switching controls between Emem Louis, the sassy Toreador who’s had a bad breakup and wants absolutely nothing to do with her society’s internal politics, Galeb Sazory, the Ventrue loyal to his Prince and the elder statesman of the Boston Camarilla, and Leysha, the Malkavian who was recently released with the curse/blessing of premonitions like all Malkavians do, and apparently with her daughter as a companion.

Each character has a different skill set governed by their character sheet. The abilities and vampire powers you have are loosely based on the rules from the Vampire: The Masquerade tabletop game, with some tweaks to fit more with the narrative RPG gameplay.

For instance, each of the Kindred you play has access to Disciplines (vampire abilities) that match their clans, and some of them are shared across two different characters. Emem and Leysha can use Auspex so they can see some traces of the past from objects. But Galeb also has one extra Discipline that cannot be levelled up called See The Unseen, a cop-out Discipline to ensure all three playable characters have a detective vision ability.

The mild adjustments still retain the spirit of the tabletop game, and that’s what’s important. The nine stats that are broken up into three different categories are just represented as just three main stats- physical, social and mental- and is still used to give you an edge on skill checks.

The Night Has Come

Swansong is described to be a narrative RPG. But don’t think of this being as similar to the usual narrative games where it’s more of a choose-your-own-adventure style of decision making, or expect a barrage of crazy action scenes with quick-time events.

A lot of the game involves you calmly exploring the map for clues and secrets. And battles are mostly done by exchanging dialogue via skill checks. There’s really only one quick-time-event if you can call it that, which relates to how you feed your hunger. For blood.

A lot of the choices you can make are governed by how you spec your character sheet. Some skills and Disciplines give you access to additional routes or interactions when you’re out exploring the world for clues, secrets and your objectives. And there are other skills used primarily during dialogue sequences.

Dialogue Duels

Dialogue sequences can lead to confrontations, essentially Swansong’s version of a battle system. Here, you will need to pass a series of dialogue skill checks in order for you to “win” the duel. You will be presented with different choices for your skill checks, or the possibility of a correct response requiring no use of skills.

Each battle, your character skills are put head-to-head against the NPCs you’re confronting. So in order to pass an intimidation check, it’s likely to happen if you have higher skill points compared to your opponent. Sometimes, you can also use your vampire powers as well in confrontations.

You can also focus, and momentarily increase your skill points at the cost of using more of your willpower meter. The catch is that opponents can also focus as well. There’s an RNG tie to the skill checks, and even a random dice throw should both characters have a matching number of skill points, but the RNG gods, at least for me, have been very generous in making sure that a 91% chance will usually land as a success.

Committing to dialogue skill checks and hacking/picking locks drain your willpower, whilst using Disciplines increases your Hunger. These are resources that you need to manage as there are limited ways to replenish them during one level (both meters resets to normal at the start of a new level thankfully).

It’s a neat system, but not without flaws.

Snowball Effect

While this system, of using a character sheet to dictate what aspects of the game you get to interact with, is cool in concept, I find it way too punishing in Swansong when you are going in blind.

I tried making my characters specialise in specific skills and completely ignore some, leaving them at zero points. And this caused me a ton of conversation fails, as the game greys out any skill checks for skills for zero points, leaving you with either the one or two options that are usually the wrong response.

Gaining experience points, used to upgrade skills, is hard to come by, especially if you keep failing and making mistakes. If you spent your skill points to maximise on a wrong skill and leave some at zero instead of spreading it out evenly at first, you’ll likely be left out of opportunities to get more experience, which means fewer skill upgrades, which will then snowball into a load of bad decisions as you reach the end of the game.

From my first playthrough (which ended horribly bad), I’ve learned the hard way of needing to spend at least one point on each conversation skill, or you’ll end up easily losing conversation battles.

High Stakes At Play

Speaking of the end of the game, the action will continue to ramp up as you move closer to Swansong’s finale. There are stakes at play (in more ways than one) and you’ll likely be more invested in the outcomes of your three character’s missions, and the fate of the Camarilla. The tension build-up as the game drips you more intrigue and information about what’s really happening is amazing.

But the climax of the trio’s respective arcs is kind of a mixed bag. I feel like, without spoiling anything, two of the three scenarios suddenly introduce an imminent danger in an unfamiliar situation where any wrong step will lead you to a bad end. Which it did for me. It may be the result of my route was already screwed up from the consequences of my past actions, so your mileage may vary.

That being said, a bad end is still an ending nonetheless. Swansong boasts more than fifteen different endings that reflect the actions you did throughout the game. You’ll get a cutscene as well as an epilogue in text form for your efforts. The epilogue I saw on the first playthrough, despite the simple presentation, still somehow revealed a surprising twist, so the epic fail of a conclusion was somewhat worth it.

Swansong’s gameplay has its rough spots. But where it shines most is the scenes where you’re basically playing a private eye, investigating a crime scene for clues, figuring out puzzles by using your own deductions skills from reading through the many texts that seemingly appear only to be there as flavour. Exploring the banker’s apartment as Galeb is easily the best level in the game, it has all the game’s strongest elements come to their own.

Not all puzzles are designed as good as in that apartment. There are a few that requires you to rotate circular items where the instructions and hints on what you need to do are placed somewhere far from the puzzle location with no indication that it’s supposed to be a hint. The fun of these sorts of puzzles is sussing out the red herring flavour texts from actual hints, but some can be a bit too obtuse that I wish the character you’re playing nudges you in the right direction when you found something that can be a hint to solving puzzles.


My first playthrough of Swansong took me around 15 hours, and that’s with a lot of snooping around exploring the available areas I could reach. I’ll say that a playthrough should average around the 12-hour mark, give or take.

Subsequent playthroughs are worth doing. At each level end, the game will let you know of any alternative route or a secret you missed. With the right knowledge of how to build your character sheet in the next playthrough, you should be able to find them the next time around, and see a different outcome at the end. The game lets you miss key characters and evidence, and even fail your main objectives which cause some repercussions in later events.

You can begin a fresh new playthrough, or start over from any of the levels you’ve cleared and continue a new playthrough on a new save from there.

The story is great. It’s full of the political intrigue you expect from a Vampire: The Masquerade game. The main cast of characters is all solid with many different relationships that are explored between them. It also helps that the scope of Swansong covers more than just the Camarilla. You’ll see vampires living outside of the Camarilla system, and even other monstrosities throughout the game. Swansong is a great showpiece to highlight the wonders, or rather the horrors, that lie in the World Of Darkness.

Personal Enjoyment

I have mixed feelings about Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong. I love the concept but the execution in some aspects leaves a lot to be desired, in my view. I thought having a character sheet will give me freedom in exploring and uncovering the truth, but what it turns out is that I feel punished for not figuring out the optimal build to seeing all there is to see in the game.

The opening hours honestly put me off a bit, thanks to the bombardment of tutorials, me not understanding how simple mechanics like Hunger and the feeding quick-time event works, and what I feel to be a not good foot forward with the opening sequence where the lighting is too dark and the voice acting a bit uneven.

But when I got to the meat of the game, exploring the world and figuring out puzzles has been a blast.

But as I reach the near end of the campaign things got way too tense in a not-fun way I just feel gutted that I failed all the dramatic sequences in my first playthrough, as I’ve alluded to earlier.

But I have since revisited the past levels again, now armed with prior knowledge. And after completing better playthroughs and seeing the better outcomes you can get, I feel much better with Swansong. There’s a great game somewhere there, but there’s definitely some roughness that needs smoothing out so more folks can get the most out of the story.

Still, for me, Swansong still ends up being mostly a good time nonetheless. I find the writing of the story to be great, and my hunger for a Vampire: The Masquerade game, which I had since the sequel to Bloodlines was announced- has been satiated. For now.


Big Bad Wolf’s attempt in bringing life to the World Of Darkness in video game form is amazingly done, and the story that unfolds in Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is worth seeing to the end.

Yet its headlining feature- its use of tabletop RPG elements in a narrative game, is both its strongest and weakest aspect. It’s easy to spec the wrong skills and propel yourself into a bad ending without any way to recover from your mistakes.

That said, Vampire: The Masquerade – Swansong is definitely worth playing for fans of the IP, or fans who may have heard of the cult following of that one other Vampire: The Masquerade game and want to dive into the world via a new video game. As a narrative RPG, the best is yet to come. There’s plenty of room to improve, and I hope this isn’t the swansong for this niche game genre.

Played On PC. Review copy provided by the publisher


Vampire: The Masquerade - Swansong

Big Bad Wolf's attempt in bringing life to the World Of Darkness in video game form is amazingly done, and the story that unfolds in Vampire: The Masquerade - Swansong is worth seeing to the end.

  • Presentation 7.5
  • Gameplay 8
  • Content 8.5
  • Personal Enjoyment 8

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