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Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodhunt Closed Alpha Preview

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodhunt Closed Alpha Preview

When we were given an official announcement trailer over E3 for the battle royale title Bloodhunt, set in White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade universe, I went through all five stages of grief in trying to remember what the Oxford English Dictionary definition for the word ‘masquerade’ was. Once I reached acceptance I instead thought about how fucking cool it would be to leap across rooftops among a map of 40 other vampires, and became aptly excited.

I’ve only been a part of the Vampire: The Masquerade community since the end of last year, thanks to the visual novels being available via Humble Choice. Since then, however, it’s rapidly become my favourite hobby and has found itself cemented in a lot of areas of my life, from playing the videogames, reading the novels, and playing the tabletop versions of the game. Long story short; I can’t get enough of the franchise, which is just as well because the franchise appears to have had a resurgence in popularity over the past few years that is only getting bigger.


Despite this, Bloodhunt definitely sticks out among the roster of visual novels and narrative RPGs that are in the pipeline for Vampire: The Masquerade, which put a heavy emphasis on story and lore — something that battle royale titles seldom do. Created by Sharkmob, a development team built up by former members of the teams behind HITMAN and The Division, Bloodhunt is the newborn studio’s first title, and I was lucky enough to receive a code for the closed alpha that ran from 2nd July to 4th July 2021. The closed alpha gave players the opportunity to play either solo or in randomised groups of three among an ever-closing arena with an array of vampiric powers.

The Bloodhunt alpha puts players on the streets and rooftops of Prague, the (currently) only map available. In the Vampire: The Masquerade lore, many modern-day vampires are hunted by the Second Inquisition; a government branch devoted to hunting Kindred (the term for vampires). In Prague, a group of SI known in-game as ‘The Entity’ have sectioned off the city and are filling it with a red gas that hurts vampires much like sunlight would. Meanwhile, the vampires trapped within the city are locked in a civil war, battling against each other and the SI operatives that are stationed at various POI’s around the map.

Before I even properly got into a match, the first thing I quickly noticed was that Sharkmob had clearly looked into the source material, and the current product is a great testament to that. While waiting for a match, you wander around ‘Elysium’, an area considered a safe-zone for Kindred, wherein you can speak with various NPCs to feed you snippets of story, as well as even quests for you to complete whilst you’re battling in the streets of Prague. Besides the SI, civilian NPCs also linger around the streets, and can be fed from to regain health and, if their blood has a particular resonance, grant you upgrades. These upgrades range from lowering the cooldown of your abilities, increasing melee damage, or granting passive health regeneration. Feeding in front of a crowd (or killing a human) will expose your true nature, marking you as ‘bloodhunted’ and revealing your position to everyone on the map, with nearby players seeing your outline in real-time, for the next minute. In most cases, this results in death as every single player on the map descends on you like Moses himself had fallen to earth and called down the plague of ‘bastards with assault rifles’ upon you. With this mechanic, ‘The Masquerade’ still plays an important role in the game in terms of both story and gameplay, a factor that had many people concerned when they heard about a Vampire: The Masquerade battle royale title.

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Combat in Bloodhunt felt amazing. The sound design of the guns make them feel like they pack a punch, and general hit registration was almost always perfect — there was one fight I was in where I took a straight 2v1 and seemingly came out almost unharmed. Upon reviewing the footage afterwards, I noticed I actually got hit square in the face with a shotgun part way through but took no damage, but other than that I never noticed any other discrepancies. Melee combat was a mixed bag; It was fun, and if you’re stuck indoors against a melee user (even if someone is just punching you), you’re essentially dead no matter what. The nature of third-person shooting means that trying to hit someone who’s close enough to give you a passionate kiss on the lips is quite difficult anyway, and when someone can stack up on melee damage resonance and kill you in three hits, it becomes terrifying. On the flip side, being outside against melee was almost laughable, as you couldn’t try to angle your swings so they could just be jumped over with little hassle, making melee often a high-risk high-reward strategy that made you difficult to hit if you’re good with movement, but also means you struggle to hit them. The sound design for the environment was also brilliant; if you kept an ear open, you could hear the sound of rooftop tiles shifting as players ran across them, and the sound of Kindred scaling buildings was easy to notice and react to. It made for an engaging and reactive combat experience where you never feel exposed if you’re attentive to your surroundings.

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Once you knocked an enemy player, you can either shoot them if you are in a rush, or if you’re feeling risky you can try to diablerise them: the lore-term for drinking the blood and soul of another Kindred, and Bloodhunt’s implementation of a ‘finisher’ mechanic for downed opponents. Diablerising another player leaves you exposed, but if successful you fully regenerate your health and gain another resonance slot. There are four different resonances, each with three levels, but you only start with three slots. Diablerising another player grants you more, up to a maximum of seven resonance slots, which can get crazy powerful once the effects start halving your ability cooldown or granting you godlike health regeneration. It’s an effective way to make players grow more powerful as the match goes on outside the inclusion of just bigger and better guns.

Instead of falling from the sky like a pasty Czech D.B. Cooper, players select a location on the map and are placed into pre-designated spawn points in the street near your selection - being indecisive may lead to you not ending up exactly where you wanted if other players have filled the spawn points. This offered a surprisingly easy and effective workaround to the situation many BR games find, wherein a certain location becomes favoured due to good loot chance or just even aesthetic reasons, and results in much of the playerbase neglecting the rest of the map (vis a vis Skull Town in Apex Legends or Tilted Towers in Fortnite). Outside of the logistical reasoning of this method of spawning, offering each player a decent start potential and helping avoid the chance of third-parties, this also works well because it gives you the opportunity to see the entire map. Prague as a city is a gorgeous blend of gothic architecture and neon illuminations, and Sharkmob has translated this beautifully to screen. It looks entirely like the kind of thing you’d expect from a Vampire: The Masquerade game: a burning church on one street, a vibrant nightclub on the next. Not only that, but it feels fun to play on and the design greatly compliments the nature of what makes a good battle royale map. Movement would sometimes lock up as you climbed up ledges, holding you immobile for a few seconds as the game tried to remember that you do in fact have a keyboard plugged in and you are in fact hammering the forward key as every vampire in the vicinity locks onto your motionless shiny forehead, but minor performance issues are to be expected in a closed alpha, and it wasn’t something that came up often considering I clocked in about 12 hours over the two days.

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There were three of the different vampiric clans to choose from in the Bloodhunt alpha, with each one being further split into two subclasses to allow for varied gameplay. Each class had a clan ability that was shared with the sister subclass, and then an archetype and passive skill that was unique with each subclass. Players could pick from the Brujah, the Nosferatu, and the Toreador. Brujah are your bruisers, and many of their abilities are designed to make them a huge threat to get into close combat with and a greater difficulty to take down, with possible abilities such as very rapid health regen when under 50% health and a shockwave blast that reflects bullets and pushes away players. Nosferatu are your more stealthy clan, with a clan skill to turn invisible and move faster for a few seconds, and the ability to lay traps or send bats out to detect enemies at range. Finally, Toreador played much like a support, with their powers being based around buffing your allies, inhibiting your foes, and giving you and your team an easier time around civilians. Sharkmob has confirmed that Ventrue will be arriving as a playable clan, but as of yet, we do not know what their abilities will entail.

Anyone who knows me would know I instantly took a liking to the Toreador, and for most of the alpha I found myself almost exclusively playing the Muse archetype, who could teleport with their ‘Projection’ clan skill, and their archetype skill allowed them to instantly heal themselves and nearby allies for 40 health, and then continue to slowly regenerate them until the Muse either cancelled the ability or took damage. Whilst this was amazing, and the ability to instantly bring back a quarter of my health mid-fight was enough to win many encounters I should not have, the crème de la crème of the Muse’s kit, for me at least, was their passive. Called Final Act, the passive refreshed all their abilities when downed and allowed them to be used. Kindred are very durable folk, and Bloodhunt represents this supernatural endurance by, instead of a bleedout timer when knocked down, you actually have a regeneration timer - if you are not killed within the timeframe (20 seconds in solos, 40 in groups), you will automatically get back up and continue the match. The Muse’s ability to teleport away after being downed was incredibly powerful and there were many matches where I was knocked down more times than I could count but still won because I was able to make a getaway. The various archetypes allow for a variety of playstyles and the tabletop powers have been translated well into a BR format without making them feel overbearing.

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Outside of Apex Legends, I’m not particularly a battle royale person - I can enjoy them in small doses but that's about it, but with Bloodhunt I couldn’t get enough. Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodhunt will be free to play and is set to launch towards the end of 2021, and I personally can’t wait to jump back into the streets of Prague.

Luke Greenfield

Luke Greenfield

Staff Writer

Just a guy that loves to write :)

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