Vampire The Masquerade: Swansong Review - That Sinking Feeling
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Vampire The Masquerade: Swansong Review - That Sinking Feeling

Swansong is a role-playing game that delivers the entirety of its drama through dialogue–there is no combat to speak of. Critical scenes between characters are resolved within conversational set-pieces called "confrontations." RPGs can exist without traditional battles--just look at Disco Elysium, for example--but the dialogue now thrust center-stage needs to sing, or at least harmonize with a deep skill system. Swansong, sadly, delivers neither. Its writing is pedestrian, often incoherent, and its supporting systems are underutilized, adding little flavor to distinguish the three playable characters.

You play as three vampires--Emem, Galeb, and Leysha--summoned to a crisis meeting at Boston's vampire HQ, after a party to mark an alliance with the Hartford Chantry (a sect of blood sorcerers) ends in a bloodbath, and not the good kind. The local vampire prince instructs the trio to uncover what happened and eventually sends them on a series of overlapping missions of revenge. Missions are tailored to each vampire's specific abilities, and you'll play as each character in turn. For the first half of the game, you'll decide the order in which to tackle the missions, giving you some choice to pursue the storyline that's of most interest. But over the second half, a more linear approach takes over, and you find yourself shunted from one character's mission to the next, each ending on something of a cliffhanger.

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This structure allows the story to build across three concurrent timelines, and at its best, the perspectives occasionally align to let you see a specific event from multiple angles. Though it has to be said, crossovers are disappointingly rare and it's mostly a case of small references throughout missions that nod to events being experienced between the three characters. It feels like a missed opportunity to tie the story threads together that the three characters don't appear in the same scene beyond the game's early stages.

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