Fast Travel Games announced that its upcoming single player RPG Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice will release on November 2 for Quest headsets and PSVR 2. After going hands-on with the game last week at Gamescom, we're looking forward to playing more.
Launching for $29.99 in November on Quest 2, Quest 3 and PSVR 2, Vampire is Fast Travel's latest bet on substantial single-player VR campaigns, following on from Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife in 2021.
Besides their penchant for long names with hyphens and colons, both games share similarities: both are set in the World of Darkness universe and keep the focus on single-player, first-person campaigns, unlike other recent Fast Travel titles. But while Afterlife focused on a survival horror angle, Vampire switches lanes over to more of a traditional single-player stealth RPG experience, brought into VR.
After watching the game's trailers – and even more so after trying the game out myself – Vampire's modern flatscreen stealth inspirations are clear. Yes, this very much looks and plays like a VR version of Dishonored, but that's not such a bad thing. In fact, it's about high time someone executed on the idea. Thankfully, from what I've tried so far, Fast Travel Games has done so fairly well. The game features a well-considered art direction that borrows from Dishonored but also presents a stunning take on the well-known Italian city of canals.
Smart creative direction with the visuals means that they transfer admirably down to the lower-end Quest 2 on which I played my demo. While it still looks fantastic on that headset, I can't wait to see what it's like on it's more powerful Quest 3 successor and console-powered PSVR 2.
Fast Travel have also been smart enough to put their own little VR twists on the Dishonored stealth gameplay formula, which gives the game just enough panache to feel like it's own experience instead of a carbon copy.
Set in modern-day Venice, you play as a vampire of the Banu Haqim clan in a linear narrative campaign, with a hub area from which you'll venture into main and side missions as you progress through the story. As you'd expect, the gameplay allows you to veer your play style across the spectrum of stealthy teeth-sinker to noisy vampiric menace. According to Fast Travel Games Creative Director and Co-Founder Erik Odeldahl, the less-stealthy options are more focused on noisy actions and being opaque with your intentions than playing in a crazy aggressive and violent manner.
This also means that, like most games in the genre, missions will have optional objectives for those who remain a pacifist and/or complete levels undetected. You probably won't understand how to tick those boxes on your first try, but you'll be able to return and replay missions once you have better command of your vampiric ways.
The main gameplay loop will see you navigate towards mission objectives while evading or engaging enemies that stand in your way. In my demo, I encountered a puzzle-like arrangement of several patrolling bad guys, with a few options on how I chose to approach the situation.
Besides moving on foot, you have access to a Blink-like dash ability that lets you hop across canals or gaps, moving through windows or across enemy lines into hiding. There's also a Detective Mode-esque ability mapped to the trigger on your left controller, which will let you scan areas when pointing your left hand in any direction, revealing level obstacles and the bloody hearts of enemies ready to be bitten into.
When sneaking up behind a human – enemy or otherwise – you'll be able to grab their shoulder and pull them toward you. Once they're pulled close enough, you'll automatically bite into the human's neck and start draining blood, which you'll need to consume regularly if you want to use your abilities, such as your Vampiric Disciplines. These will drain you hunger meter when used, which is visible on your left palm and refillable by consuming the blood of living humans (the blood of dead humans is, unfortunately, worthless). You can also go the Edward Cullen vegetarian route, where you stick to finding rats to feast on and leave the humans alone.
The main Discipline I used in my demo was Clock of Shadows, which essentially allows you to move around mostly invisible for a short period of time. It's good for repositioning or passing an enemy unseen. There's also other noisier trap-like options, Cauldron of Blood and Shadow Trap, but I didn't get to using those.
Players can also use the wrist-mounted crossbow on their right hand, with different types of bolts that are crafted using your available hunger. The sleep bolt is invaluable, letting you put an enemy to rest from afar, either to sneak past them or drain their blood without attracting much attention.
As is standard in stealth games, you're also able to pick up items and throw them around the environment to attract or distract attention. It's a simple and staple mechanic, if slightly more engaging given you're now physically grabbing and throwing things in VR.
Overall, the vampire toolset is a familiar but solid set of abilities that seem like they should provide enough variety for players to alter the course of play to suit their preferred approach. New Vampiric Disciplines are unlocked with experienced earned in each level, so it will be interesting to see what unrevealed abilities lie ahead in the full game.
The physical grab-and-blood-suck mechanic is one that separates this from 'just' being a series of flatscreen stealth mechanics adapted into VR. That said, there's also an innate level of added stress that you get from being so present in-headset during stealth missions. There's not that same level of anxiety when you're playing on a screen and you definitely feel more of a heightened connection with the world and your stealth actions in VR.
Some Outstanding Questions
Heading towards release, Vampire's biggest unknowns relate to everything you can't show in a 30-minute hands-on demo. What I tried was a good set of tools with a decent first look at the serviceable semi-sandbox stealth levels. The real question is whether there will be enough variety – both in how your tools are used and the design of the levels that you use them in – to keep everything feeling fresh across a decently-sized campaign.
It's also difficult to gauge whether a given level will truly let you play 'your way', or whether the purported options to get from point A to B will end up tokenistic than meaningful.
On Quest 2, performance of the demo was mostly decent – especially given the impressive environments and visuals – but there were moments where it felt like the game was a bit jittery and struggling to keep up with my actions. Aiming the crossbow reticule felt a little unreliable and finicky at times, as did other interactions like aiming the dash ability or picking up objects.
It's, of course, worth keeping in mind that we played a demo build of a game that still has two months worth of polish and optimization ahead before release. However, even considerable polish won't make up for areas where the game butts up against some fundamental unsolved problems with VR interactions.
While the concept of grabbing a human and pulling them close to suck their blood is fantastic, in practice it often felt like a bit of a cumbersome interaction to pull off correctly. The NPC body often didn't quite behave how I expected and sometimes it felt difficult to get everything in the right place. Again, it's something that might get improved between now and release, but even so, it won't change the fact that there's no weight to what should be a hefty action of pulling a body towards you with strong resistance.
Nonetheless, those are minor criticisms for what was otherwise an engaging look at one of the only big single player-focused campaign experiences coming to VR this year. The last couple of months have been drier than the Sahara Desert for such experiences on Quest, and Vampire looks like it will be a solid option for those players who have been waiting for something with more depth and substance than small arcade experiences or multiplayer titles. It's also a big step for Fast Travel Games, who might be able to capture a wider audience than ever before, given the general appeal of the subject matter.
Even with those few unknowns hanging open, I can't wait to jump in for more blood sucking fun with Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice later this year. It's available to pre-order now on Quest and PSVR 2, with a release date set for November 2.