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Did Vampire really Suck?
By Mike Pollmann | April 26, 2001

Well, as many of you have read, Gamespot and Daily Radar didn't give Vampire a really hot review, and I agree with a few of the points they brought up, here's my take:

Installation: I went with the maximum install at 1.2 gigs.  The other options were 700 and 900 meg.  High-resolution movies are only available with the maximum install.  No install problems at all, then I ran the game - it didn't have a real long intro, but ok for setting up the mood of the game.
 
Score
Star Star
Genre
    Action/CRPG

Developer
    White Wolf
    Nihilistic Software

Publisher
    Activision

System
    Windows
 
Screenshots

 
Graphics (performance): we tried a variety of graphics options, and settled on running 1024x768x32bit with "high" detail on a P3-500, 256 MB Ram, TNT1 system.  Seems pretty smooth in this configuration.  32-bit
color causes some hiccupping in the game when a monster dies and disappears in a puff of smoke, but that's all the slow-down we saw. There are tons of graphic options ranging from number of shadows to number of mip-maps. (We've added a screenshot of the graphics tweaking options menu on the next page)

Graphics (style): Very nice looking engine.  Lighting/shadow effects are quite impressive with candles/torches having their own light sourcing (leading to multiple shadows).  The models are fairly well detailed, although I think their hands look rather "club"-ish.  All characters are well animated.  Cristof's cape moves with the wind and the model shows exactly what he is holding.  A nice touch was when I jumped into first- person mode and the whole view moves ever so slightly because of the character's breathing (I am anxious to see if this stops after he becomes a vampire.)

Sound: Very nice soundtrack for the Dark Ages time period.  Sound effects are also nice.  There are a variety of 3d sound effect choices available.

I first tried EAX and this caused everything to become very echoey, even outside (note that I am only using 2 speakers + subwoofer).  I remember having the same problem with PS:T.  I switched back to the default "Miles 2 speaker positional audio" that seems to work pretty good.  Voice acting is good.

Controls:  NON-CONFIGURABLE controls, this really bugs me, I like to reconfigure stuff to a layout I like..  Most everything can be done with the mouse, but there is a 2 page list of keyboard shortcuts in the manual.  Moving the mouse to the edges of the screen causes the view to rotate.  The same can be done by holding down the X or Numpad-5 keys and moving the mouse.  Holding down Z puts you in a temporary first person view to get a look around (think Tomb Raider).  My biggest gripe with the controls is that the mouse control is non-inverted when moving the camera around.  This drives me nuts being a FPS player.  There is no option to turn inverted-mouse on.  It's not a huge deal in this game, but worth mentioning.  Almost all actions are performed with left/right clicking with modifier (ctrl, shift, alt) buttons.  For example, left clicking on a monster will swing at it, shift-clicking on it will perform a secondary attack. 

Interface:  Reminds me very much of Diablo.  There are different panels that can come up- character stats (C), inventory (I), etc and a key that can clear them all (backspace) - sound familiar?  The inventory screen looks almost like a carbon copy.  There are 5 quick-slots for potions and the like.  One nice feature is that if you use a potion, another will replace it in the slot if you have a duplicate item.  There are also some quick slots to use disciplines vampire powers) later in the game. Clicking on any location will take you there, and moving the pointer to the edges of the screen rotates.  Honestly the control scheme took a few minutes to get used to, but it is growing on me.

Gameplay:  Seems to have an action/RPG feel.  After starting the game I ran around to a few locations in town talking to people (most of the town is scenery at this point, with only certain locations that you can actually go into).  There are a few stores where you can buy any of a number of items (well, look at, since you don't start with much money), Another tribute to Diablo:  barrels that break open and contain items.
After the initial setup I went to the games first major area: some mines infested with baddies that needs to be cleared out.  This dungeon seems to be fairly sizable albeit quite linear.  I have just reached the 3rd level.  There hasn't been a whole lot of variety in stuff to kill yet, but that doesn't surprise me at this point in the game.  I should point out that the mines are VERY dark.  I equipped Christof with a torch and this did not help much.  In a brightly lit room (as it is daytime right now, heh), a lot of detail was hard to make out.  I cranked the gamma which helped somewhat.  I'm looking forward to playing this evening in proper lighting.  :)

Combat is pretty straightforward.  Clicking (and holding ala Diablo 2) on an enemy causes repeated swings until the critter dies.  Creatures seem to be fond of trying to gang up on you.  Shift-clicking causes a secondary attack.  Ghouls often drop some money, and I've found a few different weapons already scattered in the mines. 

A special note should be made about the save system.  I guarantee that people will complain about the implementation of this.  The first area (Prague), has exactly one save-spot that I've found so far, and that's in the bedroom at the convent.  There is a crucifix there that you can click on to save.  The game auto-saves everytime a new "area" is loaded.  For example, the city has a few different areas, and traveling between them saves the game.  Similarly, each level of the dungeon has a save spot.  I have abused this once already, running back to the entry hallway to the 2nd dungeon level to manually save my game.  I don't mind it all that much, as it DOES add "tension" to the game, but I hate not having the choice.  (Attention developers;  All games should be done like Soldier of Fortune for a save system).

Overall the game has been quite fun and interesting so far.  I know I'm still in the "setup" for the real game, so I expect this part to be rather linear.  There hasn't been much choice in what to do, or even very many conversation options, but I expect this to change after the "intro." 

Multiplayer:  We created a new game to test out the storyteller mode, loaded a preset area that had nothing in it.  The Storyteller interface has a lot to it and took me a few minutes to figure out.  Basically you still have a character in the game and you can drop objects/people/whatever at the spot you're standing.  You can also move a disembodied storyteller head (really!) to anywhere you can see, and insert objects there.  Just to play around I dropped in a few NPCs (a bartender and some named character), a boat, and some bats.  I was able to possess (take control of) one of the bats and move him around.  This looks like it has much potential for gamemaster-run games.  When you possess someone, all of your speech even appears to come right from that character.

Overall:  Looks good.  No where near as much detail as Torment, and a bit action-oriented so far.  I really like the engine and style of the game. The story even seems pretty good so far.  As mentioned earlier, the interface took a little getting used to, but I'm getting the hang of it..
 

The Good
Great Graphics, Voice Acting is okay. Storyteller mode is really impressive!

The Bad
Camera movement takes awhile to get used to, A few bugs in the game. Saved Game is limited - They say this will be corrected in a patch that is currently under development.


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