Vampire: The Masquerade is getting significant love recently with video games. Across visual novels, a battle royale game, Bloodlines 2, and more, Nacon's back with another new World of Darkness game later this year, Vampire: The Masquerade - Swansong.
Arriving on May 19, Big Bad Wolf is promising us a narrative-driven RPG, one where every choice has its consequences. Playing as three separate vampires, I had some great impressions during my initial preview and at that same event, I was given the chance to talk with the developers.
Speaking directly to three staff members - Eliott Hipeau (lead quest designer), Tommaso Nuti (lead cinematic designer) and Laure Delmas (Writer) - they were kind enough to answer a few of my questions about Swansong, with Hipeau leading this interview.
A Council Of Vampires
Asking how development began, Hipeau and Delmas confirmed Nacon were initially contacted by Paradox Interactive, current publishers for the tabletop World of Darkness series. Looking to create more VTM games, Nacon contacted Big Bad Wolf after seeing the team's work on The Council, a game also inspired by pen-and-paper mechanics.
Asking if they'd like to work on VTM, Hipeau confirmed many team members were fans of the series, so were interested. Once confirmed, Big Bad Wolf began looking into "how we can adapt the systems and the storytelling we had for The Council and tilt it, pivot it, pick at it to make it Swansong."
Given VTM's previous history in gaming, my next question related to Bloodlines. Asking how Swansong defines itself against Bloodlines, Hipeau said that following The Council, they've become specialists at "making dialogues, integrated ones based on find in the environment and character sheets you have."
So, I'm told they tried to focus on these RPG elements through dialogue, branching in various directions. Continuing on, Hipeau emphasised gameplay differences, saying numerous mechanics from Bloodlines aren't in Swansong, including combat. Instead, Swansong focuses on vampires as a society, exploring the different sects, clans, allies, enemies and other groups.
Since the preview only covered Galeb, I next queried whether the three vampires had unique gameplay aspects. Hipeau confirmed the "basic gameplay is the same but since they're all from different clans, you're going to have different disciplines," which act as your skill tree.
Drawing upon the board game, he confirmed Emem and Leysha both use Auspex, Emem has Celerity, while Galeb uses Dominate, but that goes beyond standard gameplay variances, too. As the oldest, Galeb is affected by the Beckoning, while Leysha is uniquely afflicted by mental illness inherent within the Malkavian clan.
And it doesn't stop with Vampires. Having previously confirmed other species from World of Darkness would appear, I next questioned any potential crossover with Werewolf: The Apocalypse - Earthblood - despite different developers, both games share Nacon as publisher. Hipeau reconfirmed the appearance of other species (without elaborating who), though Nuti rule out any story-related crossover with Earthblood.
Next, I moved onto the technical details, asking about Swansong's differences between each release platform. Launching on all major platforms, I queried how the Switch version would run. Unfortunately, Hipeau couldn't elaborate on this, confirming that's been outsourced to an external studio, but he believes it'll look "pretty similar" graphically, while Nuti joked it'd be in 2D.
As for PS5 and Xbox Series X|S - when compared to PS4 and Xbox One - Hipeau tells me "I don't believe there's a performance mode, and the game is aiming to run at 60fps and 1080p" but there "won't be a lot of differences between the versions." However, he did reveal they'd make use of the DualSense's adaptive triggers on PS5, during the blood-feeding segments.
A Proud Undertaking
Finally, I asked each developer if there's any particular aspect they're proud of in Swansong. Delmas (translated by Hipeau) stated she's proud of "bringing back a darker version of vampires," moving away from the idea of "good vampires that don't like to feed on humans." Unsurprisingly, Hipeau calls Swansong a "mature, violent, dark" take on vampires.
On the personal side, Delmas stated she's very happy at how they've handled Leysha, regarding mental illness depiction. Stating it's a core part of a Malkavian character, she's happy at the storyline they've built around that. I soon learned that Delmas is also a neuropsychologist, and Hipeau confirmed this made the team more confident in telling Leysha's story, wanting to approach the subject respectfully.
Following up, Nuti advised that he's proud of how much they've achieved for a small team (I'm told around 35 people plus some outsourcing). Telling me "if you just look at this game, look at the quantity, it's a big product," he then talks about the last three years during the Covid-19 situation, calling the team's efforts amazing.
Finally, Hipeau stated how proud he is of the whole team, saying that "even for this long of a time, everyone is still trying to push quality." Saying it can be "really tiring working on the same thing for three years," he says you can easily fall into a perfectionist mentality. On the quest design side, he's happy with the variety and coherence they've achieved.
Vampire The Masquerade - Swansong launches on May 19, 2022. Arriving on PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5, you can find our full preview impressions right here.