Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2’s Combat Explored in Dev Diary

In dev diary #1, Alex Skidmore, Project Creative Director at The Chinese Room (TCR) wrote about the first game pillar “Feel like a Vampire,” which sets the player fantasy as a guiding light for creative decisions. We’ve shown a lot of combat so far to give you a taste of the power and flow. What you’ve seen is influenced by the second game pillar: “Visceral, Immersive Combat” which directs the action gameplay. Today, Alex is back to share his thoughts on this important part of the Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2.

When designing Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 combat the goal was to create an action experience that can compete with modern titles. We think of it in three main gameplay styles we want to offer to you all – existing Bloodlines fans, and players who are new to the World of Darkness. The 1st playstyle we at TCR call the Strategic Stalker: as the name reflects, fans of more strategic combat experiences where staying hidden and using the element of surprise is key will get their vampire predator fantasy. Did you enjoy the Dishonored series, or playing stealth-focused builds in Fallout or Elder Scrolls games? Me too! It gives you time to prepare what Discipline power you’d like to use and when. Once your plan is ready, summoning the powers of the blood, sneaking up on an enemy, distracting them, feeding on them before a fight breaks out or hit and run tactics are options for people who love to play this way.

The 2nd playstyle we call the Action Brawler: For players who prefer to jump straight into the action and rely on their fast reflexes and combat skills. Any Clan can brawl but this is where the Brujah shine. You’ll see them in our January gameplay reveal video. Their powers are aimed at dominating close combat. References for this style are action-brawling games like the God of War series, Shadow of Mordor and Elden Ring. It is about being in the centre of the brawl and using your abilities to control the crowd so you can deliver as much damage as possible.

We see the above playstyles as two extremes on the same action spectrum, with players being able to play any mixture of the two to find the balance of stalking and brawling that works for them.

The 3rd playstyle we call the Narrative Adventurer: For players who are less interested in combat and action gameplay and want to focus on the fantasy, narrative and exploration elements of the game. We envision that a core of the Bloodlines 1 fans identify with this playstyle and also fans of TCR’s titles to date (and a lot of the developers working on the game), so we’re making sure the gameplay pillar doesn’t add action at the detriment of these important players. You can still enjoy exciting battles without having to delve too deeply into the combat mechanics if things like characters and story are more important to you.

So, how do we go about achieving this? We focus on immersion over complexity: A streamlined control scheme with actions that are easy for all three playstyles to pick up and play. We then build depth on top of these to give longer-term mastery for the players that want it. For example, the defensive mechanic is a dash, allowing players to dodge incoming attacks or reposition. If dodge is used towards an enemy performing a melee attack, it becomes a counter, staggering the enemy – it is fine for players to never do this move, but for those that want a higher skill-ceiling, it is there. How we use abilities is also streamlined, to maintain immersion. Abilities are mapped to the face buttons (on gamepad), limiting the player to 4 available at one time. This is a small enough amount that a player can use them without breaking their flow, but also deep enough, through the different ways you can combine and use them that it keeps combat engaging and fun.

All of this serves our principal of Immersive Combat. We would rather players were thinking about what cool thing they want to do next, rather than how they do it.

Visceral Combat is a stylistic choice we have made as we believe being a vampire should be a bloody business. Feeding plays a huge role in any vampire story and we wanted to give you a cool reason to tear out throats in the middle of a fight. As an Elder vampire, Phyre has become desensitised to violence, and we want the same to happen to the player over the course of the game – maybe being shocked the first time they chop someone’s head off, but after a while accepting that violent carnage is par-for-the-course when you are a 400 hundred year old vampire in a city where everyone is out to get you.

The final game pillar in Bloodlines 2 is “Exploring the World of Darkness”. I look forward to talking to you about that in the next dev-diary.

Good night!

  • Alex Skidmore, Project Creative Director

What’s Next
As Alex mentions above, the next dev diary will be on the third pillar “Exploring the World of Darkness,” coming in two weeks. Before that, you’ll be able to see how everything comes together when we debut our gameplay trailer and deep dive on January 31.

Sources: VTMB2 Steam PageParadox Interactive News

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