Bloodmasque Review: A Guilty Pleasure With a Great Gimmick
This week’s entry into the MMO and RPG genres is a game that should not work, but it does. It’s Square Enix’s Bloodmasque, a horror-action game ripped straight from the pages of Vampire: The Masquerade. Bloodmasque is a schlock hack n’ slash adventure with one killer gimmick.
The story of Bloodmasque is an amusing hodge-podge of vampire stereotypes, set against the backdrop of an alternate universe 1800s Paris where vampires openly run the world. [And these are good ol’ bloodsucking vampires, not sparkly wusses.] You are one of a group of half-vampire Hunters who work like an underground resistance, trying to bring the vampire elite down. Along the way you meet recognizable figures both historical and fictional; and, of course, kill lots and lots of vampires.
The killing takes place in a series of one-on-one combats. This is a game built on the Unreal Engine, and it uses a version of the Unreal combat system that’s become familiar to iOS gamers. You tap to attack (sadly, no Infinity Blade style variety of slashes and uppercuts), you swipe left or right to dodge, and if you’re lucky, you draw a counterattack opening to do some real damage.
Bloodmasque adds two enjoyable twists to the Unreal combat scheme. First is that every vampire is a two-stage fight — they begin in their less-powerful human guise, but once you’ve beaten them down they rise up, revealing their more monstrous — and more dangerous — form. Second is a real JRPG-esque combat power that your Hunter wields. As he or she attacks, a “blood gauge” builds up. When it fills, the Hunter’s own vampiric power can be triggered, initiating a sequence of powerful blows that will often KO the enemy.
I will freely admit that there is a sameness to each combat, just like you got in Infinity Blade or Horn (two of the best Unreal games out there). But each combat is, by itself, a lot of fun; and the plot, while hokey, is still more comprehensible than the plot in Deus Ex: The Fall.
The RPG element of Bloodmasque is light. Your Hunter earns experience as you go, leveling up and getting more powerful, but you do not have control of those scores. You do have control of what vampiric aspect your Hunter currently reflects, and you can swap these out as the game goes on. I personally thought the Lust aspect was pretty cool.
The one feature that will make Bloodmasque stick in your mind, though, it its photo-importing system. Instead of choosing a predesigned look for your hunter, you can choose to import a photo of yourself to use as your avatar’s face. Sound like a gimmick? That’s because it is. But it’s a GOOD gimmick.
It’s really amazing how much fun I had doing this. Getting the angle and the lighting right, fitting the photo to the facial shape … I took a dozen photos trying to get my avatar to look right. And even though your face never quite fits in with the look of the game, it’s still fun to see yourself kicking vampire butt.
There is also an MMO angle to Bloodmasque, complete with player cooperation (you bring other players along with you — as NPCs — when you fight) and IAP purchasable gear that you’ll almost never earn enough IAP currency in game to afford. The IAP is annoying, but not really necessary to win battles (though some boss battles are pretty tough). Bringing along other Hunters and giving them accolades after is a little fun, though it would be more fun if you could find friends instead of just pairing up with random strangers.
Bloodmasque isn’t a perfect game — it’s cheesy and repetitive and has IAP — but I’ll be danged if I haven’t been enjoying it since downloading it. I liken Bloodmasque to a good cult film, the kind of film that isn’t going to win any Oscars (or even a Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes) but that you fall in love with despite its warts. If you’re into Unreal games and vampires, you might want to check this out.
Our Score: 4 out of 5