The latest dev diary for Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 is dedicated to the horror RPG’s combat system, outlining three gameplay styles players will be able to choose between. Alex Skidmore, creative director at The Chinese Room, begins with the “strategic stalker” playstyle, which is your stealth assassin package for backstab-likers.
“Did you enjoy the Dishonored series,” Skidmore asks, “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.”
Sounds ideal for the Banu Haqim, the one brand new clan announced for Bloodlines 2. The second playstyle, the “action brawler”, is more of a Brujah specialty. “References for this style are action-brawling games like the God of War series,” Skidmore says, as well as “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.”
Finally, for those who rushed through every fight they could in the original Bloodlines to get on with the story, there’s the “narrative adventurer” playstyle, which is supported by letting you make it to the end of the game even if you don’t engage with the finer points of the combat system. Skidmore gives an example using the dodge mechanic: “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.”
On my first playthrough of the original Bloodlines I talked and sneaked my way past various problems, only to be forced into wielding a fireaxe and flamethrower to survive all the fights the back half of the game threw at me. That was easy enough to do given how generous with skill points it was—you could become a killing machine with worrying ease—but it would be nicer to have the option to avoid fights rather than simply trivializing them. I suspect I’ll be tempted into playing Bloodlines 2 as a stealthy shadow-murderer, but having the option to choose nonviolence in RPGs is always welcome. Here’s hoping Bloodlines 2 lets that kind of player have their way as well.