Vampire: The Masquerade - Swansong

More info »

Vampire: The Masquerade - Swansong review
Quinn Levandoski


There Will Be Blood

Honouring The Tabletop

I vividly remember the first time that I ever played a tabletop roleplaying game. It was in my friend's basement, and they were in the final games of a Legends of the Five Rings campaign. I had no idea what I was doing, so I made the biggest guy with the biggest weapon that I possibly could because smashing things seemed to have less room for pilot error than everything else. The second tabletop RPG I played was White Wolf’s Vampire: The Masquerade. I still made a big brawler (who, I might add, invented the sport of basketball when he dunked someone’s head into a basket in ancient Carthage), but the players around me showed me how interesting a game of intrigue, plotting, and dialogue could be.

Playing Swansong isn’t as novel of an experience as the original tabletop game was for me all those years ago, but it does earn my respect for unapologetically jumping into the deep end to accurately represent such a deep setting. Like its tabletop namesake, Vampire: The Masquerade - Swansong takes place in the wider World of Darkness, a contemporary fantasy world filled with Vampires, Werewolves, and other supernatural entities. As is the case with most modern vampire fiction, these creatures of the night manipulate our world from the literal shadows, conflicting with humans and each other in their endless clamouring for power and influence.

Complicated Lore

As someone already familiar with Vampire: The Masquerade lore, it was pretty each to jump right into things, but I am a bit worried that the speed at which important people, concepts, and places are thrown at the player may be overwhelming for someone who is new. Luckily, a detailed codex is available to fill in the details of vampire life and the bucket of jargon that defines it, and a little icon pops up mid-conversation when potentially confusing terms are used in dialogue. I don’t think it’s necessary to read every single page or entry, but, given that most of the characters already know each other and what’s going on, there aren’t many exposition dumps to easily get players up to speed.

As the game opens, the Camarilla (a collective of vampire clans that operate under agreed rules and traditions) in Boston is on red alert because several Kindred (vampires) have gone missing at an important party. Three vampires from different clans are called in to speak with the Prince of Boston, and the game is split between missions featuring each of them. Emem, Laysha, and Galeb are each unique characters that players must build individually, which is intimidating early in the game before the value of different abilities and attributes becomes clear. Luckily there are a few pre-build templates to start from, which I highly recommend using.

Talking Things Out

Something that makes Vampire: The Masquerade - Swansong stick out from most RPGs is that there is no combat in the entire game. There are certainly fights and violence, and players can absolutely get themselves killed, but all physical confrontations take place in cutscenes. While this may disappoint those looking to do some supernatural brawling, the way that skills and challenges are presented through puzzle solving and dialogue was a breath of fresh air, even if the systems aren't perfect. Each of the three main characters are controlled by the player one-at-a-time in alternating missions, and each one can use their vampiric abilities to deal with the obstacles in their way. There are some powers allow the user to teleport a short distance, others project mental domination in conversation, and others augment the user's senses. They work with a willpower system that is used as a currency to fuel their use and must be refilled with feeding (drinking blood) when low.

While it won’t be for everyone, I actually loved how the conversation UI tries to reflect the feeling of using skills in a tabletop game. During dialogue, players can choose responses that require certain skills at certain levels, and many of them require a direct contested check against the opponent's skills. Both the player and opponent numbers are displayed on screen, and Focus can be used to boost those scores. From there success still depends on a level of RNG, but managing my willpower and resources to edge out what I needed to "win" felt like a back and forth negotiation with my tabletop GM.

The other half of the gameplay suite revolves around solving puzzles, and I found them to be much more of a mixed bag than the dialogue. Some are satisfyingly complex and force the player to use their sleuthing skills without too much hand-holding, but others felt a bit oppressive in terms of difficulty. That being said, I've always been terrible at puzzles and it may just be a "me" problem.

Looking Good, Mostly

Bringing the entire experience to life are the game's beautiful environmental designs and art direction. Players spend a lot of time walking around different buildings and rooms, and each one is detailed and full of life (or...death). The character designs are also memorable, with Emem’s gold-leaf patched skin a particular stand out. That being said, the animations don’t always live up to the models. In particular, facial expressions during conversation sometimes came off as quite wooden, which was a downer considering how big of an emphasis the game puts on interpersonal communication. That aside, though, my eyes and ears were always happy with what they were getting.

Vampire: The Masquerade - Swansong an intriguing experience that itches a certain scratch, but it's probably not for everyone. Those looking for something faster-paced are likely to feel that the exploration and dialogue are a bit slow for their liking, but players down for a just-hammy-enough supernatural soap opera that mirrors the tabletop game well will find a lot to love.

As always, follow us on Instagram for news updates, reviews, competitions and more.


fun score


Narrative-based conflict is unique, the settings looks great, and the plot is the right amount of cheesy.


Some puzzles seem too challenging, facial animations aren’t always great.