Infants, long night to you.
I know you are perplexed, and do not remember how you got here, or why, but rest assured: let yourself go, suspend the judgment and listen to what we have to tell you.
Because you know, we have much to tell you.
The world is not what you know. There are many mysteries to be revealed, mysteries related to lineage of the Cainites and his deeds, and we are sure that with a game at Vampire the Masquerade: Coteries of New York doing it will be fun and delicious as you would never be able to think.
Are you ready to dive into a World of Darkness?
A long-awaited return
That of Vampires: The Masquerade is one of narrative universes most famous and interesting of the contemporary role-playing game, able to create one of the heaviest communities of fans outside of the more accessible classics such as Dungeons & Dragons. An incredible success, so much so as to give life to multiple lines of publications and, of course, to enter the world of digital gaming first with Redemption (2000) and then with Bloodlines (2004). After years of neglect, today the brand seems to have been taken back, and in style: we know that 2020 will be the videogame year of Bloodlines 2, which has the arduous task of confirming the quality of its predecessor and introducing new generations to the brand. However White Wolf, the study behind the role-playing game, didn’t stop there and decided to join the blockbuster too Coteries of New York, one visual novel which brings us among the vampires of contemporary New York. A task that went to the Polish team Draw Distance. Here’s Sophie, our protector and “putative mother”, but how far can we trust her?
Three clans, one story
Setting up Coteries of New York is quite simple and follows the stylistic features of the genre. The player is called to guide his alter ego through a series of semi-static scenes, characterized by splendid drawings that refer to some of the illustrations in the manuals of the fifth edition of the game (released last year). Each scene will consist of a meeting with a NPC, and it will be our choices during the dialogues with them that will make the story evolve and decide the fold.
As for our identity, in the course of the game we will find ourselves impersonating a newborn vampire (i.e. just transformed), which depending on our initial choice may belong to three different clans present in the vampire lore The Masquerade: the wild and proud Brujah, Nobles Ventrue or the charming ones Toreador. Depending on our choice, our alter ego will have a different power, which we can use during the adventure to solve some situations, a small nod of the RPG approach which, however, does not strongly impact the game mechanics.
Regardless of our choice we will find ourselves in a situation extremely dangerous for a vampire. Already after the first steps in the game we will in fact be judged as criminals, as our hug was not authorized by the Prince of the city (which goes against the laws of Camarilla, the league of clans we will be part of) and therefore sentenced to death. Thanks to unexpected alliances, fortunately, our destiny will have a much less tragic continuation, and from that moment the journey will begin within a world made of intrigue, action, survival.
An initiatory tale
Thanks to his choice to put us in the shoes of an “infant”, from the very beginning, Coteries of New York is a game that seems to have such a simple and interesting goal: introduce newbies to the Vampire setting. A very welcome “extra”, or a practical one, contributes to this dictionary of terms specific to the setting (appropriately highlighted also within the dialogue lines) that we can consult at any time.
On balance, those who played White Wolf’s RPG might almost feel like they are playing a product designed to “savor” the setting to people who do not know it and intend to approach that world through a series of typical situations.
To give examples, of great impact is the way in which the passage of our alter-ego from its unconscious human state to bestial predator, and even more fun will be to meet one by one the bizarre exponents of the various clans, each able to embody an aspect of what are the key issues of the game.
The main dish of Coteries of New York, as you may have guessed, is therefore a tight writing, also modeled taking inspiration from the narrative segments of the setting manuals of the paper game. Its result is a narrative that attacks the player, dragging it into the atmosphere of the game with its light-hearted and subtly ironic style.
As for the story, finally, as it was reasonable to expect, the writers spent body and soul to bring out a compelling story and full of twists, in a succession of memorable situations.
Canonical, but with style
If there is very little to object on the quality of the script, the graphics and the game setting deserve some deeper consideration.
As we mentioned before, the Coteries of New York packaging is that of a very elegant basic visual novel. The impression one gets from playing it on PC is that of a very canonical title for its genre, which while trying to insert role-playing elements or personalization of the character’s journey almost always ends up privileging a rather classic story driven scheme. A feature that may not involve those who on the contrary are looking for a game with more tension or with more space for the challenge, but which will be a paradise for all those looking for a narrative adventure capable of entertaining them for hours and hours through a flood of quest and subquest intertwined. All supported by an inspired visual apparatus, with well-characterized locations and iconic characters.
To complete the picture, an immediate player interface that will not only entice us to carefully evaluate the answers to be given to the characters, but it will guide us to perfection within a world in which even the smallest choice changes relations with the NPCs and with the surrounding world.
Going forward with the plot, then, the situation becomes even more interesting thanks to a system of semi-autoconclusive quest which increases the longevity of the adventure and allows us to go further into the setting, an approach that really gives depth to the gaming experience. So if on the one hand the impression is that of having a title ahead that could only target a “niche” audience, on the other the team’s effort to offer a deep product, quite replayable and able to immerse the player in a unique atmosphere.
Finally, I also applaud the music sector which, despite being made up mostly of “functional” tracks, perfectly cradles the player through a series of well-kept environmental tracks and perfectly in the mood of the story, underlining the care taken by Draw Distance in creating a profound and pleasant experience.
Coteries of New York is a great surprise. Passed as a “lateral” title compared to the much more talked about Bloodlines 2, the impression it gave was that of a product designed to simply “Taste” a tasty dish but still not ready for the table and with only a discreet variation in the recipe. Instead we are faced with a main course, a game with a very specific identity and dignity.
It is not a title for everyone. Those who don’t like visual novels will hardly feel comfortable, and those who expect a starter of an action-rpg will be disappointed. But for fans of the series or simply lovers of modern Gothic, it is an interactive story not to be missed, which honors an important license thanks to a technical realization with attention to every detail.
Buy it right here