The set-up for Vampire: The Masquerade – Shadows of New York, the second V:TM visible novel following final 12 months’s Coteries of New York, is irresistible. The protagonist, Julia, is a newly turned vampire whose life as a struggling freelance investigative journalist is now fortunately behind her. But as a substitute of dwelling a glamorous, thrilling vampire existence, she basically turns into a glorified immigration officer, overseeing vampire motion out and in of New York. It’s a moderately drab existence till her background as a journalist presents her a chance to move up an investigation regarding the locked-room homicide of a excessive-profile vampire, and her future inside New York’s vampiric society will rely on whether or not she’s capable of clear up the crime.
In apply, Shadows of New York is much less thrilling than this premise signifies. There’s a homicide, sure, and Julia has to unravel it. But you, the participant, are barely concerned. This is a 5-hour visible novel that is very low on significant alternative and consequence, and whereas there can be some variations and distinctive components to totally different playthroughs, your influence on the investigation is negligible. But although it is gentle on participant enter, Shadows of New York is an entertaining visible novel for probably the most half, with an fascinating central character, strong script, and robust presentation.
Shadows of New York is someplace between a self-contained spin-off and a direct sequel to Coteries of New York. Julia and some different characters are new, however a lot of the major solid carries over straight from that first sport, together with the homicide sufferer. The major thrust of Shadows of New York’s story entails assembly with the 4 characters who you can select to serve within the first sport’s titular coterie, all of whom have some perception into the case and what occurred… form of. In reality, the investigation into the homicide by no means actually coheres right into a satisfying whodunnit–you spend most of your time studying textual content that is projected over animated backgrounds and character portraits, and sometimes you get to choose about what Julie says or does subsequent. However, these do not result in significant penalties, with a lot of the main reveals occurring proper close to the tip. None of them are notably stunning both.
But whereas the homicide plot fizzles, Shadows of New York is extra profitable as a narrative a couple of younger vampire coming to phrases with what she desires for herself. Julie’s an fascinating character, a younger lady with dedication points and a brief fuse, and a way of morality and spirituality that clashes awkwardly in opposition to her newly undead standing. Julie is a comparatively advanced determine, and whereas the alternatives the participant could make for her are few, attending to know her higher over the course of the sport is rewarding. The sport’s writing shines finest when it is making an attempt to unpack what’s inside Julie’s head, and the script does a great job of balancing Julie’s persona in opposition to the alternatives you may make together with her, in order that no alternative ever feels vastly out of character.
Julie’s vampirism is performed down in comparison with the protagonist in Coteries. Sometimes, the choices you may be given take her powers into account–vampires on this world have tremendous energy, stealth skills, and a few hypnotic powers–but as a result of the story is generally set a couple of months after she’s turned, you do not see Julie coming to phrases together with her powers in the identical approach the primary sport’s protagonist did. Her powers do not have an effect on gameplay in a significant approach fairly often, both. You could make the choice to feed sometimes, nevertheless it’s not a mechanic–in the primary sport, some choices can be locked off should you did not maintain your urge for food for blood satiated, however that is not the case for Shadows of New York. Julia’s vampirism is extra essential to her characterisation than it’s to the alternatives you make, however it may nonetheless, generally, really feel like an afterthought.
At numerous factors, you may get to decide on which aspect story you go and expertise subsequent. These sections are largely inconsequential to the general homicide thriller, however can function some good insights into Julie’s life, and the vibe of the New York she inhabits. This does imply that you may’t expertise every part in a single playthrough, however Shadows would not precisely department extensively–if you play by way of the sport twice, you possibly can completely see every part. There are precisely 5 selections that basically matter to the sport’s story, dictating the “traits” Julie possesses, and the ending you get relies on the traits that Julie displays throughout these 5 two-choice selections. One ending is rather more satisfying than the opposite, however I in the end did not really feel like I’d had any actual influence on the sport’s occasions by the tip.
Shadows of New York is about in early 2020, and it is clear that the true-world COVID-19 pandemic affected the sport’s writing–characters begin referencing it halfway by way of the sport, and by the tip it is straight impacting the narrative, as Julie describes empty streets and characters talk about what this implies for the town. This actual-world accuracy feels barely misplaced in a story a couple of vampire detective, and one of many sport’s endings incorporates a quick acknowledgement of the truth that a personality’s plan would not actually make sense in gentle of what is occurring, nevertheless it’s actually fascinating that the sport would not shrink back from the very actual shadow that has hung over New York (and far of the remainder of the world) this 12 months.
This is not the one ingredient of the sport that makes Shadows of New York really feel prefer it was written over a brief house of time, although. While the dialog flows properly and feels true to every character, and Julie and another characters are properly-developed by way of the script, there are a whole lot of concepts and ideas which are rushed over. Strange particulars about characters are revealed casually after which instantly dropped, and quite a few supernatural components which are launched do not actually play out in any fascinating approach, as if they have been forgotten. The in-sport dictionary provides you full definitions of all of the vampire and lore-particular phrases that the characters use of their dialog, which is appreciated, however this additionally implies that the participant is slowed down with in-sport jargon that must be saved in thoughts to completely perceive what’s occurring. Shadows of New York is clearly meant to be half of a bigger Vampire: The Masquerade world and mythology, and should you’re not accustomed to that RPG world, it feels such as you’re lacking out on some context.
Shadows of New York has dramatically elevated the standard of its backgrounds from the primary sport, with extra particulars and animated components. They look wonderful, and whereas there’s a whole lot of repetition (and lots of returning places from the earlier sport), the robust artwork and nice, distinctive character designs assist to maintain the sport partaking. The soundtrack, composed by Polish artist Resina, actually stands out, too. It’s equal elements beautiful and menacing, and the brooding, moody tracks that play below all the sport’s lovely photos set the tone fantastically. The music is used to nice impact, setting the tone and making it simpler to image actions which are being described within the script however not depicted. Every time I loaded the sport up, I’d take a second to benefit from the large major title theme earlier than beginning.
Don’t go into Shadows of New York anticipating a select-your-personal-journey thriller, regardless of how a lot it appears to be like like one. This is an off-the-cuff dip into one other world, a sport with huge concepts that it would not fairly comply with by way of on pursuing, however which stays reasonably compelling due to some robust writing, fascinating characters, and lovely artwork. It’s removed from the definitive Vampire: The Masquerade expertise, nevertheless it’s price spending a minimum of one lengthy, darkish evening with.