We've been fighting for control of the city of Prague in Sharkmob's battle royale title.
After a stint as an Early Access title, Sharkmob has officially launched its battle royale take on the World of Darkness universe. Known as Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodhunt, this mouthful of a game is now available for PC and PS5 players to dive into, and to compete for ultimate dominion over the gorgeous city of Prague, which multiple warring Vampire Clans are looking to take control of for themselves. With the launch in the books, I've been playing a ton of Bloodhunt for a couple of days and have plenty of thoughts.
As this a battle royale, one of the main areas that Bloodhunt sets itself apart from its competitors is in its playable classes. Known as Archetypes, these are defined by two main areas: the Vampire Clan and the Class. The Vampire Clan is sort of the house or family an Archetype belongs to, and at the moment that ranges between Toreador (the attractive Clan), the Brujah (the brutal Clan), the Nosferatu (the skulky Clan that pretty much look like zombies), and the more recent Ventrue (the high-society Clan, if you will). Each Clan has a shared main ability, for example the Toreador can use Projection to teleport/blink around, whereas the Brujah can fling themselves around with massive leaps.
The Classes are subsections to each Clan and define the individual ability that an Archetype has. Looking back to the Toreador, the Siren can essentially flashbang people with its Blinding Beauty ability, whereas the Muse recovers from a downed state faster. Each Archetype can be levelled to unlock Perks that can be used in games, but these only serve up minor improvements, for example more starting ammunition, meaning there's not a huge advantage to only playing as one Archetype.
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The point is, while each Archetype is fundamentally unique, the differences are marginal, which makes Bloodhunt a more balanced experience and also a very easy game to pick up and play, as the gameplay has less of a learning curve than say Apex Legends with its roster of drastically different Legends.
On the topic of characters, there is a customisation system in place in Bloodhunt, but it's really more of a system for Sharkmob to monetise the game from what I've seen. Sure, you can change the appearance of each respective Archetype (be it outfits, gender, hair colour, face shape, makeup, piercings, tattoos, eye colour, etc.), but the starting selection is quite bare, and the extra cosmetic options will require heading to the in-game store mostly. It's not a problem though, as the customisation and cosmetics do not affect the gameplay at all, so it's merely an option for interested fans to acquire a battle pass or to use some premium currency to alter the appearance of their Vampires.
Strangely enough, Bloodhunt does also have a bit of a social presence. There is a hub location known as Elysium, which is used as the place to queue up for games from, to speak with Vampire Clan representative AIs, and to generally socialise with other players. It's a very well realised building that no doubt ticks all the right boxes for doting fans interested in the World of Darkness lore, but that's about all it is, as beyond its pretty aesthetic, there's really not a lot to do here.
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The map of Prague is pretty unique as far BR games go. As Vampires can climb walls and essentially treat the world as a giant playground, effectively the ground floor is the rooftops, and the actual street level is more of a basement or a sub-level. The majority of gunfights and shootouts - which by the way are very smooth and refined thanks to the fantastic gunplay and shooter systems - will take place on rooftops, and will see you leaping and bounding over the Prague skyline and clambering up its magnificent architecture. That's not to say that the street level isn't important, as it is. You can find loot there, and more importantly, the streets are where unsuspecting humans can be found, humans that are primed for feeding on and often serve up bonuses that you can take into combat, such as improved health regeneration, better melee damage, or lower ability cooldowns. You can only acquire a certain selection of upgrades in each game however, so you will have to pick your feeding targets well, and likewise without forsaking The Masquerade, as if you are spotted feeding on a human, you will be marked as Bloodhunted, meaning any player on the map can see your position for around 60 seconds.
It should be noted that the street level isn't just a Vampire's hunting ground though, as there are various AIs that can be found in each game. Be it the deadly Entity military faction or the Cultists Vampire bots, there are many reasons that you'll want to avoid the streets during a match, as these challenging factions and foes will not hesitate to kill you, never mind making it difficult to also fight off rival Vampires. But the point is Bloodhunt's Prague isn't like a traditional BR map as its feels immersive and alive, and that's thanks to its impressive appearance, and packed range of AIs and NPCs, all of which is made possible due to its smaller, concise scale than what is found in say Fortnite, Apex Legends, or Call of Duty: Warzone's huge maps.
The smaller map design is also one that helps detract from some of the wider issues that battle royales face. Matches are faster paced, more engaging, and generally face less of the loot issues that plague other BR titles. That's not to say it's the solution however, as you'll still find yourself occasionally dealing with loot droughts, and especially in Trios, you'll find yourself overwhelmed by rival teams - meaning being 'third partied' (being killed by a third team when in a fight with someone else) is very much a problem to have to navigate. It is less of an issue in Solos, from my experience, as players generally spread out more, but it's something to keep in mind all the same, as it will affect the way you treat the gameplay.
For all its positive tricks and unique features, there are some other areas that don't quite sit with me right, namely the respawning situation. I get that Sharkmob wants to alleviate the punishing and unforgiving nature of battle royales by introducing the safety blanket of having one extra life at your disposal in Solos, but respawning back in, near to where you died, with a semi-decent loadout isn't the way to handle it. Sure, in the latter stages of a game, it's more balanced, but towards the start of a game, sometimes the gear you have when respawning is better than what is around as floor loot, and that to me isn't quite fair. Especially when you're being hunted down by some random Vampire you've just killed, who now has better loot than you despite actually failing and losing in a one-on-one originally.
I will admit, I'm quite impressed with Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodhunt though. Its unique take to battle royale makes it a rather approachable and entertaining addition to the sub-genre, and one that I can see myself actually sinking some of my free time into. Whether it will survive the test of time is another story however, as live-service and battle royale are two very competitive areas, and we've seen countless contenders attempt to make their own impact and fail miserably. Still, assuming Sharkmob can continue to put out a steady stream of engaging and enjoyable content to keep fan interest high and maintain its player base, then I think the future should be rather bright for Bloodhunt. Will that be the case though? Only time will tell.
8 / 10
Gameplay is very approachable and easy to pick up. Archetypes are well-balanced, and offer plenty of variety. Visually very striking. Gunplay is top-notch.
Third partying is very common. Respawning system is a bit flawed. Still suffers from some of the problems that plague other battle royales, such as droughts of decent floor loot.