Draw Distance's Vampire: The Masquerade - Coteries of New York was marketed as having a seemingly thick, satisfying atmosphere and some phenomenal consequence-based gameplay. It seemed as though the pacing was slow, the story was its focus and the consequences of one's actions would hit hard. When we took the leap and played it though, while some of our initial assumptions weren't too far off, we couldn't help but notice that it doesn't always hit the spot.
Coteries of New York tells the story of various gangs that are in control of the many regions of The Big Apple. The gangs, however, are made up of bloodthirsty vampires. The game centres around one of the game's three playable characters (all of which differ from each other) who, right after having been embraced, gets picked up by a Dracula-like lawman and essentially forcefully recruited into the grand society of the Camarilla.
After having been through a rough awakening, a matriarch-like dame called Sophie takes you under her wing as part of her plan to help the Camarilla take over New York from the lesser vampire societies.
It's clear upon starting the game up that those who are vampire enthusiasts or fans of the World of Darkness will adore Coteries of New York. We're talking nighttime exclusive activities, public discretion, loss of a pulse, powerful vampiric abilities, and judgement should you choose to not be careful around the living. We also enjoyed the fact that the game references a lot of vampire clichés and uses these to its advantage.
The game is split up into missions, some of which are locked to a specific time of day. All of these missions take approximately one and a half nights to complete and since the game spans twenty nights, you have to prioritise which missions to take on because you won't be able to complete them all. Some will most likely view as a negative, but for us, it gave us an incentive to replay the game to get the full story.
Graphically, we'd describe it as a suggestive oil painting. Not much is going on in the background and despite minor movements on the screen, it's pretty much a series of still images. However, the colours and the levels of dark and light and the art style make the game come alive. Without saying too much, there are moments that have the power to truly send a chill down the player's spines.
Coteries of New York is a visual novel, so those wanting to check the game out should get ready to read a lot of text. In it, you'll talk to various individuals and click the left mouse button to either continue your conversation or end it.
Despite the game's atmosphere and fantastic art, Coteries of New York suffers from not really knowing what it is. The game tries too hard to tell a dark, morally heavy story and this, in turn, makes some of the characters and dialogue options feel very out of place. Some characters are surprisingly well written, interesting and complex while others pale in comparison, falling flat as if they're simply there to have their blood tapped.
Moving on from the characters, depth is also an important aspect of cause and effect-based gameplay. Draw Distance clearly wants the choices made to have dire consequences, which makes for an interesting, ever-changing story arc. Sure, the consequences are dire, but they also feel nonsensical at times. We often felt as though what we wanted to do didn't translate over to when our character opened its mouth, much like in Fallout 4. This had us guessing a lot of the time since our logical thinking didn't help us any more than a guess would have.
One of the challenges that the vampires of New York face is the thirst for blood. Drink too much and you'll unleash your inner beast, which will hinder the other vampires hiding in the city. Drink too little and your vampiric abilities will lessen, making you less effective in charming or intimidating those around you.
So, Vampire: The Masquerade - Coteries of New York isn't a masterpiece, far from it, in fact. However, the game does offer a dark, intriguing story that stays faithful to the theme. Some characters are phenomenal and lift the experience quite a bit while others are just there for the sake of it and the choices and their consequences aren't always engaging, however, the game still manages to stand relatively tall. If you're a fan of visual novels or the World of Darkness, you'll most likely like Coteries of New York. If you're the latter, it's well worthy of being a 'meantime' game until the release of Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2.
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