Coteries of New York is full of very interesting ideas but hampered by its own execution
Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York (as well as being an extraordinarily long title) is an adventure game set in the same universe as the tabletop game Vampire: The Masquerade, similar to the much better-known game Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines and its upcoming sequel. Whereas Bloodlines is an RPG similar to the Fallout series, Coteries of New York is far more similar to a visual novel. That is, the game is heavily text-based with choices throughout; not a genre I am particularly fond of but if anything could swing me then Coteries of New York would do it.
As the name might suggest the universe of Vampire: The Masquerade is a world where vampires exist in the modern world. But hidden from the public eye in different sects of societies. The game lets you choose which sect you would like to belong to within the game, but it is a shame you cannot change the character’s gender. It makes the game seem as though it is someone else’s story rather than yours, especially considering there is seemingly no voice acting and this change would likely just require new art. The plot itself does well to introduce the franchise to those not familiar with it. You are by no means thrust into the world with little explanation, without spoiling too much, you begin as a human and enter the vampire world, as confused as new players would be.
Naturally being a game mainly about reading without much player interaction Coteries of New York has to make up for it elsewhere. This mostly comes in the form of branching paths; a little way into the game, you can choose what order to interact with characters and build relationships. There are also opportunities to feed (you being a vampire and all), contributing to a hunger system where you can lose control if you feed too much but lose options if you do not feed enough. This seems to constitute a moral system in the game, avoiding opportunities is morally better, but will affect your character later on. The relationships you build form a coterie, your own small sect of vampires from varying bloodlines etc. The game also benefits greatly from the wider universe of the table-top game. The different sects of vampires in different bloodlines are genuinely interesting, and the game has its own dictionary for terms used throughout, making it somewhat easier for those unfamiliar with the franchise.
Despite all this the game does falter in some areas, it is unclear if all your actions really do matter that much, especially given the number of options you are often given it is hard to see some drastically changing certain outcomes. It also does feel somewhat overplayed at points: in one section you help a vampire detective solve a murder. The detective himself is a movie cliche of a 30s detective. This is drawn to your attention purposefully but it does not make it any less trite in the context of the story. Additionally, the art used throughout the game is exceptionally well-drawn, perhaps some of the most attractive art I have seen in a game like this, but they often repeat. There is one particularly funny moment where a child speaks and because they are not an important character they are given a black outline, but it is obviously of a fully grown man.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York is a game that I feel would work better in a different genre. The story is generally good and the wider world is very interesting, but the static portraits and lack of voice acting fails to make the game feel as alive as it truly is. Some players have also expressed disappointment over the game itself being fairly short. I am sure if you are a fan of visual novels and used to the caveats such a genre entails you would enjoy this game greatly.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York is out now on Steam