The Chinese Room outlines Bloodlines 2’s “visceral immersive combat”

By mzaxazm

It’s been five months since Paradox Interactive’s surprise announcement Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture developer The Chinese Room had taken the reins of its troubled Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2; in that time, the studio has been openly discussing its approach to the sequel, with its latest update now focusing on what it’s calling “visceral immersive combat”.

In a newly shared blog post, creative director Alex Skidmore outlines three main gameplay styles the studio wants accommodate on release, each emphasising or de-emphasising combat in different ways. The first is what it calls the Strategic Stalker, a take on the “vampire predator fantasy” where the focus is on staying hidden and using the element of surprise.

This stealth-focused approach to combat, says Skidmore, is all about sneaking up on an enemy, causing a distraction, then feeding on them quickly before a fight can occur. That’s in stark contrast to combat style number two – the Action Brawler – which is for players that want to get stuck straight into a fight using “fast reflexes and combat skills”.

Cover image for YouTube videoBloodlines 2 – Official Announcement Trailer

Bloodlines 2’s 2023 announcement trailer,

This more aggressive style of play (particularly suited to Brujah clan players) is about “being in the centre of the brawl and using your abilities to control the crowd so you can deliver as much damage as possible.” However, Skidmore acknowledges most players will likely land somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, switching between stealth and violence as the need arises. Additionally, though, the studio wants to accommodate a third type of player, the Narrative Adventurer, who prefers to “focus on the fantasy, narrative and exploration elements of the game”.

In order to cater to these three different playstyles, Skidmore says Bloodlines 2 will prioritise “immersion over complexity”. At the heart of this approach is a “streamlined control scheme” featuring an accessible set of core actions the studio can “build depth on top of…to give longer-term mastery for the players that want it”. The basic defensive mechanic, for example, is a dash, which, at its simplest, lets players reposition or dodge attacks. However, dodging toward an enemy performing a melee attack turns into a counter capable of staggering foes.

Similarly, Skidmore says players will be limited to four abilities at time, a “small enough amount that a player can use them without breaking their flow, but also deep enough, through the different ways you can combine and use them that it keeps combat engaging and fun”. Ultimately, The Chinese Room “would rather players were thinking about what cool thing they want to do next, rather than how they do it.”

A promotional image for Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2 showing blood bursting out of an enemy's head as the player looks on in first-person.
That’ll be where the “visceral” part comes in then. | Image credit: The Chinese Room/Paradox Interactive

And the finishing touch to all this is what the studio is calling Visceral Combat, essentially ensuring combat is always “bloody business”. “As an Elder vampire, Phyre has become desensitised to violence,” Skidmore explains, “and we want the same to happen to the player over the course of the game – maybe being shocked the first time they chop someone’s head off, but after a while accepting that violent carnage is par-for-the-course when you are a 400 hundred year old vampire in a city where everyone is out to get you.”

That, then, is the second “game pillar” The Chinese Room is building Bloodlines 2 around (the first being Feel like a Vampire), and the studio says it’ll have more to share on the third and final pillar – Exploring the World of Darkness – in the next two weeks. A first gameplay trailer for The Chinese Room’s take on Bloodlines 2 is set to air next Wednesday, 31st January, so hopefully we’ll get some hints of what it might be aiming to release then too.

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