Despite being a commercial failure upon its initial release (that’s what you get for going toe to toe with Half-Life 2), Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is still growing strong. Despite ostensibly causing developer Troika Games to go under several months later and containing a notorious amount of bugs (although the Troika crew did work unpaid on a patch attempting to fix these), the game was well liked by critics and continues to have a faithful cult following to this day. One of the things Bloodlines is best known for is arguably its writing, and with such a large cast of highly memorable characters it’s easy to see why. But which NPCs really drew you in (or, alternatively, repelled you), making the game all the better for it? Read on for a tentative top ten.
The game’s poster girl and archetypal Malkavian, Jeanette is both eye candy and a well-rounded (okay, perhaps not the best choice of words for various reasons) character. A disturbed young woman turned vampire, the player sees the flirtatious but childish Jeanette battle with her sister dour businesswoman Therese… only it is eventually revealed that they both live in the same lovingly rendered body. “Tourette”, as she is otherwise affectionately known, is probably the best known character in Bloodlines, and is excellently portrayed by the lovely Grey DeLisle.
Velvet Velour, known to her favourites as simply VV, is owner and star of Hollywood’s most popular strip club, the suggestively named Vesuvius. A rival to Jeanette as far as eye candy goes, beneath her conventionally vampish (you know what I mean) exterior lies the gentle, easily love-struck soul of a poet. Seemingly a genuinely nice person (inasmuch as a vampire can be), it’s hard to dislike VV. Additionally, if your character is a Malkavian your mad insight gives you a brief glimpse into her past (something, admittedly, she is not very keen on elaborating on).
Quite possibly one of the first opponents you ever face, and also one of the creepiest. You know something is up from the moment you hear his weird, wheedling voice down the telephone line, and then once you actually meet him in the flesh (try not to shudder) and he tells you about how he purposely removed his own hand in order to replace it with a prosthetic… yeaaah. It’s hard to be surprised when he ambushes you with a severed arm (which actually makes a rather serviceable weapon for a little while), but one thing’s certain: you certainly feel a lot happier once he’s dead and you’re out of there.
Dr Aleister Grout, Malkavian Primogen, never actually physically appears during the course of the game (unless you count his ashes after he was staked and left out for the sun); the only way you actually encounter him is in the form of a series of recordings that are scattered about his mansion. Despite this, his monologues still give you an excellent sense of his character, most notably his rather steep descent into madness shortly after being brought into vampire society (though you could arguably blame his Malkavian blood for a good deal of that).
Knox is the spectacularly irritating fanboy ghoul of Bertram Tung who ambushes you shortly after you start playing the game, and it’s all you can do to stop yourself from attacking him upon hearing him exclaim “Oh jeez, oh man!” for the fourth time in as many lines of dialogue. However, I still have a grudging fondness for Knox and cartoon vampire-emblazoned jacket, especially as it’s strongly intimated that he’s far smarter than he acts. Think about it; would Tung really have a complete idiot as a ghoul?
An ex-pirate turned vampire voiced by John DiMaggio; what’s not to like? Jack, who first appeared in White Wolf’s Los Angeles by Night supplement, has your back from beginning to end, and as both an Anarch and a Brujah (as well as being a general badass) isn’t afraid of voicing his true opinions on the Prince. He’s also the one who’s responsible for introducing you to the mysterious taxi driver, and despite his brash exterior is heavily implied to have done enough behind the scenes meddling to impress even the most conniving kindred.
While the Anarchs, by their very nature, have no real leader, if they did have one it would undoubtedly be Nines. Nines is the one who ensures your continued existence by objecting to Prince LaCroix’s initial plan to execute you, also saving your unlife yet again by rescuing you from a Sabbat ambush. The guy is pretty damn tough. A survivor of the Great Depression, his brawling expertise can earn you some free combat skills if you play your cards rights, while towards the end of the game he even manages to single-handedly take out a werewolf (considering his grisly trophy he could very well have ripped its head clean off).
A rare academic Gangrel, Beckett is a historian whose primary goal is to find out more about kindred origins. Having come to Santa Monica to investigate reports of unusual goings on in the area, he gives the player helpful – if sarcastic – advice as well as elaborating on his various academic theories (some of these notorious among other kindred scholars). With a sweet browncoat, shades to hide his glowing red eyes and voice acting talent of Michael Gough, it’s hard not to like Beckett at least a little bit.
The stereotypical overweight, middle-aged security guard, Chunk’s blissful ignorance and resolutely cheerful disposition makes it hard to feel more than occasional mild annoyance for him. Your encounters with Chunk frequently put him at the mercy of your disciplines, usually to hilarious effect (he does cut a rather funky figure on The Asylum’s dance floor, doesn’t he?). Chunk eventually ends up manning the reception desk at LaCroix’s downtown tower, but if you happen to kill him, he is replaced by his disturbingly similar brother. Maybe Chunk is smarter than he’s given credit for…
Gary used to be known as Gorgeous Gary Golden before his embrace. Once a handsome – and arrogant – movie star, it was only a matter of time before a Nosferatu decided to inflict him with the clan’s personal brand of cruelly ironic justice. He carried on this clan tradition when embracing a childe of his own: Imalia had been a gorgeous and exceedingly vain supermodel in life. Disturbingly stealthy, darkly witty and with an appetite for the grotesque, these nights Gary is the undisputed Nosferatu Primogen and keeper of more juicy bits of Hollywood gossip than he cares to divulge.
Honourable Mention: The guy from the Van Helsing test. This poor guy is told to wave a cross at you in order to see if you react; you don’t. How you deal with him then is up to you, but few vampires would say no to some free blood (even if it is contained inside a rather hefty hazmat suit).
Ella found compiling this list a welcome break from trying to persuade people to buy laptops, but just don’t ask her to put them in any particular order; deciding on one would just be too damn hard.