Bloodlines: The Better You Do…

(part of an on-going, fluid review of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines)

While touring through Hollywood, I stumbled across the “You Only Die Once a Night” plot. This is probably the most broken quest, in any game, I’ve come across in a long while. I’ll get to why it’s so broken in a moment, but I’ll start with some background.

A cemetery caretaker says that zombies sometimes try to escape the graveyard at night. He needs a 5-minute break and asks you to watch things for him. In typical fashion, zombies rarely ever appear while he’s in charge, but the second you take over there are dozens and dozens of them.

The mission’s structure is straight-forward. There are two gates from which zombies may escape the grounds. It’s your job to move back-and-forth between the two gates to prevent the zombies from destroying them and escaping. There is some distance between the two gates, so trying the mission a few times helps you find the quickest route between the two gates.

Although I was excited about this quest at first and thought it was set up well, I went through this mission a half-dozen times and failed spectacularly every time – becoming more frustrated along the way. Now matter how I played, with about a minute left the zombies always escaped.

I tried every strategy I could come up with from spending 30 seconds at a gate before moving on to focusing on one gate to clearing every enemy at a gate before moving on to just picking off the zombies actively striking at the gate. I used celerity. I also tried using the gun you’re specifically given for the quest (but I found that I’m just not very good with guns. It’s quicker for me to spam the left-mouse button and take a few swipes with my katana than to steady and aim for a head shot. Besides, I can mow through multiple zombies with ease using the katana, and don’t have to worry about re-loading or using up all of my ammunition). Regardless of my strategies there were always too many zombies and there was no way for me to protect both gates.

It was when I jumped on-line that I discovered “it’s not me, it’s you.” The quest is broken. Yes, the better you do the harder the quest becomes. Do too well and it effectively becomes impossible. In other words, I was failing so badly because I’m too damned good. Ha! 🙂

The solution? Get this: the solution is to hide. Proceed into the back corner of the cemetery, far away from either gate. And stand there. Many people said that they were able to stand there for the duration of the quest and achieve success. Others mentioned that they stood there for four-of-the-five minutes, then spent 30 seconds running to the rear gate and guarding it for the last 30 seconds – achieving near-universal success. I tried the latter approach and it worked on the first try.

Wow. Just… wow. It’s one thing to come across a poorly-designed quest, but this is a quest that rewards you for ignoring it. How much worse does it get?

Troika really should have thought about this one. It’s obvious they didn’t because the only things they did right were to keep the quest off the critical path and to allow you to fail and move on. It’s fine to make things more difficult for better gamers, but the simple solution is to put a cap on the number of spawned zombies – a cap that keeps the quest possible, but very difficult. There should never be a situation where a gamer is forced to putz around or hide in a corner in order to achieve victory. I’m sure Troika received no twinkies from Ernest Adams [designersnotebook.com] on this one.

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