It’s a stake right through the heart to realise that the much-anticipated Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines 2 could have been out by now. But since its troubled development was taken over by Paradox Interactive, we must wait a little longer for Bloodlines 2 to come out. But in the meantime, we have Vampire: The Masquerade Swansong to sink our fangs into. Yet this review will unveil from the shadows an answer to that most important question. Is Swansong a worthy vampire game to check out? Or should it be left in the grave?

What is Vampire: The Masquerade Swansong?

Swansong is its own venture into the vampire underworld, as we see a completely new story revolving around a “Code Red” which has alerted the entire vampire council of Boston, including its Prince and other elites, and showing they have been exposed. The code red has been linked to an incident at a high-profile gathering of vampires and warlocks, and it seems the party was crashed by unwelcomed guests. The remaining council and Prince have decided to lock down the only haven and begin their investigation.

Taking on the roles of three distinct, high-profile vampires whose actions during their investigation into the massacre will determine the very future of the Boston Camarilla. Emem, Galeb, and Leysha will have to piece together the fragments of the aftermath, look for clues on who is responsible for this attack, and ensure the safety of the Prince and the Masquerade which protects vampires across the world is not shattered. Even if it means carrying out the worst offences and even killing off those close to the Prince.

Brought to us by the developers of The Council, Swansong is a narrative-driven RPG that focuses on investigative practices, puzzle-solving, intense discussions, and battles of wits within a compelling story of vampires, loyalty, and fragile alliances that if broken, could see the end of vampires.

  A tale to sink your fangs into!

One of the things you can easily expect from a Vampire: The Masquerade project is for it to have a compelling narrative, with interwoven threads that explore themes of corruption, addiction, sex, humanity and so much more. With secret societies and vampire clans looking to gain an upper hand over the power struggle in the vampire underworld.

Swansong opens with a lot of questions for players, mainly what the hell is going on and who the hell are these people? You’re dumped straight into the middle of a crisis with little knowledge of what is happening. You know there is a code red, there’s a leader of the Boston council in distress and three vampires who have been caught up in the mess. It can be somewhat overwhelming to all players, as very little context is given, and this is a story based on experienced vampires with much of their life has passed. But Swansong does a good job to ease you into the grander picture but establishing relationships in an organic manner, the risks to the Masquerade, and what is at stake (vampire puns!) for everyone involved. We also get a decent idea of who our main characters are quite quickly and once we’re past the introductory stages of the game, we do see their relations with others, their personal goals, and most importantly, what they fear.

The plot is an interesting one, having all the right notes for a great mystery, including a compelling setup that captures your attention until the very end. There’s plenty of sleuthing occurring, with many shadowy figures being unveiled and sinister plots against vampires being revealed. While with a slow-burning start, the pacing does pick up, and soon enough, players will be totally engulfed in the world of Swansong. Each of our three characters ventures to different locations, gathering what intel they can, interrogating suspects, and testing the alliances of even those in the council.

There is a lot of unease in the story and examining the relationships and making some bold choices throughout the game really will keep you invested. There are of course some naff moments in the story, such as one character bringing her young daughter (also a vampire) to a bloody, carnage-filled crime scene, and having to deal with her when things get a bit too much.

The big problem I found was really with the main antagonist and how the game just sorts of wraps things up as it gets good. So firstly, the main villain. He’s boring, coming up as a generic and tired old man who dislikes vampires. The organisation behind the massacre is interesting, and some side “antagonists” are fleshed out and worthy of your hate. But the main guy is just so boring. And while he’s serviceable, I do wish the main villain was more interesting to face off against and have as an opponent. Lastly, the story does have a slow start, but things progressively get more compelling a few hours in.

Once you’re in that stage where you think things will expand further and set up the third act action, the story just begins to wrap up and everything feels a little off. It’s not a bad end, but I felt more was intended (but then again Covid could have been a factor and the developers just didn’t have the time to expand the end as they intended).

Still, Swansong has a very good narrative, filled with many interesting characters, tricky relationships to manage, a mystery centered on savagery, betrayal, and power struggles, and main characters who are fleshed out enough to keep you invested. Personally, Leysha was my favourite as she had the most to gain, loose and overall had a very likable personality which had me rooting for her until the end. The other characters are fine but come across as overly typical vampire types, being ultra-suave, yet highly aggressive and at times a little dreary. But I found myself enjoying most of the time I had with them and how the story unfolded for most of the venture.

As stiff as a corpse some time

Now I understand not every studio can make a game with the most beautifully smooth animations as a game like The Last of Us Part 2. I get that and for a much smaller studio working on a narrative-driven game, the quality might not match up completely with a fine pedigree like Naughty Dog. But Swansong has a rather strange inconsistency with its presentation where it looks rather amazing at times and other times, it looks as awkward as a stiff corpse dug from a grave.

The world can be rather striking at times, and even the more mundane locations such as the Boston chapter’s headquarters/haven, look incredible. The sleek modern designs, impressive lighting, the decaying underbelly of the world unseen by mortals, and the blood-soaked crime scenes all paint a magnificent picture of the world. Swansong has a truly stunning world to explore and is filled with small details adding extra layers or lore and world-building, while also making it ground and believable in many other small ways.

The general character designs are fine, with many different types of vampires in different shapes and tones. I really admire the developers for their diverse range of characters, with their own looks, and body types, and most of them vary greatly from one another. The diverse range of characters added beautifully to the world-building and made everything through my 15-hour adventure feel varied and fleshed out.

But then there are small things with certain characters, such as facial hair looking last-gen, and certain characters moving around as though they're made of wood. The Prince stood out the most as she just stood perfectly still, for the most part, gazing at you with her lifeless glare and showing a posture that looked really uncomfortable. I get these are vampires and they’re undead, but it’s not too much to ask for some minor facial muscle movement. While the surface has a nice sleek shiny coat of paint on top, much of the character rigger and small details feel like a 360 game, and an actual step back from the developer’s previous game The Council.

While The Council could look a little strange at times, the weird character designs and somewhat limited movement/animations benefited the tone and feel of the game. It worked well and you felt the characters you spoke to were actual characters and not video game NPCs looking blankly into your soul, waiting for a command prompt.

Swansong has a weird balancing act where some of the game’s visuals really stand out as being flat, lifeless, and janky. Then at other times, we get a game that is stunningly gorgeous. This yin and yang effect to the visuals could be all down to the Covid outbreak, and the developers having fewer resources to make a game that flows smoothly in terms of presentation. If so, then they did a decent job regardless. 

Gameplay with a bite!

Much like The Council, Swansong is a game about investigating and deduction, through exploration, conversations, and engaging in battles of wits. Players will be doing plenty of talking to various NPCs, searching for clues, piecing together evidence, and completing a number of objectives to aid in the Prince’s grand plan.

There is plenty of interesting discussions in Swansong, as the main characters will have a large supporting cast to engage with on various matters, whether they be personal or related to the main objective at hand. There’s plenty to speak about and much of the time spent chit-chatting with your fellow vamps and humans will certainly keep you invested in the long run. There are some naff moments of dialogue, but the majority is very enjoyable.

So, as you might have guessed, the main thing here is speaking with NPCs and managing your own attributes, which allow you to venture through multiple paths in the story. Conversations usually result in multiple choices, with many of them requiring the character to have a certain attribute active or leveled up enough to access the choice. 

Players will invest experience points in leveling up these various attributes to open new actions in the game world and conversation paths throughout the story. All these skills can be leveled up at the beginning of each level, thus giving you a better advantage in certain fields of interaction. But you won’t know what to expect from the level ahead, so it’s a bit of guesswork and luck. But you will be able to carry out multiple actions regardless of what attributes you level up.

So be wary, levelling up is limited, and focusing on certain skills will mean you’ll be locked out of certain events and choices on other levels. So, by leveling up your aggression, you can force information out of some characters. But by doing so, you will most likely miss out on other choices in conversations that require a higher Education or Persuasion attribute. Overall, I found this approach to add to the replay value and give a compelling element of risk as you venture into the unknown (until you replay the level for the second time that is)

However, there are some tricks that will appear in conversations from time to time, one of these being Focus, which allows you to spend additional Action points to temporarily boost any attributes required in the current conversation.

For example, if you’re speaking with a character and there are two options that require Education and the other is Intimidation, you can boost either one to gain a chance to explore that topic. But there are forces working against you in numerous ways, such as NPCs being able to use Focus too to gain an upper hand. And there is the use of RNG via a dice roll if your attributes are evenly matched.

There will also be plenty of places to explore, as you gather clues, solve puzzles, and track down important items that will aid in solving the mystery of who carried out the massacre. Each vampire has its own special abilities which utilised in the right manner can mean access to restricted areas, tracking down leads, and deciphering cryptic codes that no mortal could read.  These offered a nice variety of approaches to the problem at hand and made me feel like a true vampire.

Speaking of which, as a vamp, you will have to manage your blood lust at each level. Carrying out actions will result in “Hunger” and too much hunger will lead to your vamps being consumed, leading to rage and a gruesome killing spree. Thus, revealing them for what they truly are. You will need to lure humans away from open spaces to drink their blood to satisfy your thirst. You can take a little blood or completely drain your victim thus killing them. But killing humans will raise suspicion, and if this gets too high, you will be discovered and killed. This was a generally nice mechanic that elevated the tension and felt really akin to the subject matter.

A stake through the heart!

The general exploration, searching, and piecing things together is quite fun, as most items of interest are spread out evenly across levels, with some well-placed secrets to reveal along the way. There are also some neat puzzles and light problem-solving in traversal form.

Where Swansong does fall short, is with the unbalanced nature of quite a few conversational elements. Now granted, many of these issues do rear their ugly heads in the early game, and the first chapter is so poorly laid out that it’s near frustrating. But there are moments (and quite a few of them) where you will just lose an argument due to certain factors.

As mentioned previously, you can use “Focus” to up a certain attribute/skill allowing you to access a conversation thread. However, your opponent can also up their attributes to match, and usually outdo yours. You can only ever use Focus to match or gain a small advantage over your opponent (even if you have plenty of Action Points, you can’t use more to increase it further – which is just odd), but your opponent will always out do you, and thus decreasing your chance of successfully revealing what secrets they know. There’s also a dice roll / RNG feature that plays out when the conversation is tied and unless it’s over 60% success rate, you’ll lose … pretty much every single time. Even at a high rate, I found myself losing quite often, so I would just reload a save and try again … and again.

As mentioned, this does occur more in the early hours of the game, and by the midway point, you’ll have enough of an edge to gain the advantage in some conversation paths. But there were usually some surprising and annoying NPC tweaks, which meant you would just fail. Such as an NPC with a low-level attribute suddenly increasing it to the same level as yours, and thus gaining an advantage. Or having lots of action points to use to increase your Focus, but only being able to use Focus a couple of times. 

Also, the lack of a new game plus really does take away from an ultimate playthrough, where you can just play, explore all the paths in the game and enjoy the story from multiple angles.


While Vampire The Masquerade: Swansong showed some problems with pacing and presentation, I was genuinely hooked into the story and world after a few hours. Once the story was in full force, and my attributes were high enough to open more avenues in the gameplay, Swansong became an enthralling adventure with plenty to love. The world of Swansong is utterly stunning, the story/mystery kept me invested until the very end and the investigative gameplay held many great moments, that rewarded my efforts in sleuthing. Swansong manages to deliver on a captivating vampire adventure that satisfied my hunger for blood until Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines 2 comes out (if it ever does)

++ A great story with plenty of intrigue and conflict

+ Visually stunning world with plenty of captivating lore

+ Some neat investigative gameplay and lateral elements

- Pacing is tedious and decision-making frustrating in the first couple of hours

- Some areas of presentation are a little rough

An Xbox Series S/X review key of Vampire The Masquerade: Swansong was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.