2018 has been a productive year for franchise revivals. There have been lots of interesting and unexpected announcements for fans of RPGs, FPS, RTS and everything in between. One such fortunate IP is the White Wolf’s World of Darkness. From the almost-unbelievable revival of Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines to the announcement of a brand-new Werewolf game, 2018 has seen its fair share of exciting developments. One such World of Darkness surprise that came out of nowhere is Draw Distance‘s Vampire: The Masquerade- Coteries of New York, a new IP set in the iconic World. Marketed as a rich single-player narrative experience, Coteries of New York was released on Steam on December 11, 2019. My job, as a longtime Masquerade fan as someone who occasionally enjoys visual novels, is to dissect Corteries of New York and boil it down the answer to one question: is it worth buying?
Story & Writing
Coteries of New York, as the name suggests is set in the Big Apple and follows the conflicts between the familiar WoD vampire factions, each trying to take a bite out of it (pun intended). You play as a novice fledgeling quite unwillingly introduced to the cold world of the bloodsuckers and gets tangled in dirty vampire politics. You’re tasked with forming a team or a ‘coteries’ to do the bidding of your sire. Throughout your (short) adventure through the gritty streets of NY, there arise opportunities to form alliances and rivalries, make choices and feast on some juicy human blood.
Since the focus here is on storytelling, it’d be dickish of me to spoil it for you. Suffice to say that the story here is okay. Nothing groundbreaking. The general quality of writing is decent as well, even though there are quite a few typos and jumbled phrase formations. As one expects from a Vampire game, you’re merely a pawn in the grand scheme of things and the big choices you make doesn’t make profound impact compared to other games in this genre. What’s disappointing is how the storyline downplays the coteries aspect. You do get to meet and form alliances with a handful of interesting and well-written companions. But, outside of their individual questlines, their role and contribution in the main storyline are negligible. If you’re expecting some sort of a ‘coming-of-age’ storyline where you’ll witness the growth of your character and his companions, the short campaign of Coteries of New York will disappoint you.
Gameplay & Mechanics
Coteries of New York, at its core is a text-driven, replayable visual novel and should be treated as such. Granted, the game does lead you into thinking that it’s a fully reactive RPG by presenting the player with three classes having different disciplines to choose from (Brujah, Ventrue and Tremere), optional objectives, multiple dialogue options and such. Sadly, these features are not used to their full potential. For starters, you are unable to select the genders or disciplines of each class individually, the feeding opportunities are too few and far between, different dialogue options lead to the same path, the static ending etc. It’s not bad for a VN but could have been much better.
As far as the gameplay is concerned, Coteries of New York runs on a time limit counted in nights and presents the player with multiple opportunities to pursue each night. It’s up to the player to prioritize what main and side content they want to tackle first. I have a personal bias against time limit in games that dates back to the original Fallout and no matter how insignificant or gimmicky the time limit in question may be, it puts me on edge. Still, the not-properly-explained time limit in Coteries of NY adds to the replayability factor as you may not be able to see everything in a single playthrough.
Then there is the hunger meter to manage. As you use disciplines or get hurt during encounters, the invisible blood meter drains. If you use them too much, you run the risk of unleashing ‘the beast’ inside and it’s game over. So there is the need to keep your character well-fed and healthy. Sadly, as I mentioned above, feeding opportunities are very scripted and you may only do so when the game tells you.
Then there is the length of the game. I was able to finish my first playthrough around 4 hours which is fairly common for a VN. There is the opportunity to replay the game with another clan but it won’t drastically change the experience. The game is currently priced at ₹ 476 or $ 17.99, which is a bit more than I’d pay considering the content at hand. Of course, your mileage may vary. There also needs to be some quality of life features such as more save slots, option to skip text more efficiently, typo fixes and the likes.
Visuals, Performance & Sound
One thing Coteries of New York does best, hands down is presenting the player with the incredible atmosphere of the WoD. The slightly animated art and fitting music ease you into the intimidating nightlife of vampiric New York city. It’s a shame that most of the background art is repeated multiple times and there are a lot of scenarios that demand more of these beautiful backgrounds to be present. The low-key soundtrack does wonders to bring the world to life and is reminiscent of the one from Bloodlines.
As far as performance is concerned, Coteries of NY runs great. No surprise there.
When you boil it down, Coteries of New York is a decent visual novel and still far better than the hundreds of anime VNs being dumped on Steam per day, but does little to appeal to veteran Vampire fans looking for a reactive narrative experience. If you’re willing to spend the asking price, it may partially quench you’re thirst while waiting impatiently for Bloodlines 2. As for fans of Visual Novels, it’s a discount purchase.