Let’s talk about vampires; not the goofy, pasty faced killers that hiss and then move toward their victims in slow motion or, good Lord, sparkly creatures of the not-quite-night. But the true lords of the eve, the death and shadows that strike and kill without mercy. The talk around tavern today is about the vampire in gaming. So let’s dim the lanterns and have everyone to scoot a little closer to the bar. From the original badass to the new (non-sparkly) dark masters of the night, let’s take a short look at where these legendary creatures have gone in gaming and pose the question of whether it is a good thing, or just another way to suck the life out of gaming (bad pun intended).
How could we talk about vampire games and not mention Castlevania? While the series falls under the action adventure category, and not the RPG’s that we usually discuss here at the tavern, there is still quite a bit of lore within the 30+ years that this franchise has been putting out great games. The main story line focuses on a clan of vampire hunters, the Belmont family, and their eternal battle with Dracula, who resurrects every hundred years. Giving us new and exciting sequels to quench our thirst for the genre. It is the opinion of our humble barkeep that 1997’s Symphony of the Night was the best of the old school versions of this series, not only for the amazing gaming experience that it provided but also because players were allowed to BE a vampire. The antihero of the series was introduced: Alucard, the rebellious son of Dracula himself, stormed in to fight his father and save the day. That dynamic introduced a change in how the game vampire was seen.
Legacy of Kain
For the next special bit of Lore, and one of our favorite series of all time, let’s talk about the Legacy Of Kain. In this series you play as both the vampire Kain and as one of his vampiric lieutenants Raziel. The depth and richness of the story is awe inspiring. The world building was done on a level that few games can match even today. The LOK games featured exploration, puzzle solving, as well as item collecting, and improvements to the main character. But the selling point was the dark world that it depicted; Mankind had been enslaved by vampires, and the very world had been altered to become a paradise for the undead lords of the night. Again you play as an antihero but a much darker version of the breed. Good and bad were muddled into greys and the player gets dragged through a rich narrative and experiences the unfolding of all of the storylines dark twists and turns.
Next is an awe inspiring offshoot of the vampires tale. Whereas Castlevania symphony of the night allowed you to play as an antihero, and Legacy of Kain gave players the “we’re really bad, but in the end we might save the world” experience, this next game lets you choose whether to be good or evil. You can fight the vampires or join their ranks.
Skyrim’s Dawnguard is a full blown expansion pack that introduces a vampire plague to Tamriel. Skyrim is still the same beautiful place with gorgeous vistas and dragons. The expansion simply introduces a few new places to explore and the new threat of bloodsucking fiends. Oh… and a pretty awesome bow.
Two new factions are introduced:
After a recent increase in vampire attacks, the ancient order of vampire hunters known as the Dawnguard is reformed. Originally, the order was a large mercenary force that was tasked with quarantining the son of a Riften Jarl who contracted vampirism. The Jarl built a fortress to house his son that is aptly called Fort Dawnguard. The Dawnguard eventually disbanded and the fort was abandoned until the reformation of the faction.
The Volkihar Clan
As the storytellers relay it, Lord Harkon was a man who pledged himself to the Daedric Prince, Molag Bal. As such, he sacrificed thousands of innocents and was granted immortality by Molag Bal as a reward. This immortality was granted to Lord Harkon’s family as well. They were all transformed into pure-blood vampires who became the progenitors of the Volkihar Clan. An ancient prophecy predicted by an Elder Scroll fortells the eternal obfuscation of the sun and the Volkihar Clan seek to perform the ritual that begins this process.
Dawnguard is really two games in one as the experience is game play itself is significantly different for each choice. The plot is similar until the end, but playing as a vampire has unique game mechanics. The story works out well regardless of which faction you choose. Either way, you are joined by a vampire companion named Serana who fits in nicely from a story perspective.
So now game-pires have evolved from eternal dark monsters-in-charge in Castlevania, to suave anti-heros who use the powers of darkness to save the day (symphony of the Night), to evil self-absorbed creatures who happen to destroy and then save the world to serve their own ends (Legacy of Kain), to just another choice for the player to explore and be awesome at vampirism or vampire hunting in Skyrim. This leaves us at the latest iteration of the gaming vampire, where players are again thrust into the role of a vampire, but in a situation where their decisions to be good or evil will have ramifications throughout the entire game.
In this soon to be released action RPG, players take on the role of a recently turned vampire, Dr. Jonathan Reid, who wrestles with his desire to kill and his commitment as a doctor to heal. Set in the Spanish flu ravaged London of 1918, players make decisions that will affect the quality of life for the people as well as for Dr. Reid. It is possible to complete the game without killing anyone and maintaining the doctor cover. If players choose to avoid harming the townsfolk, the city begins to heal, but Dr. Reid remains significantly weaker than he would if he were to feed. The challenge to this tactic is that vampire slayers and other vampires actively hunt Dr. Reid. The more he feeds, the more powerful he becomes, but the city devolves further. Players get to choose targets, study them, and stalk them. Anyone in the game can be targeted. Once a target is chosen, the vampire strikes with a myriad of vampiric abilities and weapons.