While an Unreal Engine 3-powered vampire hunting period piece set in an alternate 19th century Paris may sound pretty compelling, the coolest thing about Square Enix's Bloodmasque is facial mapping technology console developers gave up on years ago.
Seriously, look at my character. Those partial black-framed glasses; the beard that stops before his chin; those rakish eyebrows -- this is the sort of character you can't help but be completely beguiled by. How can such beauty exist? Why? No really, why?!
That dashing fellow is a member of an elite force of vampire hunters, struggling to survive long enough to wipe a powerful vampiric cult off crumb-dotted face of the land where the best pastries originate. The pastry thing isn't mentioned in the story -- it's just the only way I can justify a character that looks vaguely like not running away to a less undead infested locale. He has seen the future. He knows the Cronuts are coming.
With the very future at stake (pun? sure, why not?), Fahey will stop at nothing to save Paris. He'll battle vampiric menaces in a speedy variation of the Infinity Blade battle system, dodging and building up power for special attacks. He'll repetitively take out a series of peons before each main event. Then he'll battle a humanoid vampire down to no health, at which point it will transform into a demonic vampire that'll need to be beaten down all over again.
One of the cooler features of the game, aside from the face-masking, are the social features, in which you recruit a pair of fellow hunters to assist you in battle. There are four vampire clans, and each one coveys some sort of bonus for fighting the others -- extra gold, more blood )experience points), increased damage and such. By bringing other player characters into your party, you'll gain bonuses that will help you earn better equipment or level faster. You don't have to ask other players to join you -- just select them and be off. You meet some incredibly interesting characters this way -- check out the guy on the right.
He's my hero.
Battles and mechanics aside, Bloodmasque's story isn't too shabby. You're a half-breed vampire guy fighting the good fight, undertaking missions assigned by your organisation. The heroes are quirky, the villains completely despicable.
It could have used a little more polish. Voice-acting is nonsensically sporadic, disappointingly so. And the fighting is a bit sloppy -- there's not much room for finesse, especially considering there are no slash attacks, merely tapping. There's a lot of mini-quest grinding to get your power levels high enough to progress the story, and I wonder why a game where you're ostensibly creating yourself as the main character features skin tone, hair and facial structure unlocks.
On top of those negatives, the game -- a $US6.99 game -- features a stake system in which the better quality stake you bring with you on a mission, the better items you will be rewarded with at the end, and those golden stakes cost a pretty penny in purchased currency.
Then I look at this great and terrible thing.
Genre: Vampire Slash-Em Up Developer: Square Enix Platform: iOS Price: $7.49 Get Bloodmasque on iTunes.