When Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 was announced in March 2019, 15 years after its predecessor, it’s safe to say the thirst was reawakened in many a gothic RPG fan. Both tabletop Toreadors and video game Ventrues were eager to sink their teeth into another dark and complex vampiric tale. However fans of the tabletop game and text RPGS were also drawn to a Kickstarter campaign launched a few months prior in 2018, created by Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye Games, a veritable powerhouse in the world of modern point and click adventure games. The Blackwell series, Technobabylon, Primordia, Unavowed, all under the great Wadjet Eye banner. And with a new trailer dropped in April, the thirst was evoked anew.
“Embrace the night. Live the nightmare. Climb from rags to riches as a modern Vampire in a city where your secret has been revealed.”
Nighthawks – The Vampire RPG. Releasing in 2021.
With writer & designer Richard Cobbett (Failbetter Games’ Sunless Sea/Sunless Skies) also at the helm, Nighthawks sets the scene of a city where, unlike VtM, vampires have been revealed and authorities are trying to show that vampires and humans can coexist, despite strong opposition and subterfuge from both sides. Three months ago, you died and have been reborn into this new world, penniless and starving; you need to make your way in this world or fade into the darkness you now inhabit. As a fledgling vampire, you will have to adjust to the ‘nocturnal nine-to-five’, balancing your endless hunger and mastering your twilight abilities with running your own nightclub and making connections with the city’s mysterious denizens.
Put simply: “This is the story of how you rose.”
Nighthawks is presented as a story driven RPG, blending visual novel aspects with text-based decision-making. In Wadjet Eye’s words back in 2018: “Structurally, think a free-form RPG core, with stories branching off it – some funny, some tragic, some horrific – where your decisions are always bleeding together.” If you had a heartbeat, it would need to be completely in time with the city you inhabit; every decision you make will have repercussions, for yourself, the authorities and the company you choose to keep. As your vampiric status is now public knowledge, so are your traits and nature. Go around draining humans dry and suspicion levels rise, eventually coming back to bite you (heh).
Production stills and trailer footage boast some stunning art from Ben Chandler, a Wadjet Eye regular, showcasing gorgeous use of colour and shading; I find it evokes the essence of the 1942 Edward Hopper painting ‘Nighthawks’ in these areas, which fits wonderfully. Imagine if the people sat in that late night diner were also fledglings, trying to find their way and adjust to their new normal. The prose from Cobbett is also splendidly evocative, setting the scene and working in the various gameplay elements such as combat, powers and skill challenges into the text. Fans of Sunless Sea and Sunless Skies will be very familiar with this style of play and feel right at home. Being somewhat of an old-school gal when it comes to gaming, I still stop by Failbetter Games’s first browser-based outing Fallen London every so often for a hefty dose of superb gothic writing and immersion. For those unfamiliar with the style and looking to sample it without spending a penny, Fallen London is still running and completely free! Click here to give it a go and become a delicious friend. Not exactly how it sounds, but there is a chance of being ever so slightly eaten!
Going hand in hand with the art, the UI is a smooth blend of modern day and gothic imagery; your mobile phone displays the time and lets you communicate with your contacts, your wealth is displayed as the face of a credit card while swirling orbs and bars of colourful liquid straight out of a fantasy RPG represent various levels such as health and suspicion. If you enlist a companion to accompany you on your exploits, their portrait will also appear here. And there seems to be no lack of colourful characters to interact with: the sassy magician Madame Lux shown in the promo art, the con artist turned cult leader Master Maze, observant bartender Rebecca who knows everything that goes down in the city. Almost every person you interact with will have a story, secrets, subtleties. How you uncover and what you do with them will be yours to decide.
Scheduled for release in early 2021, Nighthawks seems to be shaping up into an exciting venture and look set to tick all the boxes for fans of dark, delectable vampire adventures. This avid Wadjet Eye fan and true-blood Tremere right here is rather excited and cannot wait to sink her teeth into it next year. But until then, the thirst will keep on growing…