The number one thing that video games almost always get exactly wrong is translation from a tabletop game to a digital experience. The first Neverwinter Nights was good. Planescape: Torment is a recommendation post for a future day, the first Pool of Radiance collection was amazing (for its time, mind)… but if you leave TSR’s various D&D implementations, you find yourself more and more irritated the closer and closer you get to the modern day.
Sure, Shadowrun had an awesome RPG on the SNES and awesome combat on the Sega, but they didn’t have those things together (and the XBox 360 version of Shadowrun? It took a much-beloved cyber-hacking universe and turned it into a first-person shooter).
The games try to create some kind of immersive experience to match the games and universe you had around the table… but, for the most part, they know that they can’t and so they don’t even really try.
There is one *MAJOR* exception to this that I’ve found. In 2004, Troika Games (you know them from the original Fallout games and Arcanum) used the Source Engine (you know it from Half-Life 2) to make Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines.
This is not only a game that captured the atmosphere of Vampire, it captured the humor, the personalities, and the paranoia. The game starts out with you being turned by a date gone wrong… then being quickly found out by the Prince and his Sheriff. Your sire is efficiently executed and, when it is made clear to the assembly that you are also sentenced to death, the local Anarch community threatens revolt. Your life is spared by the Prince to keep peace… until he sends you on what he thinks is a suicide mission. That’s how the game starts. There are many, many missions to explore and many, many factions to consider joining before you fight to one of the game’s many, many endings.
You are allowed to play each of the seven (!) different Camarilla clans and each clan gives a very different gameplay experience. Some focus mostly on combat and very little on dialog, others focus primarily on dialog with little emphasis on combat. When you play as a Nosferatu, you are so twisted and deformed that you must play with a primary focus on stealth, lest you break the Masquerade.
That’s not the really awesome part, though. The really awesome part is that this game, a game released in 2004, still has patches being released and the folks who develop the patches are doing so with the help of folks who worked on the game back when they were being paid by Troika to do it. The developers are *STILL* trying to make it perfect. More than that, there are different patches to give different game experiences: one patch changes the game to make it as close to a perfect version of the game that was shipped way back when, another patch adds all kinds of little abilities and merits/flaws. Yet another allows you to play as a Sabbat (!).
There is still a healthy underground development team that is working on this game and making it better and better and better. Steam has it for twenty bucks (and I’m irritated that I didn’t recommend it to you a few short weeks ago because they had it for 75% off then). It’s worth every penny. Easily the best computer adaptation of a tabletop role playing game that I’ve ever experienced.
So that’s my recommendation for you this week.