Vampire: The Masquerade — Coteries Of New York Review: A Light Vampire Snack

While the writing is surprisingly high-quality and the UI is slick, the lack of any real choice and abrupt ending make Coteries Of New York tough to recommend.

Before two bigger budget games arrive, Vampire: The Masquerade  Coteries Of New York is offered up as light snack to stave off hunger pains in the World Of Darkness.

It won't be long before we get meatier meals from Werewolf: The Apocalypse Earthblood and, of course, Vampire: The Masquerade's triumphant return with the long-awaited Bloodlines 2, which was sadly delayed.

In the meantime, Coteries of New York is more of a bite-sized morsel presenting a side story in the New York nightscape. It puts a neonate smack dab in the middle of a bunch of simmering Camarilla plots.

Coming before the main course, this particular Vampire: The Masquerade iteration isn't a full-fledged game, and it is absolutely a visual novel first and foremost. While it does have some light gameplay elements, the end result is reading a Masquerade novel while mildly directing some of the action.

Vampire: The Masquerade — Coteries Of New York Review: A Light Vampire Snack

Coteries kicks off with a choice between three different characters, all of whom start as a mortal embraced against their will. None have knowledge of the vampire world.

The approach works well for newbies to the series, but for anyone familiar with the setting, it also means going through a bunch of unnecessary info dumps.

That being said, the writing in Coteries is well done throughout. Oftentimes the quality of the in-game descriptions and dialog is surprisingly well crafted for how little text is actually on the screen at any one time. These tweet-sized snippets of dialog are carefully constructed for the most impact in the smallest amount of space. In short, this story is actually written better than some of the physical Vampire: The Masquerade novels. 

While the focus is on learning the vampiric ropes and convincing more capable kindred to let you live, some pop culture references to True Blood and Fortnite also pop up from time to time. I'm not a fan of those injections, which pull me out of the dark vampire fantasy, but I know plenty others like the notion of undead bickering going on in the real world.

Illusion Of Choice

While reading through the text, Coteries presents a polished interface and works hard to make the overall experience seem like more than just a visual novel. Those efforts include various graphic effects like rain drops, shining lights, and bloody screen corners. There's also a map/rest screen for deciding where to go and what to do next.

Unfortunately, that latter element provides the illusion of choice rather than any actual choice, and that's the biggest issue with Coteries of New York.

Your neonate vampire will always end up at the same conclusions regardless of what options you pick, and there are several instances where the dialog doesn't reflect what you chose. Even if you are a docile dog who doesn't bare your teeth or rock the boat, there will still be comments about how unruly and rude you were in the past.

It's also abundantly clear that there's a "right" and "wrong" way to play Coteries, which doesn't jive with the notion of picking your character and clan at the beginning. As a new, baby vampire thrust into the inner circle of movers and shakers, you need to be deferential and restrained. That works out alright for two of the characters, but if you want to play the Brujah as a rules-bucking revolutionary, the final death and a restart screen are just minutes away.

There's also an unavoidable ending barreling towards you like a freight train the entire time that cuts the story short. Coteries is easy to complete in five hours or less. If you thought Tyranny was missing a final act and ended too soon, you'll be steaming mad at what happens here, as the ending feels like it should be a springboard into the real main chapter.

Building a Coterie

If you couldn't tell by the name, the majority of this latest look into the World of Darkness is about building up a coterie of vampires to have your back so you can survive a few more nights.

In this way, Coteries is legitimately good, even for a visual novel. The companions and their individual quest lines are the main highlight. Each potential companion features a different means of recruitment and features wildly differing motivations. 

The recruitment section for Hope, in particular, stands out, tasking you with properly moderating a group of degenerate blood fetish junkies in a chat room. Hope's manifestation of the Malkavian insanity curse is also one of the more entertaining and least obnoxious — versions in Vampire: The Masquerade history.

All of that makes it more of a shame that your coterie plays a very little role in how the story plays out. After going through all the work to gain their trust, the coterie only appears for a brief vignette, and the end result remains identical regardless of which companions joined or who you ticked off.

If the developers culled the "forming a coterie" aspect entirely, the game would still play out exactly the same.

Vampire: The Masquerade — Coteries Of New York Review: The Bottom Line

Pros:

  • High-quality writing
  • Plots within plots, and more than a few vampiric double-crosses
  • Interesting and engaging coterie companions

Cons:

  • Very short
  • There's no real choice, no matter what dialog options are picked
  • Light on actual gameplay

An overall mixed bag, Coteries Of New York is only for diehard World Of Darkness fans who enjoy visual novels.

Due to the quickly impending finale, you can't do everything in one go, meaning there's obviously replay value here. However, it's entirely for seeing the side stories. The main story arc always has the same resolution, and sadly, your choices play little to no role in anything.

This is simply a teaser for Bloodlines 2. Buy Coteries when it's on sale if you need a dark, modern-day vampire tale to tide you over during the wait for Bloodlines 2.

[Note: A copy of Coteries Of New York was provided by Draw Distance for the purpose of this review.]

Our Rating
6
While the writing is surprisingly high-quality and the UI is slick, the lack of any real choice and abrupt ending make Coteries Of New York tough to recommend.
Reviewed On: PC

Featured Contributor

Ty splits his time between writing horror fiction and writing about video games. After 25 years of gaming, Ty can firmly say that gaming peaked with Planescape Torment, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a soft spot for games like Baldur's Gate, Fallout: New Vegas, Bioshock Infinite, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. He has previously written for GamerU and MetalUnderground. He also writes for PortalMonkey covering gaming laptops and peripherals.

Published Dec. 20th 2019

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