I have a long history of playing Vampire: The Masquerade games, from the tabletop RPG and LARP to video games. While Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice on the Quest 3 is not what I expected, I have still had fun navigating the moonlit streets of Venice as the vampire Justice to solve the mystery of my Sire’s disappearance. There are no character creation options here except for being male or female. Developer Fast Travel Games has created a good stealth game, and make no mistake, this is a stealth-based RPG. Unfortunately, it’s marred by a lack of polish and certain weak gameplay elements.
The sewers and streets of Venice look good, but they look good for a Quest 2 game. While the atmosphere fits the setting and lore, I felt some objects and surface textures were lacking while playing on Quest 3. However, the character models are a step up and look better than most environments. Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice also has a good story that pulls you along with a mix of good to excellent voiceovers.
At first, it felt almost like an interactive novel rather than a game. When speaking to certain characters, Justice can choose from two to three options: nice, aggressive, and occasionally intimidate. While conversation choices are limited, it does add some replay value. There are also collectibles to find that unlock the story of other characters. Between missions, your ally Pietro of clan Nosferatu has a hideout that acts as a base of operations. There, the collectibles that have been found can be examined, and the voiceovers replayed. Once the crossbow is unlocked, hidden amulets that appear on most levels can also be shattered and collected. It makes for a nice mix of activities to complete outside of the stealth gameplay and combat, all be it limited.
As I gained access to more of my vampiric powers and, eventually, the crossbow with different ammunition types, Vampire: The Masquerade - Justice quickly started to feel more like a fully fleshed-out experience. Vampiric powers and the various crossbow bolts can also be upgraded between missions by entering the inner sanctum and spending experience earned. However, the upgrade tree is limited, with only a few ranks for specific abilities and a limited number of powers to unlock. Veterans of the setting may end up disappointed with the amount of traditional discipline powers missing from the game.
As mentioned earlier, this is a stealth-based RPG, so there is no ripping through enemies in the early game. Many vampire powers are thematically appropriate and allow Justice to teleport to enemies, cloak themselves in shadows, explode heads, and create supernatural traps that pull enemies into the void. It made me feel powerful until I was spotted by enemies who could quickly take Justice down with extendable batons or a few well-placed bullets.
As I progressed, the in-game tutorials did an excellent job of introducing new gameplay elements, and they were easy to understand. With some practice, I could start taking out my targets without much difficulty. I also liked that each mission allowed you to explore various ways to circumvent patrolling guards, with bonus missions that promoted avoiding violence for extra experience rewards. Using vampiric sense did a good job of providing direction if I was stuck looking for an item or where to go next. Climbing also plays an important role in getting the drop on enemies or avoiding certain death. Scaling up drain pipes and chains is well implemented but occasionally has that odd bend to the arm, making it look broken. Unfortunately, the maps feel somewhat limited in size.
After a few hours, I did start to sink into the immersion of experiencing the story as Justice, but several issues kept getting in the way and pulling me back out. The narration textbox that appears would flicker and seem to jitter regularly, the Quest 3 framerate and overall performance would tank at times when entering the inner sanctum, and the field of view narrows every time I move using the thumbstick.
When the field of view narrowed, a shadow momentarily appeared toward all edges with only a circular space of visibility in the center. So, it was a design choice. But it just kept taking me out of the action every time I went to turn a corner or move forward. I could find no way to turn this effect off in the settings, and the best I could do was to set turning to "Sweep," which made it at least a bit less distracting. On a side note, for anyone with motion sickness issues in VR, test all the various rotation and comfort options. I typically use the "Smooth" turning setting in most games, but using it in Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice made me mildly queasy.
The AI also needs another couple of passes. Guards' pathing can glitch, with them shuddering in place for a few seconds before moving on their route, and they can, at times, not react to their compatriots dying nearby due to different supernatural effects or a well-placed crossbow bolt.
The mechanic for grabbing and feeding from enemies was interesting, but it could also be challenging to grab and pull a target forward or get your head in the right place to feed. Then, pushing them away at the right moment to receive a bonus reduction in hunger didn't always register.
Out of curiosity, I did try part of a run with the limited stealth style of gameplay. If I managed to find more hidden health boosters, I could likely make a go of it in the late game, but the load time after every death during the early game got to me in the end. From a lore point of view, I wonder, even with a stealth approach, if someone will eventually notice all the bodies. While I realize it's part of the gameplay loop, with how often the hunger needs to be satiated after using only a few abilities, I can't imagine the Masquerade lasting for long in Venice with Justice around.
Despite the mentioned issues, Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice is a good VR game on the Quest 3. Fast Travel Games tells a good story and nails the atmosphere of the Vampire: The Masquerade setting. Playing as Justice has some fun gameplay and many moments that make you feel like a vampire hunting down their enemies. But to make Vampire: The Masquerade - Justice shine, I would have liked to see more polish and depth to the vampiric power/discipline system.
Disclosure: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of review.