Coteries of New York is a highly interactive visual novel with a classic Vampire: The Masquerade story of power struggles and betrayal. You’ll face many critical choices, and more importantly – their consequences.
I admit I’m not all that into visual novels, but I am a Vampire: The Masquerade fan. So I grabbed a copy of Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York by Draw Distance. Surprisingly enough, I enjoyed it thoroughly. I’m even about to begin my second run.
But what made this 8-hour long visual novel so enjoyable (and replayable) to someone who doesn’t ever play such games?
A Dark and Mature Story
Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York introduces you to the secretive world of vampires in the big apple. You start as a pawn of your vampire patron, but soon enough, you learn that intrigues, plots, and conspiracies are the lifeblood of the vampire society. Everyone has their own motives and perceives you as either a tool or a threat.
Making friends in such a… competitive society is challenging. You need to figure out what plans your patron has for you, and find your place in the struggle between the factions. You have the Camarilla, which is led by traditions and elder vampires, and the Anarchs, aspiring to disperse the power of the old structure.
What path you’ll experience depends on your choice between three playable characters. Each one has its own background and vampiric powers, dictated by their clan: Brujah, Ventrue, or Toreador.
Besides your background, your choices will dictate how the story goes. While the game advances day by day till the grand finale, you will have to face many decisions along the way. Who will you trust? Whom will you make your own coterie with? What are you going to investigate? The sand is running through the hourglass, and you will not be able to pursue everyone and every event in the same playthrough.
For those who are not familiar with the settings, don’t worry, the game has a built-in encyclopedia that will guide your hand. Every time a term or concept is first mentioned, you’ll get a message alerting you, you can read more about it if you want.
Every Choice Has Consequences
Every encounter in Coteries of New York means more choices to make. Will you use your vampiric powers or feed on victims? How careful will you be? Will you risk breaching the Masquerade? Will you let loose the beast within? Will you choose brawn over diplomacy? There are many ways to approach every situation and crisis.
The game only saves when you quit, and there’s no option to save manually, which is perfect. You have to weigh every possibility seriously. Every choice you make is crucial, and there’s no turning back.
I eventually learned that my choices had consequences, even if not immediate ones. Most importantly, almost all of those consequences are fair and make sense. You’re never blindsided by your character’s actions or how they reflect back on you. Unlike some games where you’re taken by surprise by what your character actually does or says once you picked a line of dialogue (the Mass Effect series, anyone?)
Dive Deep Into Vampire Society
Those familiar with Vampire: The Masquerade will feel right at home with Coteries of New York. The art style is dark and dramatic, and the places depicted do an excellent job of immersing the player in New York’s nights. The high-quality background music contributes to the feeling of suspense with ominous notes from a reverberating piano.
The characters are well-written and their personality engaging: An empathic yet tough Nosferatu, a Toreador wondering about God and religion, a batshit crazy but genius Malkavian, and more. I’ve enjoyed interacting with everyone and was curious to learn about their personality and discerning their motives. This is one of many reasons Coteries of New York justifies a second playthrough – to spend time with the characters you didn’t interact with on your first go.
The game makes you feel like a fish, caught in a vast net, flapping about, and struggling to gain control, often to face a simple truth: there’s always a bigger fish. It’s refreshing. You can’t always be the omnipotent butt-kicking hero, now can you?
True Masquerade Experience
Coteries of New York had me sitting in front of it each evening and slowly sink into its world. Though the endgame isn’t all that affected by your choices, which is surprising and disappointing, the whole playthrough is, significantly.
The game is getting a standalone expansion by the name of Vampire: The Masquerade – Shadows of New York, planned to be released this year. It will pick up the story where it was left, through the eyes of a new character – a member of the Lasombra clan.
As I’m patiently waiting for Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, I’ve found Coteries of New York an excellent refresher course of the World of Darkness lore. The dictionary feature significantly helps catch you up on many topics. It will help you appreciate and prepare for any future Vampire: The Masquerade games, and we have quite a few of those coming.
Developer: Draw Distance
Publisher: Draw Distance
Release Date: Dec. 11, 2019
Our Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York review copy was purchased by the reviewer.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.