Choice of the Vampire
In Choice of the Vampire, the first Choice of Games title written by Jason Hill, you are (surprise!) a newly minted vampire struggling to make your mark in undead society. Or maybe you're an idealist who believes true love of the eternal kind is just around the corner. Or could you be a devout soul who sees your new unlife as a sort of curse you must seek redemption from? Or perhaps you're a warrior barely kept in check by your maker and growing ever more impatient with the political niceties of your kind? These decisions, and many others, are yours to make in this dark text-based RPG set against the backdrop of one of the most dangerous and tumultuous times in American history... and beyond.
When options are presented, simply pick the one you want. Don't spend too much time agonizing over what will get the best outcome; you'll enjoy yourself more if you role play a little and choose what you think your character would do based on his or her personality. Options that appear grayed out are ones you don't meet the requirement for; a character who isn't proficient in the arts, for example, isn't going to be able to offer to showcase a ballad for their peers. All of this is influenced by your stats, which you can view at any time by clicking "show stats" at the top of the screen; not only will things like your strength or cunning have an effect on the things you do, but so too will your compassion, adaptation, and other things like your superstition or rationalism. Personally, it seems a little odd that a vampire, a creature of myth, legend, and frilly shirt collars could find voodoo or other magic more unlikely than their own unnatural existence, but, well, that's between you and any black cats that cross your path.
Analysis: The setting here is a little bit Anne Rice stewed with something that feels a lot like classic World of Darkness Vampire: The Masquerade concepts. Only with a lot more playing cards, and an unfortunate lack of Malkavians. The narrative takes place over a long time, and I was surprised at the amount of differences I found in replaying the game with different choices; not only do things like your chosen background influence you, but the decisions you make and responses you give to fellow vampires significantly shape what happens to you down the road... sometimes in ways you don't expect. It could be as subtle as finding yourself unable to resolve a situation because of a language barrier, or as big as winding up in an entirely different plot path. Even with multiple playthroughs of different character types, I was constantly encountering new scenarios. The amount of work is extremely impressive, and enough to keep you busy for quite some time.
This helps make up for the fact that there just isn't as much interactivity as you might hope for. Your character makes decisions as the plot requires them, but entire pages of text can go by with minimal involvement from you. There will definitely be times when you'll feel like a passenger alongside the narrative rather than a participant. And speaking of the narrative, it does tend to be a bit heavy-handed with describing the historical events happening. This wouldn't be a big deal if vampire society or even just the various vampires you'll meet themselves were given the same treatment, but it doesn't quite feel like they were given all the world building they deserve by comparison.
That said, however, the emphasis here appears to be placed more on storytelling, and at that Choice of the Vampire does quite well. The writing is generally top notch, and the cast of characters is robust and distinct. As befits a fledgling creature in a society so heavily steeped in social standing and infighting, you'll spend a good portion of the game early on feeling like a bit player on the sidelines while the more powerful work over your head. Even if you try to distance yourself from other vampires, it's easy to get drawn into their squabbles. The world of mortals may also be beneath your concern, or so you tell yourself, but it'll be hard to ignore the world when it's trying to tear itself apart right outside your door.
Whether you rise from obscurity to become a terror in vampire Society, or find yourself unable to resist the comforts and emotions of mortals, Choice of the Vampire is an exceptionally ambitious and well made adventure that shouldn't be missed by any fan of text games.