This weeks #TuneTuesday post has return to the World of Darkness and talk about the first and heavily underrated Vampire: The Masquerade videogame. The game is Vampire: The Masquerade - Redemption, the cue is Vienna Orsi (according to the filename, as the soundtrack was never officially released) and the composer is Kevin Manthei.
Most people who have taken an interest in reading this blog post are likely to be a little confused. The only Vampire: The Masquerade game you are probably aware of is Bloodlines, and its soon-to-be-released sequel. That cult classic was not the first attempt someone made at turning the popular tabletop roleplaying game into a videogame. That credit goes to Redemption, which is actually the first videogame adapted from a game found within the World of Darkness, the universe that Vampire: The Masquerade exists, along with Werewolf: The Apocolypse and Wraith: The Oblivion.
But I digress. In this game, you play as the noble French crusader Christof Romuald, a once-proud, religious church knight who is embraced by a vampire of clan (essentially the breed) Brujah, pulled into the politics and squabbling of the Kindred, the in-game word for vampires (they also use Cainite, FYI). Whilst coming to terms with his new condition, questioning his understanding on life and faith allying himself with other Cainites, his anchor to humanity the nun Anezka, a human with a pure soul who loves him even after his transformation, is kidnapped by members of clan Tzimisce (pronounced Zi-me-zee) for plot-related reasons. Christof then makes it his goal in unlife to save her and thrawt the plans of the Tzimisce.
Whilst not being a perfect game by any means, one of the things that makes this game very interesting is no only its faithfulness to the lore of VtM (for the most part), but its change in settings. The game occurs in two time periods: 12th century Prague and Vienna, and late-20th century London and New York City, each one having fantastic attention to detail in the voice acting and change in music (for a game released in 2000 on PC may I add). The Dark Ages setting has great orchestral work and great period music in the almost pointless explorable pubs, whilst the Modern Nights setting has more electronic sounds and gritty phat beats (there is even a rap when you explore certain parts of New York).
Whilst in 12th Century Vienna, Christof and his party (known as a coterie in VtM terms) must speak to a Cainite by the name of Orsi. The player will hear this cue as you enter his home before you get to meet him, and you can instantly tell the sort of individual this Orsi is just from the music. Regal, remarkably pompous, and incredibly stately. It is a stereotypical classical string quartet arrangement (2 violins, viola & cello), basing all of its melodic ideas off the first few dotted rhythms, which is an arpeggiated E minor chord, which to me suggests that he has a lot of power, and may not be a good vampire (if such a phrase truly exists). The final chord of the cue, the Bsus4 7th serves to add to this I think, and possibly suggests Orsi’s religious ties. It could also just be an interesting and ‘proper’ chord to use to allow the cue to loop around. Whilst the sound itself is somewhat cheesy, given the string quartet sounds are General MIDI ‘sounds’, it still serves as an impressive cue to me because of it’s the ability to tell the listener everything they need to know about the character before meeting them.
There is one final detail I wish to draw your attention to, which some of you may have noticed already. It may require you to wear some headphones to pay closer attention. With a decently trained ear, you will notice the cello is on the far left speaker, the viola closer to the centre of the stereo field, but slightly to the left, the 2nd violin mirroring the viola (right, but close to the centre), with the 1st violin on the far right. String quartets usually reverse the seating arrangments (cello far-right, viola centre, but near the right etc.). Is this a fault on the composer’s behalf? No, as the composer can do what he/she/they pleases, but that is not the case here. It was only up until the string quartets of Joseph Haydn (which is some 500 years after the game’s first time period) and beyond where quarters took that seating arrangement. The few string quartets that existed before Haydn took the seating arrangement you are currently listening too.
Hopefully, you have learnt at least two new things today...