Friday, March 28, 2014

Infamous 2: Festival of Blood

    There is a very rare video game which cannot be improved by the addition of vampires and the Infamous series is no exception. After the emotionally exhausting ending of Infamous 2, I was interested in a story which was slightly less serious and more focused on entertainment than drama. Festival of Blood seemed to take these two concepts to heart and is a delightful superhero meets vampire story. I, honestly, have almost no complaints about it and recommend anyone who liked Infamous 2 to pick up this DLC.

Cole gains new abilities as a vampire, including the ability to see the veins of his victims.
    The premise of Festival of Blood is Cole's sidekick Zeke, is attempting to pick up a woman in a bar and decides to do so by telling her a story about his friend Cole. Cole uncovers the tomb of New Marais most famous supernatural figure, Bloody Mary, and is promptly bitten. According to the Infamous rules of vampirism, this means that Cole will become a vampire under her control by sunrise. Until then, Cole is a free vampire who can wage war against Bloody Mary's minions and hopefully track down a method of destroying her.

    It's a simple enough premise, one which doesn't have to be more complicated to be enjoyable. The player character has an immediate goal, one which generates drama, and that can be understood with a minimum of explanation. Economy of storytelling is something that too many games get wrong, making stories too simple or complex in turn. The fact the DLC is framed as an in-universe story also avoids any continuity issues gamers might have with the premise. Personally, I have no problem with the idea of vampires being the result of Conduit abilities. Without spoiling, I'll also say the framing device has one of the funniest endings in video game history (at least to me).

The comic book art cutscenes are as enjoyable as always--adding to the sense this is a dramatization of a superhero series.
    The character of Bloody Mary is a well-realized one with many audio diaries talking about her lengthy past, consisting of various crimes against humanity (and a few fun moments of karmic retribution like turning a slave ship's "cargo" into the undead before unleashing them on their captors). Her frequent taunts against Cole throughout the game make her a fun villain and one you welcome the eventual destruction thereof. I also enjoy the fact that she manages to be attractive without falling into the trap of being a complete sexpot like so many other alluring evil-doers. While Bloody Mary has an element of sex, she's not overwhelmed by it and this is far from the only element to her personality.

    Part of what I enjoyed about Festival of Blood is the karmic choices of the DLC actually have a gameplay effect. Cole can choose to feed on the prevalent citizens or stake the far more difficult vampires in order to "recharge" himself. The constant need for blood is something which stimulates the gameplay and forces Cole to choose to eat the innocent or hunt the Undead Most Dangerous GameTM. If you're committed to Cole being an exemplar, the game actually tests you and provides you with a challenge.

    Cole's "Blood Conduit" abilities are extremely fun to play, providing our hero with the power to fly by turning into a swam of bats. I also loved using the Barbed Cross, Cole's weapon for destroying the undead and a reference to Castlevania's classic whip. The harpies and vampire enemies are also a welcome change against the monsters and militia of the main game. In a way, I regret these abilities and the storyline weren't a part of the main game since the weirdness of this DLC was the major thing I felt was absent from the second game.

Bloody Mary is the star of this story and one of Infamous' best characters.
    The gameplay, itself, is not that different from Infamous 2. While there's some fun sidequests to be had in the DLC, like rescuing prisoners, it occasionally drags in places if you want to collect all of the audio files. It's my recommendation for players to focus primarily on the main story and go through it. The side-activities and collectibles just aren't worth it. Even Bloody Mary's audio logs, which are often entertaining, get to be a little repetitive after awhile.

    In conclusion, Festival of Blood is a great addition to the Infamous universe and I wouldn't be upset to see more vampires in the setting. Sadly, I don't see that as happening. The setting seems to be getting less wacky as opposed to more so, which I think is a mistake. This DLC improves on Infamous 2, though, and I heartily recommend it.


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