The set-up for Vampire: The Masquerade – Shadows of New York, the second V:TM visual novel following last year’s Coteries of New York, is irresistible. The protagonist, Julia, is a newly turned vampire whose life as a struggling freelance investigative journalist is now thankfully behind her. But instead of living a glamorous, exciting vampire existence, she essentially becomes a glorified immigration officer, overseeing vampire movement in and out of New York. It’s a rather drab existence until her background as a journalist gifts her an opportunity to head up an investigation concerning the locked-room murder of a high-profile vampire, and her future within New York’s vampiric society will depend on whether she’s able to solve the crime.
In practice, Shadows of New York is less exciting than this premise indicates. There’s a murder, yes, and Julia has to solve it. But you, the player, are barely involved. This is a five-hour visual novel that’s very low on meaningful choice and consequence, and while there will be some differences and unique elements to different playthroughs, your impact on the investigation is negligible. But even though it’s light on player input, Shadows of New York is an entertaining visual novel for the most part, with an interesting central character, solid script, and strong presentation.
Shadows of New York is somewhere between a self-contained spin-off and a direct sequel to Coteries of New York. Julia and a few other characters are new, but most of the main cast carries over directly from that first game, including the murder victim. The main thrust of Shadows of New York’s story involves meeting with the four characters who you could choose to serve in the first game’s titular coterie, all of whom have some insight into the case and what happened… kind of. In truth, the investigation into the murder never really coheres into a satisfying whodunnit–you spend most of your time reading text that’s projected over animated backgrounds and character portraits, and occasionally you get to make a choice about what Julie says or does next. However, these don’t lead to meaningful consequences, with most of the major reveals happening right near the end. None of them are particularly surprising either.