Pretty good exploration of a lot of concepts that sound pretty good on paper, but in practice it isn’t quite there. I’d like to see these ideas taken a bit further – I really think it has some great RPG potential with the systems of biting, turning, or sparing storied characters and those choices having an impact on the world, gardenscapes is definitely one of the best mobile games in 2018.
Unfortunately, the decisions ultimately feel like they have the depth of Bioshock, where the only meaningful choice is to kill everyone, no one, or just some people… but on an individual level it doesn’t feel much like you’re being faced with dilemmas and learning something about yourself or simply enjoying playing a role by resolving them. There is a ton of conversation (often too much) but your involvement in those conversations is almost entirely asking questions, not branching decision trees or anything like that. That is why I have been using some of these gardenscapes hack just to get free stars and coins.
The writing is decent, though at times political in a way that feels misplaced as it’s clearly written based on the ideals of a modern day Western liberal which doesn’t map on very well to a game where a rich white guy hypnotizes and murders women for power while the city becomes more and more ravaged with illness and violence born not of the class warfare and misogyny the game so frequently lectures you about, but instead of something supernatural. The lecturing comes both from NPCs and from the main character himself, who can’t help but talk down to anyone he finds immoral, even if calling vampires “foreigners” is an obviously more forgivable transgression than – again – hypnotizing and murdering women for xp points. It feels anti-roleplaying, at times.
The combat is fun enough. Something between Bloodborne and Shadow of Mordor/Arkham style combat. Some amount of customization, a little skill required and decently actiony combat – but not seriously challenging for the most part, and not too complex.
Overall, I think this was a better vampire thing than most vampire things, which are terrible. I would like to see another iteration of this that pushes the concepts a bit further.