The newly-released vampire RPG brawler Bloodmasque is yet another game in the strange sub genre of iOS apps that think they are full-fledge, console-quality releases. You may already be familiar with other games in this niche including Infinity Blade, Rage, and the recently released Deus Ex: The Fall, but Bloodmasque is an even more ambitious experiment thanks in large part to its ability to actually put you in the game.
When you first embark Bloodmasque's dark adventure - which tasks you with ridding the world of vampires, while you yourself are partially afflicted with the condition - the game prompts you to take a photo of your own face to be used on the primary character. Getting the right lighting is key here, but if you manage to grab a decent snapshot you can actually craft a rather impressive digital replica of yourself. Of course if you'd rather enjoy the additional level of escapism you can simply choose a pre-rendered face instead.
The combat gameplay in Bloodmasque is rather basic and fights are a mix of swiping to dodge, tapping to attack, and launching devastating special attacks when the time is right. The action plays out with cinematic camera angles and plenty of flash, and the game's Unreal Engine-powered graphics flow smoothly with only the very occasional hiccup.
As you progress you unlock new areas of the city to explore, new weapons and armor to equip, and, of course, new bits of the story. All told the game takes between 10 and 15 hours to complete, with additional challenge quests hidden beyond the credits. It's the kind of game you can play in either short bursts - individual battles can be completed fairly quickly - or in marathon sessions where unlocking gear and bettering your character becomes the primary focus.
In short, Bloodmasque, as a game, is quite fantastic, but there is one "feature" that actually holds the title back from being a must-have: The recruitment of other players' characters to your party. When you're offline your character doesn't rest, and he or she can embark on quests with other players around the world.
While this sounds kind of neat, it means that playing the game requires an internet connection at all times. Because of this, taking my wifi iPad on a road trip - or on a flight, for example - means I can't play Bloodmasque at all. Period. If you attempt to play the game without an internet connection you are given a network error and the game will force you back to the title screen. That's a pretty big bummer for the many iPad owners who are perfectly content taking their tablets offline.
Despite that one - possibly deal-breaking - issue, Bloodmasque is a great iPad game that rivals PC and console games for its story, depth, and fun factor. If you don't care about the offline play issues, it's an easy recommendation.