Parliament of Knives is an interactive novel from Choice of Games and the third such choose-your-own adventure-esque game set in White Wolf’s World of Darkness. I enjoyed Night Road and Out for Blood but I felt that the former was significantly more enjoyable than the latter. Strangely, I think Out for Blood may be the one that sticks with me longer, though. Each of the novels takes a different perspective on Kindred society with the first being a low-level grunt working for the Camarilla as a courier, the second as a human being dealing with an invasion of Kindred into his hometown, and the third being as a high-level Camarilla flunkie.
Parliament of Knives is a significantly longer game than the previous entries and a lot deeper in terms of politics, backstabbing, Kindred relationships, and opportunities to explore alternate routes. You can side with the Camarilla, Anarchs, Primogen vs. Prince, Tremere versus Tremere, and numerous other sides. It is a game of absolute freedom and you have more choices than I expected. In my various games, I managed to betray my sire and then double-cross my partner multiple times. I formed alliances and broke them based on new informations as it entered my character’s possession.
Perhaps one of the best examples of this is when I made an alliance with the Ventrue Primogen against my sire, found her to be untrustworthy, did her dirty work, received a letter for her to give to me, and then noted she’d taken the wrong lesson from Hamlet that you should never give your execution orders to the person to be executed. I proceeded to betray her back to my sire and ended up becoming the next Prince’s right hand. I give kudos to the author that they came up with a bunch of great twists and turns for a Camarilla game.
The premise is you are [insert character name], the childe of Ottawa’s Seneschal, Eden Corliss. You can be a Toreador, Ventrue, or Nosferatu. You are highly placed in the Ottawa Camarilla but function more like a glorified secretary and occassional mercenary than anyone truly powerful. After being ordered to help fight some Anarchs, you are drawn into a conspiracy regarding the city’s missing Prince. Has he been Beckoned? Kidnapped? Met the final death? It almost doesn’t matter because Eden is the most likely to ascend in his place but everyone has their own plans in motion.
The biggest disadvantage of the text-based novel is its inherent format. If you don’t have a problem reading about 600K words of description, interaction, and choices then Parliament of Knives is the kind of experience for you. If not, well, then it’s not going to be the experience for you. The writing is consistent and to the point but, perhaps, a bit on the flowery side regardless. Which makes sense if you’re a Toreador or Ventrue but not so much if you’re a Nosferatu. There’s also a strange fact that one of the characters changes sex whether you are attracted to men or women, which I feel broke immersion.
One thing that will probably prove controversial after the previous two novels were excellent reproductions of Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition’s rules is the fact this uses an even more simplified version without any skills. You maintain your Attributes but the majority of traits are missing. Instead, the primary system to keep track of is your relationships with other vampires that are measured in percentage points.
The art of Parliament of Knives is also excellent with about a dozen portraits that invoke the characters they’re supposed to represent. While not a full-fledged visual novel, I feel they add a lot to the story that would be otherwise be lacking. The Nosferatu Sheriff is not possessing any deformities but apparently this is explained within the game. While I always prefer visual novels, I feel the art was an excellent addition.
Overall, Parliament of Knives is a solid entry into the series but I think Night Road and Out for Blood are easier for the beginner to get into. This has a lot more replay value, though.