4 July. Wellington. Wrote review at 8:35 P.M, on 9th June, arriving in LA early next week; should have published at 6:46, but site went down and so is late. Word-Press seems a wonderful platform, from the glimpse which I got of it from the publishing end and the little I could walk through the streets. I feared to go very far from the release, as we had published late and would post as near the correct time as possible.
Not one of you will get that, but trust me, it’s extremely clever.
I’ve spent a lot of time with Vampyr over the last few weeks, and I can honestly say that the added time has done it justice; it’s definitely got some added bite.
In my first run, I found that the idea of difficulty being based on the number of civilians killed (the primary method of gaining XP and getting those sweet vampire powers) was redundant for a lot of the game. A couple of boss fights game me trouble, but I still only died a handful of times; Dark Souls it is not. My second game, killing indiscriminately, was a totally different kind of fun, as I could finally drink the people I hated… And the ones I liked… And everyone, really.
That’s what RPGs are all about, right?
Vampyr thinks it’s much cleverer than it is. I can relate. You play as a recently vampirised doctor, who is also, hilariously, an expert in blood transfusion. After waking up, instantly killing his sister, and meeting a couple of other hemoglobin-deficient friends of the night, Dr Jonathan Reid resolves to find his maker and exact revenge, because he has deep issues with owning responsibility for his own actions. Of course there’s the trope of “But I can’t be a vampire, they don’t exist. I must have risen from the dead and drunk my sister’s blood for some other reason,” and he constantly blames his sire for his own actions, but hey, tropes are tropes for a reason.
Honestly, I’d like to see media where they just realise they’re vampires right off the bat. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines did that pretty well, right? And speaking of Bloodlines, oooh boy but the influences are clear. I’m not just talking Dracula; from Witcheresque blood trails, Mass Effect style dialogue, and a leveling system that brings you right back to Oblivion, Vampyr adopts individual aspects of many game and, amazingly, creates something new and enjoyable.
Hope you like dialogue, because there’s a lot of it. Sure, it’s fun, and well-written, and these actors commit to their roles like nothing else, but there’s SO much of it. Honestly, I’m surprised there was any combat, and that it wasn’t possible to complete the game without any since it takes such a backseat. Combat is certainly there, in the style I’ve taken to calling Witcher-lite. Multi targeting, a variety of bloody cool abilities, and the potential for most encounters to go south VERY fast bring back good memories, and alternating vampiric powers with hacksaw slashes, pistol shots, and a hell of a lot of dodging makes encounters fun, stressful, and only a little repetitive.
The animation isn’t the best, but it’s by no means bad. The music is atmospheric and appropriate, and snippets of conversation heard around Whitechapel and the other areas of London you frequent add some life to a suspiciously empty city. I mean, I know it’s the Great War, and clearly there are some vampire problems, but you’d think more people would be out at night anyway. People walk around London now, and it’s WAY more dangerous than it was a century ago.
So yes, there are unpolished elements. How do you feel about lag? Because there’s more than a little. While most of the combat is fine, sometimes moving between areas faster than the game expects causes a swirling red wheel to appear uninvited and then just stay there… For a long time. Not only that, but pausing into the menu has a lag of maybe half a second, every time. This sounds like nothing, but is intensely irritating in the long term, and actively disincentived me from opening the map or inventory.
Opening the game gives me a giggle every time, as it always warns you not to try and cure your own bronchitis with opium, which has ruined my plans for the weekend. Cheers guys, I’ll remember that.
All in all, this is an exceptionally playable game with interesting ideas, a unique plot, and a ton of fun to sink your teeth into. The ending irritated me for personal reasons, and also because it devolved into silliness, but I’m AB-positive the team at Dontnod had fun making it, and I had fun playing it. It’s not the best game in the world, and it won’t sweep the awards, but they really tried to do something new here and it shows. This is some fresh blood in the industry, and I’m almost out of vampire puns so I’ll stop coffin them up now and end it here.
The stakes are low, and it’s worth having a go.