Vampyr, the new project from DontNod – The guys behind Life Is Strange, is a bit of an odd beast. 2 parts incredible choice-driven story title with 1 part mediocre action game, Vampyr is a game that, despite pretty boring combat-wise, I found myself unable to resist the bite and stop playing.
So, Vampyr is a game that I feel like I have been following for quite some time now, ever since the announcement trailer caught my eye and I learned DontNod were taking a foray into early 20th century London, blending the supernatural with science, they had my interest piqued… And as a huge fan of Life Is Strange, they had a lot to live up to and, story and choice wise, it really does. I was really struggling to begin this review as for a good portion of the game I really could not gauge my enjoyment levels of the game – This was until a quiet Friday indoors where I realised I had been playing the game for 15 hours straight without getting bored at all; the story is the driving force of Vampyr and through this alone you can push through any of the downsides featured in the game.
You play as Dr Jonathan Reid (If you are worried that you may forget he’s a doctor at any point – Don’t worry he reminds you every 43 seconds) who has recently died and been turned in a Vampire; his first act of which is to murder his sister in a hungry rage of black, white and red. Jonathan soon gets over his sister though and takes a position as a doctor at the local hospital, and this is where the meat of the game really begins to show as you walk around the hospital learning about the various different patients and doctors. Ranging from a crazy woman who thinks she is also a Vampire and being hunted (There is actually a side quest to track her hunters) right up to a couple of arguing doctors who cannot decide how to treat a certain patient, whilst few and far between the differing types of characters really keep the longer, dialogue filled sections of the game fresh.
What I like about the general atmosphere of Vampyr are the different types of Vampires present in the world – Jonathan (And a few others who will remain nameless) are a breed of Vampire called an “Ekon” which is your classic “Dracula” style who is integrated into modern society and has the power to mesmerise people to their will… Which we use here to lead the various NPC’s into dark corners of the world to feed. There are other types of vampires present in the game from the “Skals”, mindless beasts who feed on flesh – More akin to Zombies than Vampire right to the “Vulkod” who are often mistaken for Werewolves.
The best mechanic featured in Vampyr is the adapting world; every choice you make is reflected in the world – For example early on I witnessed a murder in the game but decided to spare the murderer for the time being and he integrated himself into the society of the hospital. As I spoke more and more with him though I learned he was the leader of a gang in London terrorising local citizens, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt – He was a sick man (You gain XP from feeding on citizens however if you can heal the citizen first you can double the XP earned from the bite), so I carried on talking to him and fed him some medicine and unlocked his sidequest to find a present from his wife. A big softy really, I thought – Maybe this was a crime of passion and not premeditated, I mean, who am I to judge people so harshly on murder as I roam London killing countless people and beasts?! This was until I find that the “gift” is in fact a murder weapon, and he had done this many times before. That was the final straw for me so I led him to a dark alley and ate him which affected the whole district, but as nobody liked him very much I was able to avoid too much drama.
So this was the vampire I decided to become – Only feeding on murderers and crime bosses which I found there were plenty to feed on.
Between these incredible dialogue and story driven moments however, is a really generic action game where you simply tap square until whatever you’re fighting falls to the ground dead – Or at least that’s what I thought, as I unlocked newer abilities and the fights got harder I found a slightly more complex system hidden underneath. Did I want to pump my XP into being able to draw more blood from a bite in combat, allowing me to use my claws and blood shield more often? Or did I want to simply power these abilities up so I didn’t need to use them more than a couple of times? These are decisions I am still battling with after over 25 hours with the game. Whilst Vampyr doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from a thousand other Action RPG’s of the same ilk, the gameplay mechanics are literally none of the reasons I have stuck with this game for so long.
Visually the game’s graphics aren’t amazing – You can tell this isn’t a AAA title and visually would be more suited to an indie release on the PS Store, however the deep, rich world is enough to push it into something I will come back and play again and again.
Vampyr is a game marred by a mediocre combat system, but you know what? I don’t care – It’s the first game in a long time that made me think Vampires are cool again, with an incredibly interesting story that has me unable to stop thinking about what’s happening next.
As my favourite game of 2018 so far (Yes I played God Of War), I would love to give Vampyr a 9/10, but due to the combat and certain world building choices I will be giving it a 8/10
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