Published on June 11th, 2018 | by Edwin Millheim
Summary: Vampyr is not the perfect Alpha Predator game, but it is a Vampire fans happy place.
Vampires are interesting again.
Vampyr is the latest game from developer Dontnot Entertainment and published by Focus Home Interactive. This action adventure is available for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. For this review, we are checking out the Xbox One version.
Vampyr is a game with an atmospheric of a story as its graphics and presentation. There are times with in the game where design choices made, gave me a huge question mark of OK, why did they even bother to do that?
Then things story wise shift back on track to a deep horror laced story that harkens back to all those late nights of my childhood as I snuck to watch the old horror films in black and white.
Couple the excellent moodiness of the environments with some nice roleplaying style character upgrades and a rather interesting take on Non Player Characters and how they fit in to the gaming world, it all combines to make Vampyr an impressive game with a few bumps and bruises that do not make it a flawless experience. However, it is a worthwhile one.
The main player character is Doctor Jonathan Reid who recently been turned into a vampyr. Being a doctor in life, many of the man’s beliefs and oaths are still strong with in him. One of those is to do no harm. Therefore, his new unhealthy appetite for blood is in full conflict with his whole, no harm oath.
That is all fine and well and the designers make sure to let it known that you do not have to kill to get through the game. They do put the temptation of easier victories in your mind when they also let you know that battles and leveling up will come a lot easier and faster IF you embrace your new alpha predator nature.
A lot of the combat throughout the game is avoidable. However, some of the bigger fights with bosses are mandatory and they are going to take place no matter what the player does.
Vampyr is also set in London during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, and although the designers made the city from research in facts with a little bit of fictional locales and looks, they have done an exceptional job of bringing the contrasts of London during the time to life for the game. The descriptions of the times slums mirrored in so many of the environments in the game.
However, many of the areas are hard to tell apart, since they are a maze of dark dirty areas. The choices and the looks lend themselves well to the feel they must have been going for. The designers even worked in the mass graves around the city that actually did happen during the time due to the Spanish Flu outbreak and the mortality rate from its onslaught. Players are introduced unceremoniously to one of these mass graves early on and it is a rather nasty awakening indeed.
Not soon after this, combat is introduced, as we have to run for our Un-lives from vampire hunters. Now I have to break in here in this little train of thought…I found it a little frustrating that it seems like regular citizens cannot tell you are a vampire, but these roving patrols of hunters can spot you and declare you as vampire from a block away. Literally. I found this to be a little frustrating, one could only imagine that there are some kind of special training, or item that assists them in identifying a vampire so easily. Who knows?
Fighting is nothing spectacular, it is a mix of dodge, and strike either with your claws or whatever melee weapon you have, or if you have a pistol, you can shoot the enemy. Mix that with some of the special vampire abilities that you can build up over time. There is nothing new or spectacular about the fighting in Vampyr. It is not very inspiring, I would have enjoyed it more if we could have had some special kills or something. Other than that, combat serves its purpose. You can get very good at it, because the basic key is attack, dodge, and attack again, while making sure to keep track of your vitals in the middle of it all.
If stamina goes down too much you are in a world of trouble in the middle of combat.
New abilities get unlocked with Experience Points (XP) that you get during game play, and as you get more XP you can go up in levels for the abilities. As you go up in levels, it can make enemies a little easier to defeat.
Enemy types come in two main groups. Humans and other supernaturals, the humans have four different types. They present different challenges to you; Humans with flame swords are not much of a challenge for you. There are some that just get in there and go toe to toe with you…and are surprisingly strong and will deal some heavy damage to you. Flamethrowers shoot flame at you. You do not want to get in the full blast of a flamethrower. Then there are priests, they have the ability to blind you and can surprise you in combat.
Then we have other Vampires and sub types. Skals are lesser vampires, and they have the normal Skals and the Toxic Skals. Beware the Toxic Skal because when they die they explode.
Ekons are a lot like the player characters abilities so they are not to be taken lightly.
We also have Vulkods, these have some resemblance to werewolves and Brutes, both of these can put out multiple attacks and can take you down if you are not on your toes.
Boss battles are almost more of the same thing only a bit more difficult.
There is emphasis on player’s choices and, how far reaching those, choices can be. While for the most part I found this to be true, I was left wondering with WTF moments for instance…at one point, the main character decides to shoot themselves and the prompt to shoot comes up. No other choice, nothing to advance the game other than to shoot. What is the point here? Did the designers want to have you experience what it was like to decide to commit suicide? To me this was needless and pointless, when they could have gotten the point of the characters hopelessness down by just letting them do it in a cut scene. Others may get it…me…not so much.
As our anti-hero makes his way through this world, they will have the chance to interact with the populace and learn some back-stories and drama that goes on in the lives of the people of London. Doctor Jonathan Reid maintains his relationships by speaking to different characters in the different distracts. As he does so he can learn all sorts of things to further his investigations and also help decide if any person in the distract would make a suitable prey…IF the player is so inclined to go the full Vampire route.
Whatever the choices, there are possible consequences. Not always right away but they are there. Now if the player were going to go full Vampire and use the populace as his or her own cattle, they would want to study the person and see their habits. Learn more about them, and if they are ill in some way, the player can learn how to heal them. After all, they are a Doctor. Why bother healing them you wonder? If you heal them, you get more power from Experience points after draining them. Using your vampire senses, you can tell how bad their sickness is.
It is easier to decide whom you should drain if you ease drop and talk to people to gather more clues. Once you do decide on whom you will target, the vampire ability Mesmerize comes into play.
Every time you want to feed on someone, you have to be able to lure him or her to his or her demise, and to do that you have to match his or her mind resistance. The more increased the skill Mesmerize is, the easier time you will have. You may also use mesmerize to be invited to enter someone home, because yes…you cannot enter unless invited.
Mesmerize is of course not the only nifty ability that Reid has access to. There are some eighteen branching skill trees amongst eight categories. Many of the abilities are blood related so there again is another temptation to go ahead and feed…so you can have access to these abilities. Some of these power abilities are for instance creating and hurling a blood spear, or even teleportation in short bursts. There are plenty of passive buff abilities as well that effect your vitals.
Now as noted, if you kill a citizen there may well be far reaching consequences. For me it seems rather odd that you do not seem to have any blow back what so ever for killing off the vampire hunters or other supernaturals you come across.
Vampyr’s artistic presentation could be considered stylized. Since it almost harkens back to much older console presentations in some ways but for the fact, things are cleaner in many respects art wise.
A games’ design and over all artistic look goes a long way in depicting what the games over all feel is going for. In this case, there are many dark, muddled looks. Some that even are in soft fuzzy out of focus parts in scenes. It is a dark time and a dark story and the art presentation shows that as well. Characters are a stark contrast away from realistic.
The presentation of characters look very retro gaming in design. While some gamers may be a bit short sighted seeing this as a point of something to criticize and want something along the lines of more realistic looking faces and forms, artistically I think this was a bold move in design to make for Vampyr. It labels it and has a certain look and feel that one can identify with the product that is Vampyr. Somewhat like identifying and liking a certain comic book style of art and presentation for a certain brand or character over another style. The art style is part of the personality of the game. Vampyr has plenty of personality it just shambles a bit here and there like its fighting sections.
Vampyr is worth digging up out of its crypt and giving it a go. It will satisfy the fans of all things Vampire.
Have fun, play games
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One (reviewed) and PC