Thursday, 19 July 2018

Vampyr ★★★★☆

‘Vampyr’ is the latest game from Don’t Nod Studios, who created ‘Life Is Strange’. It combines the storytelling of ‘Life Is Strange’ with an action RPG system to create an interesting experience set in London in the early 1900s. You play as Jonathan Reid, a doctor who has just come home from the war and found himself attacked on the way back to London, which converts him to a vampire. After immediately doing something you regret you then go on a journey of revenge, which ultimately leads to you trying to save London from an outbreak of disease.

 If you’ve played ‘Life Is Strange’ previously, the storytelling of ‘Vampyr’ is really where it flourishes. The subject matter and the way it is told is quite unique as there aren’t actually many vampire-themed games out there, and the choices you make have meaningful consequences within the narrative. This is especially seen on one of the gameplay mechanisms where, if you’re at a high enough level, you can feed on and kill any NPCs at any time. This then has a big effect on the areas within the game, as it can lead to monsters spawning more frequently if a particular area becomes devoid of NPCs to keep it stable.

Although the story has lots of twists and turns and is largely unpredictable, one side of the game that is quite predictable in nature is the combat system. Now, ‘Vampyr’ is not an AAA game and doesn’t have an AAA budget so some gameplay is quite rough around the edges and that is to be expected – the combat is similar to ‘Dark Souls’ in that you have a main attack, a secondary attack, dodging, and sometimes parrying, and skills matched to different controller buttons. While you are given a wide array of options, after 20 to 30 hours or so it starts to feel repetitive as you are set upon by more and more bullet sponge bosses with extended health pools. I felt that the combat let the other aspects of the game down towards the end – at points you feel like you’re suffering through the fighting scenes just to get to the interesting story points.

The graphic style of the game is what you would expect from an AA budget. It’s not perfect, of course, but what it lacks in graphical fidelity it certainly makes up for with an excellent gothic recreation of early 1900s London, which will naturally entice anyone that has an interest in the gothic themes of that area, or simply vampires in general. 

The most interesting mechanic is feeding on NPCs – doing so gives you a large amount of XP and can be increased by finding out secrets about them and/or completing quests for them to gain their trust. The XP boost is great but you have to balance this with keeping the district safe (meaning you can’t chomp on the entire town, sadly). Not feeding regularly makes the game much more difficult, so the developers have done really well here by creating an internal conflict between completing the game whilst also wanting to retain a strong moral compass.

Character development is also largely influenced by feeding – depending on your choices made at major plot points, you will change not only visually but also in terms of interactions with others characters. It leads to you really caring about the characters and you find yourself trying everything you can to not feed on some of them (though I’ll admit this didn’t always work for me – some characters definitely deserved a cheeky bite or two).

Overall ‘Vampyr’ is an exceedingly ambitious title for the studio and, despite some issues, pulls off what it’s trying to do most of the time. It’s got a lot of heart, and you can tell that the developers have a real passion for intriguing storytelling – an aspect where it really punches above its weight. 

Hannah Read

Vampyr at CeX

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