Review: Vampyr (Computer)
- Release Date (NA): June 5, 2018
- Release Date (EU): June 5, 2018
- Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
- Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
- Genres: Action/RPG
- PEGI Rating: Eighteen years and older
- Also For: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Back From The Dead
The setting is 1918 England after the Great War. Barely recovering from the latter, the country is hit by the Spanish Flu. As people perish from the disease, another threat seems to lurk on the streets. Numerous murders have been reported with the victims’ blood being sucked dry out of them. Locals are attributing the happenings to some paranormal phenomenon: vampires...
In the midst of all of these events, we are put in control of Dr. Jonathan Reid, a famous and skilled surgeon who came back to London after his service in the war. However, something does not feel right to Jonathan. He refuses to believe where he is standing, for that’s where he was… murdered…
Yes, Jonathan has risen from the dead and not as a zombie but rather as a vampire, and a classic one at that! He’s vulnerable to light, crosses and is so bloodthirsty that he will even attack close ones...
Tormented by his new and scientifically unexplainable condition, Dr. Reid sets off to learn more about vampires and who turned him into one while battling his inner demons.
London Will Remember This
Vampyr is advertised as a game of choice and consequence. True to its word, the game gives the player autonomy in the way he/she wishes to progress: a passive approach or a more… vampiric one?
As Jonathan roams around the four explorable districts in a semi-open world fashion, he will come across several citizens who each have their own backstories. These are left to the player to explore. Each Londoner that Jonathan comes across can be questioned at length or not at all, depending on the player’s preference. If you do question them, you will get to know more about them, their contribution to the community and can even pick up side quests as the conversation flows by. In so doing, each character can be fleshed out to the player’s content and the player feels more engaged in the plot but be warned that you can end up spending up to 10 minutes talking to one character.
By getting to know the citizens, you also increase the XPs that they will provide should you groom them as Dr. Reid’s next meal. Indeed, each NPC can make for a succulent meal, provided that Jonathan’s mesmerize level is equal or higher to the level needed to mesmerize the character. If you so choose, each sacrifice grants a potentially huge growth in power via XPs that can be used to strengthen and/or unlock Jonathan’s vampire abilities in a skill-tree fashion. These abilities will be of great help to progress, especially in challenging areas and boss fights.
Here lies the interesting conundrum that Vampyr poses throughout the game. The constant temptation for unlocking potent new abilities to aid Dr. Reid’s journey offered by feasting on the locals is counterbalanced by the district’s health status. The latter depends on the citizen’s health and should they die or have their health worsen, the district as a whole will suffer and more monstrosities will appear to impede Jonathan’s way. As a matter of fact, Vampyr has no difficulty level as the game’s difficulty depends on the player’s actions.
Of course, given Dr. Reid’s title, you’ll get to play doctor in Vampyr. Whenever a citizen is struck by an ailment, the district that person is in will suffer in terms of health status, so it’s up to Dr. Reid to look for that person and give him/her the appropriate medicine. Doing so can get tiresome as there is no fast travel between districts and so Jonathan has to go all the way from one sick person to another by foot. You can also opt to not heal a person but their condition will deteriorate with time. Additionally, a healthier person will yield more XP than if the same person was sick.
XP is also collected by talking to people, completing side quests or defeating enemies but they are not as rewarding as feasting on pure human blood. Jonathan will also have at his disposal more traditional weapons like shotguns, knives and bludgeons which can be purchased and upgraded to inflict more damage and use less stamina. Here again, the game offers a freedom of playstyle as you can use single or double-handed weapons with close or distant reach or you can mix your combat styles with some vampire abilities.
Impeding his way will be human scouts patrolling the streets to fend off anything non-human and other vampire types like Skals, Ichors and the tough Vulkods. While the enemy types get limited, they get increasingly stronger and will push you to upgrade Jonathan’s abilities.
In order to progress, will you succumb to the temptation of easy XP and live with the consequences or will you keep your humanity as long as possible by relying on weapons and upgrading them?
I Will Remember This
After a really, really long time, I’ve had a game that spoke to me like Vampyr did. Not just because I am a medical student or visiting London soon (they are both undeniably contributing factors) but the gameplay concept and fresh story of it all kept me coming back to the game.
Vampyr mixes the right amount of science and fiction to deliver a memorable narrative-driven experience. For example, as a physician, Dr. Reid has sworn to heal those in need and to cure ill Londoners, he will have to prepare medicines for various complaints like a headache or fatigue from very real chemical ingredients like ferrous tartrate and quinine. You won’t find ready-made “potions” or “medikits” here but will have to craft medicine from scratch. Additionally, several conversations will expand on medical trivia or important issues like women’s rights and the psychological effect of war. If you have some scientific inclination, this little attention to detail will surely appeal to you. But even if you're not into science, it will still be a refreshing experience.
And to progress, the player will have to make some tough decisions as to who among those that Dr. Reid has sworn to protect as a physician, to sacrifice in order to have some decent abilities in order to move further. That's where getting to know the people will come into play. How would you know that Rodney is just hiding for fear of his life after a terrible accident? How else would you know that Clay Cox is a member of a street gang with the blood of others on his hand? Deciding on who to bite might make you feel better if you know their background but a life is a life... Also bear in mind that if you kill too many civilians, the district's health will deteriorate and the area will be more challenging to explore. There is a certain appeal when the character you play is the actual threat with actual in-game consequences. Moreover, the ethical decisions to survive as a vampire or staying true to the Hippocratic oath was a controversial paradigm that intrigued me enough to keep me coming back to the game.
That does not go to say that Vampyr is a perfect game. The dialogues are very long and can get tiresome for many. Maintaining the health status of every district can be trying and the lack of fast travel between far off regions will undeniably be felt. You will backtrack a lot and come across the same environments as you venture to heal a citizen. The combat sequences mostly feel more of the same with a general sequence of hitting the enemy until he is stunned, drink his blood to gain stamina and repeat until his demise.
Quite noticeable are the bland textures of the game at several instances, especially for the characters. For a 2018 game that has actually been delayed, Vampyr's characters look like a PS3-era game. I thought that it might be due to the pre-release press version I received for doing the review but even post-release the game looks the same on a 1070 GTX GPU on Ultra settings. But I'm not one to judge a game solely on its graphics and hey, every dialogue is professionally voice acted and motion captured. So there's that.
2008 called, it wants its graphics back
Nevertheless, on a subjective level, the game appealed to me enough to recommend fans of science, sci-fi and narrative-driven games to give it a try.
+ Original setting
+ Freedom of playstyle
+ Gameplay decisions with consequences
+ Deep backstories to NPCs
- Bland textures
- Limited enemy types
- Repetitive combat
- No fast travel
Despite its professional voice acting and motion capture, the game all too often looks like a PS3-era game with strikingly bland textures at several instances.
The freedom of playstyle and the consequences of your actions make for a more engaging mechanic.
Vampyr can last as long as you want it to and given the different approaches you can take to play it, you can experiment until you find what clicks for you or even come back to the game altogether to see how it plays out with another style.
out of 10
(not an average)
Vampyr might not be to everyone’s taste being heavily narrative-driven with its long dialogues, bland textures and repetitive combat sequences. But if you can overlook these little faults, you’ll find a refreshing title worth savoring.