Dontnod Entertainment / Focus Home Interactive (studio)
05 June 2018 (released)
05 June 2018
Good RPG’s are fair and few between and the likes of Fallout don’t pop around that often. Now today’s game is brought to us from Focus Home Interactive and the last RPG title they brought to us was The Technomancer and it was bad. So I was a little doubtful when it came to Vampyr, as it looked extremely promising but again reminded me of another vampired themed RPG, often regarded as one of the best. Can Vampyr become the next big RPG classic or will ot sit aside The Technomancer to be forgotten?
Vampyr as stated above might remind veteran gamers of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines which for its time was legendary. Now after 14 years it seems like another vampire themed RPG is ready to drive a stake through its heart and claim top spot.
Vampyr inspires a tale of loss, revenge and brutality with themes cantering on morale and identity. Players will take on the role of Dr Johnathan Reid, a lucky man who’s been chosen to walk the night as a blood sucking vampire. What makes his predicament even more tragic is the death of a loved one and the fact that London is experiencing the worse epidemic since the Black Death. Set in 1918 just after the First World War, London and the rest of the world was suffering from the Spanish Flue, which in real life took the lives of 75 million people. So as you gather there’s going to be some pretty dark subject matter in this story and it’s one of the most compelling aspects to Vampyr.
What follows as a narrative is mostly interesting, with plenty of events that revolve around morale, hunting monsters and discovering the truth behind your horrific condition. I like Jonathan as a leading role and the supporting cast were great in executing the various problems of 1918’s London, from working class innocents, vile thugs, troubled drunks and deranged mental patients. Each character as a decent grasp of depth and their investments to Johnathan and the world felt solid. There are a few missteps in the writing with certain moments the story does a 180 on character motivations, killing off certain characters too early and no branching out to deliver original story missions. But the plot was engaging until the very end and had a few surprises I didn’t see coming.
In terms of gameplay I can say this is not the most advanced RPG I’ve played on consoles and remains fairly safe for the majority of its engagement. I can see many comparing this to Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines and if you’re a diehard fan of that game then you might feel a little underwhelmed.
Players will explore central London at the heart of the Spanish Flu epidemic and see the horrors this tragic illness has had. Johnathan will need to avoid patrols of vigilantes who hunt the sick and hide in safe houses filled with decaying victims of the flue. London’s is visually represented in a decaying manner and its harrowing bleakness it heart breaking and extremely capivating. The designers have done a wonderful job at capturing what made the flue truly terrifying, with quarantine zones, body pits and abandoned homes you can call yours are beautifully crafted.
Vampyr’s atmosphere has a menacing presence which can truly unnerve anyone who explores London at the dead of night. The lighting, soundtrack and world design blend together to create a gritty experience that both nerve-wracking and enthralling.
The RPG elements here might not be as strong as some other games yet Vampyr takes a stronger focus on a uncompromising, character driven story with a few neat mechanics. While you can’t choose a class like the Last Masquerade, you do develop Johnathan in a wholesome and meaningful progression. There are plenty of interesting powers, perks and advantages you can choose from with a great variation of stealth and combat tactics to use. Vampyr’s character progression could’ve benefited more by including other abilities that effected how you could traverse London. As there’s no fast travel, you’ll be running from point A to point B quite a lot and due to the scale of the map, it does get a little repetitive once you’ve explored all of the six main areas of central London.
The inclusion of a fast travel mechanic could’ve allowed a larger map or more freedom in exploration, reaching hard to get places, rather than relying on Jonathan’s supernatural leap.
One of more innovating elements to Vampyr is using Johnathan’s talents to create medicines and aid the sick through London. Players have a reasonability to look after the residents of White Chapel, Southwark and Central London in order to maintain a grasp on the Flu and its spread. If too many characters become too ill or fall victim to the Flu, then this causes major problems for the Borough they’re in. There’s a meter displaying the conditions of the borough ranging from Healthy to Hostile with each ranking effecting factors such as enemy count. If the area is healthy, expect little to no resistance, but hostile areas are pretty much a warzone.
Players have the chance to either nurture boroughs or destroy them for personal gain or for your destructive needs. Players could also aid London’s population in order to obtain vital boosts of XP, as curing certain aliments will give citizens better blood quality and thus a higher amount of XP you can gain. Oh, did I mention that you can “Embrace” citizens and drink their blood, getting tasty XP and killing them. This can also have drastic effects as killing people can impact on others, making them ill and causing major problems. It’s a compelling choice between saving those around you and using them to gain an advantage later in the game. I will admit that even the smaller choose can have major repercussions and it's not always very clear. I decided to kill a local thug in a healthy borough and the next night saw pretty much everyone become ill. How is does this work? Why did one thug disappearing causes multiple doctors to feel the burden?
There's no such allowance to save multiple times in the same game and thus you do feel the pressure of your actions but experimentation and replay value can be heavily restricted.
Combat is a little hard to handle in some instances, due to the tank like lock-on feature but the variation of attacks and enemies do make them enjoyable. But again, Vampyr’s combat could’ve benefitted from more special attacks and a wider selection of weapons.
While Vampyr may not be the most dynamic or expansive RPG there is something about it which makes it highly compelling.
It’s focused and tightly constructed nature means you can grasp the world and its logics very quickly but also enjoy its neat dynamics and fascinating world. It’s best to look at Vampyr rather than a complex RPG but more a confident and intelligent story driven adventure about morale, choice and vampires.
++ Immersive world
+ Focused and compelling gameplay
+ Interesting grey area morale choices
- Lacks complexities of some other major RPGs
- Scale of world could’ve been bigger
- Some choices aren't clear in their logics
A PS4 copy of Vampyr was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review