It has been hyped, delayed, hyped again, and now Vampyr has finally risen from the grave to bring us another interpretation on the mythology of the children of the night and the sweet music they make. At least that is the goal that DontNod has set out to do here with the game and its different take on a historic tragedy most know little about. I know I have been hyped to get to play the game and see how this dark world thrives as well as the undead bloodsuckers that inhabit it. That is why I sat down to give Vampyr a good playthrough and let you all know what I thought. Here is my review of just how well this game has done.
The year is 1918. The location is London. We take on the role of Jonathan Reid who was originally a normal doctor who has now been "gifted" immortality by being turned into a vampire. All in the middle of the huge Spanish Flu epidemic and the heels of the first world war. Things are not going so great, but the doctor is in. If only he had more time as now he has to mix in his normal work with coming to terms with his new state, learning and understanding the vampiric condition in general, and dealing with all those mortals that are still suffering or causing suffering in the world. It is not going to be easy, but Jonathan has to do…
Right out of the gate here for Vampyr I am going to have to dig into the combat system of the game. It mainly consists of two core attacks that can be cycled through and a then a few vampiric powers that can be mixed right in. Seems fairly straightforward and basic enough to get right. Sadly, DontNod still needed a bit more time to perfect this as it was one of the larger aspects of Vampyr that threw a wrench into the rest of the game. Even with targeting turned on and "aim assist" mixed in, most hits never felt like they did what they should or they did not feel like they kept the flow of combat going. It all felt clunky and never truly meshed where I kept running in circles to allow for my stamina bar to refill or the cooldown to end on the one power that seemed to works. All just so I could carry on with the story. When that did not work, I just went out of my way to not deal with the combat of the game.
Even when you ignore the combat of Vampyr, there is still a lot to do in the game's world. Missions, item searching, learning about NPCs, and much more. Gods be damned if it was not next to impossible to keep track of it all or find it in the game. The HUD and menu displays were there to help, but it never felt like it was leading me in the proper direction nor did it feel like the layout of connections were there. I had to keep an off-screen log of things just for myself so I could keep track and ignored the HUD as much as possible. It was never game-breaking, sure, but when a lot of the story and character interactions rely on who/what you know, it would be nice to have a better way in-game to keep track of it all. At least that is how I feel about it.
Lastly, and I fully admit this is a nitpick here, there seemed to be a bit much on the character and world-building side of Vampyr's characters. In the game, our choices and characters we select to kill all have in-game repercussions. Something I generally love in my video games. When I hear things like this though, it make me think that every little thing that someone has to say will play a larger role in some way. This is where dialog in the game should have been trimmed down as there was a lot of "filler," as I saw it, when it came to talking to NPCs. This leads to a lot of boring states in the game where you feel like you need to hear everything said to be fully aware of events. In this case, too much of a good thing is bad and it made Vampyr suffer a bit as I wanted to know more of the core story and not some little thing that has two dialog branches leading to nothing truly new learned. Maybe it is just me.
When DontNod tells you that your kills matter in Vampyr, most of the time they do and in a huge way. Not just in a moral kind of way, but also in the way that the world changes and evolves and how other NPCs are affected due to the deaths. You know, kind of how it would be in the real world. That is something I feel that they captured very well in Vampyr and it forced me to even try and not kill any and everyone in the world not just for gameplay effects. I truly wanted to see how connected it all was and the game delivered. Even when you take out the other supernatural and darker elements that could have completely taken over and dominated the gameplay. This is where the game truly shines for me.
Building on that, not only did the kills affect the game's world and the story, but so did some of the more basic choices you need to make in the game. Things like healing specific characters or keeping secrets about specific characters all change certain aspects of Vampyr. All of which linked into the more basic of gameplay elements in there like crafting or investigating. Sure, it made it so you made the NPC's XP rating a bit higher, the reward for actually taking the life, but things would get locked in or change even based on these simple events. Not to mention that you would need to keep areas in the game "sanitized" so things would not get too chaotic and thus more difficult to traverse. Another testament to the living and breathing world that was built for Vampyr.
Another part of Vampyr that I loved to see, and usually is not in other games like it, is the fact that even crafting and other leveling choices could affect the games world and how you progress. Each new vampiric ability you unlock or weapon you choose to use has a branching tree to it that you can go down when boosting things up. This further allows you to play Vampyr how you want to and not a direct path that all say you should. It also makes sure that no two playthroughs of Vampyr can be truly the same unless you take detailed notes from the start until the end. The variations of how the game could be played is one of the biggest selling points and all of this just drive it home further than we could have imagined from before.
Vampyr does suffer from its combat system being hard to work with and will cause a lot of immersion breaking instances just so you can move on. Even when you mix that in with some of the other issues I mentioned above, I will not say that it is a hard pass for everyone to move on from. There is a lot of intrigue and story built up around it and that can easily suck you in and keep you going. It just requires a bit of work. I will recommend Vampyr to anyone out there that is looking for a dynamic and rich world with an intertwining mix of stories. Just be ready to have to deal with some hardships to get there. It will be worth it. At least it was in my eyes.
I give Vampyr 162 Points Of Blood on the Points Of Blood scale.
Vampyr — Launch Trailer