Vampyr is the latest game from DontNod Entertainment, the studio behind the excellent Life is Strange, although this bloodthirsty title couldn’t be any further away from the events of Arcadia Bay.
Set in London during the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic, Vampyr tells the story of Dr Jonathan Reid, who finds himself in conflict, given that he has sworn an oath to protect patients but now finds himself thirsty for their blood.
Vampyr is a pretty huge game, set over four districts which you will find yourself traversing between. The game is an action RPG by nature, meaning that you’ll encounter many different enemies and RPG’s, the latter of which offer up Dialogue options which can be used to find out more about the people and world which you find yourself in. As a twist, the more you find out about the people you speak too, the more XP they will offer should you decide to lead them up a dark alley and drink their blood.
Interestingly if you do decide to drink the blood of mortals this will have a profound effect on the district in which they reside. Most districts start out stable and to keep them that way you’ll be able to craft medicine at your hideout and offer them to the locals, this will keep things civil. However, should you fail to heal people and start killing them off one by one, the districts will slowly descend into chaos, which in turn will see enemies roaming the streets and citizens murdered. So while drinking innocent blood will help you up faster, making it easier to take care of the more difficult challenges, healing citizens and keeping them safe also has its benefits.
As with any good RPG, there are various options to improve your character. An ability branch is available when you rest, allowing you to add and improve your attack and defence, while you’ll also have the option to upgrade weapons and create potions which will keep your health and blood levels topped up. The latter is crucial as blood is used to replenish your health and make use of abilities during combat. Some weapons will allow you to option to suck enemy blood during a fight, which in turn will then allow you to top up your health and win the fight more easily. There are so many options when it comes to approaching combat and the way you upgrade abilities playing a large part in this.
With one of four different endings depending on how you decide to play, you’re certainly not limited to a set path. You can target any of the citizens to take out or like I chose to do, try to only take out those you consider to be a little shady. This did make things a little harder for me as levelling up was slower, but to me, it was more satisfying knowing that I was helping to cleanse the city, although I must admit one or two districts still managed to plunge into chaos. Well you can’t save everyone, can you?
One of my favourite parts of the game is the combat. The combination of melee weapons and abilities is excellent, allowing you to use three-hit combos, dodge rolls, and parries, all of which is pretty effective, whether you are taking on the local establishment or the various types of vampires you’ll meet along the way.
Of course, there are boss fights too and while you can occasionally skip past general combat if needs be, these tougher fights are mandatory, while generally helping to advance the story. I certainly met my fair share of loads screens after failing to defeat the bosses time and again, but with some perseverance and the odd trip back to my hideout to evolve my skills and level, I was eventually able to get the better of them.
If I have one complaint its probably that there’s no fast travel, which in turn makes for quite a repetitive element to Vampyr as you go from one district to another, heading back and forth, trying to uncover the reason Dr Reid became a Vampire in the first place. This can be quite mundane sometimes as it often feels like you are on one fetch quest after another, with fights against random enemies on the way to your destination often feeling like deja vu. At least random encounters with Non-RPGs can be rewarding, as talking to them can often unlock hints, which can evolve the story.
In a way I can kind of understand the reasons for no fast travel as when you are traveling between districts, if you have managed to plunge them into chaos, you’ll certainly notice and in turn make these places a more dangerous place to roam, however, it’d certainly have made for a more user friendly game if you could get from one area to another quickly.
When it comes to the presentation, I just love the design of Vampyr. It’s dark and dingy as you would expect for such a time era, while at the same time feeling quite authentic. The composed original score certainly adds to the atmosphere of it all too.
Vampyr is a game which has certainly surprised me and I’ve really enjoyed my time with it. The RPG elements, player choice and combat all seem to compliment each other perfectly, which in turn makes for a very good game.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*