Vampires are never usually the first choice of heroes in movies and video games. In fact they make the perfect antagonists as most of the time they feed off the blood of the innocent to quench their monstrous appetite for blood. If Bram Stroker, the author of the Gothic horror novel Dracula taught us anything, it’s that Vampires are demonic, cruel and vicious monstrosities that gleefully chomp on a poor soul’s neck and drain them of the very substance that keeps them alive.
There is a chance however, that the Vampire may not actually want to embrace the monster that he has become. There may be other ways to quench his thirst while staying human. The Vampire may be able to use his powers for good and help those in need. Therefore developers Dotnod Entertainment and publishers Focused Home Interactive have granted you unholy powers and the chance to use them however you see fit. Take your place as a creature of the night and satisfy your appetite for blood with Vampyr.
You play as Doctor Jonathan Reid. A military surgeon coming home from the front lines of the First World War. Your life has been turned upside down as you’ve woken up from a mass grave as a Vampire. You swear to find whoever did this to you and get the answers you need. Either succumb to your hunger for blood and embrace the monster that’s inside you or fight your urge to feed, discover other ways to achieve your goals and hold on to your humanity. You’ll be exploring the backdrop of an early 1900s London, ravaged by an epidemic. You go through the streets encountering militia and nasty creatures of the night. People who brave the nightmare-infested streets will give you the latest news while others will give you information regarding tasks you’re carrying out. You’ll gain information from London’s inhabitants, you’ll use the information learned to investigate mysteries and you’ll hunt down demonic beasts with your vampiric powers. However you choose to achieve your goals will determine if London becomes safe and free or a cesspool of chaos and death.
In order to survive you’re going to have to drink blood. There’s nothing stopping you from chowing down on everyone you see as this is the fastest way to regain your energy and grant you more powerful abilities. However this has some very negative effects on London as you’ll end up spreading disease further and generating more undead abominations. Alternatively you can progress without killing anyone but it’ll be impossible to gain enough XP to become stronger. To manage this problem there’s a citizen’s menu where you can gather information regarding certain individuals in the game ranging from their background to what company they keep and of course, the quality of their blood and how much XP it gives you. Identifying who they are associated with and what they’ve done will help you decide who you wish to spare and who to kill, but keep in mind that whoever you decide to feed upon will effect London districts one way or the other. Gather as much information as you can about the people you encounter so you can determine how you want to shape London. Blood gained from victims can be distributed to the skills trees giving you abilities to use in fights. You can even craft treatments to help the sick and fend off disease. Sparing the right people, not feasting on everyone and using treatments on sick citizens will cleanse London’s districts and allow a more healthy populace to emerge, showing that you truly have done your service less as a Vampire and more as a Doctor.
Sometimes problems in Vampyr can’t be solved through medicinal practices or investigations, hence the third-person combat system allows you to deal with certain situations another way. You can implement a whole manner of grim instruments to bring a swift demise to your foes, ranging from a selection of melee weapons and guns, as well as your fangs to have a quick mid-fight snack. You can even craft weapon upgrades that increase stats like durability and damage output. However what really takes centre stage in combat are your vampire abilities granting you supernatural powers and allowing you to really bring the hurt to your opponents. Throw a spear made from blood, create a barrier of blood to absorb damage and there’s also your ultimate abilities which are perhaps the most cruelest ways imaginable to kill. Boil your victims alive by heating up their blood. Summon dark matter from the depths of hell to torture its prey before killing them. Lose your self-control and rip apart enemies with your bare hands. Combat is as brutal as it is wholly exciting and once you literally sink your teeth into slashing, bashing, shooting and using supernatural powers to put an end to anything that gets in your way.
The developers have managed to create something rather engrossing by leading you through this world where mysteries are being unraveled and where monsters are terrorizing everyone. This could have been a game where incertitude kept the game going as you worked to solve your next mystery and quench your blood thirst. Even getting stuck in and using weapons and powers can be really fun. Unfortunately the game didn’t focus on it’s stronger points while refining others, hence you can’t help feel there could have been much more than what is on offer.
There are plenty of combat options available and it does get fun when you’re stuck into things and ripping enemies apart with the powers of darkness. Nevertheless combat in Vampyr lacks the satisfaction that exploring and solving mysteries does. It feels like a side task to carry out rather than an integral part of the game. Combat itself could do with a bit of refinement also. One minute your carving, slicing and biting your way through hoards of adversaries with ease, the next there’s a level 30 boss-like monster that comes around the corner and strikes you down with a couple of hits. The hit detection for enemies seems rather unfair also they can deal heavy damage even when you’ve dodged clear from their attacks.
The story of this game carves a bloody tale of murder, intrigue, suspense inhuman monstrosities, your humanity being drowned by pints of blood and the powers of hell itself being used to slowly and painfully kill your enemies. Yet the world of Vampyr doesn’t reflect the grim story and gameplay that you’ll experience. Your surroundings feels rather static and not very atmospheric. The lighting and effects used in the game fail to convey a dark, decrepit environment and give you a sense that you’re in this eerie, brooding place full of anguish and pain.
Technically the game unfortunately doesn’t look very good either. Textures are very low quality, the effects are underwhelming and character models are not the best looking seen in this genre. Luckily the game’s audio design makes up for that. The acting is believable and very engrossing, like you’re watching a period-horror drama show. The snarls and screams of enemies are threatening and chillings, the soundtrack conveys a haunting, sombre and chilling tune reflecting how far London has fallen.
Vampyr would have made a far better adventure game than an action RPG. The action in Vampyr isn’t bad as it’s very fun to use superhuman powers to carve your way through enemies, yet real gratification comes from discovering life in this inhospitable place, talking with characters to gain information and using your vampire powers for your own blood craving or to help people and put things right. Had the game played to its strengths, it could have made a much stronger case for the adventure genre. Even so what this game does it pulls off just fine. The storyline is suspenseful and thrilling, characters are interesting and even combat has exciting moments, despite it being unrefined. If you want a game where you want to fight an integral battle with both the man and the monster inside you, give Vampyr a try. You might actually enjoy a taste for blood.
This review is based on a digital review code for Vampyr for the PC, provided by Focus Home Interactive.