A couple of weeks ago I recorded a small video showing the earliest sections of Vampyr, an action RPG where you play as a newborn Vampire in England during the end days of World War I. I found it entertaining and even spoke of some of the references I found to the White Wolf tabletop RPG, Vampire: The Masquerade.
I’ve now finished Vampyr, after spending a few sleepless nights doing everything I could in the game. I missed things, screwed others up but I managed to nab the good ending, which I’m proud of for a first playthrough. But, is it any good? Yeah, but let’s get to the important details!
Release Date: June 2018
Social Creature: A bulk of Vampyr’s experience revolves around conversations and social elements, with choices to not only affect people’s behaviours, but also reveal long-held secrets and even, in some key moments, determining their fate and that of the people around them. In Vampyr every conversation feels meaningful, even if the topics seem the same at times. Best of all is that it helps sell the image of Vampires around us, as Doctor Reid is rarely on his own, instead treating and helping (or hindering those around them). Hell, you get rewards for talking, as uncovering people’s secrets makes their blood much richer in experience points should you choose to drain them.
Hippocratic Predator: Your experience as a Vampire Doctor is a balance act between your bloody appetites and your oath as a physician. Not only do you talk to people to enrich their blood but often they’ll be suffering from several conditions, from fatigue to bronchitis, which not only affect their blood richness, but also bring down the overall sanitation level of their district. It brings the “Doctor” part of the character into the gameplay and not just an element lost in the narrative. It centres the characters and make them feel more real, especially since Vampyr approaches the supernatural with a clinical and scientific eye, attempting to explain certain elements of it. Keeping districts going by healing the sickly is not just a fun management aspect of the game but a wonderful mix of gameplay and storytelling.
Cursed Existence: Vampires might be cursed but it’s not just Reid who’s got a bad time. Every character you meet has something haunting them, be it a dark secret or a past relationship. Some of their stories are tragic while others are shocking, but with only a few exceptions, they’re all incredibly compelling. Even Vampyr’s protagonist, Reid, has some hard times coming to him after becoming an undead and the writers didn’t pull any punches, they pile on the misery for the poor bastard. The good thing is that they left just enough hope and humour in London to make sure you’re never desensitised to the hardships.
Haunting Melodies: I love the music in Vampyr, especially those melancholic violin tracks. They’re perfect when you’re walking the dark streets of London, nothing but you and the epidemic, the ravenous diseased and the vampire hunters. When you find something tragic or find a shocking scene, those melodies always seemed louder, helping to deliver the emotions.
No-Flow Combat: There’s no two-ways about it: the combat is clunky. It’s not the free-flow combat we’re used to seeing from Arkham Batman games or Shadow of Mordor, but a cheap knock-off. The main issue is that too many fights become a mix of striking enemies and then stunning them to draw blood from them, with every stun becoming more difficult, and then have blood spent on healing. Bosses are especially bad on this point. Fights can still be engaging and even challenging, but it lacks that fluidity and excitement of better combat systems and boss fights fail to be unique.
Running Vamp: London is huge, and the only thing carrying you is your feet and you don’t even have a super-speed power, so get used to running around. I would’ve loved a fast-travel option between lairs or district hubs. On one hand it’s great to travel to see just how much your actions are having an impact on the districts but the long treks are sometimes frustrating, especially at later stages of the game when it’s not rare to find dozens of enemies around town.
Theatre (B)land: Every district in Vampyr has a pillar and citizens and as I’ve said their stories are often incredibly compelling, except for those of the West End, the last district you visit. In what seems like final area syndrome, where developers lose steam or do the bare minimum for the last zone, the stories in the West End lack impact. And it’s a shame because the West End is where Reid’s home is. His friends are there, allies are there and yet the stories and accompanying quests are incredibly bland.