Vampyr is the new game from DONTNOD, whose previous work includes the rather underrated Remember Me and Life is Strange.
There aren’t many decent Vampire based games out there in all fairness. Yes, you have vampires in The Elder Scrolls, but proper games that you can get your teeth into are limited. Only 2 come to mind: Vampire: Masquerade, and Bloodlines which are based on the World of Darkness tabletop RPGs, and are decent games which I revisit every few years as they have great stories.
You play as Dr Reid who is a newly awoken vampire, who has been attacked and left for dead, but hear a strange voice in your head and find yourself resurrected. You set off trying to find who the vampire is that bitten you, and possibly find a cure for your new affliction.
The game is set during 1918, which was the final year of The Great War (World War I), not quite Victorian, as that ended 1901 with Queen Victoria’s death, while the Edwardian era ended in 1914, so it is set during what is known as the interwar period (crikey, my history lessons 30 years ago at school has finally come to use!). Dr Reid had been a field surgeon and not long home. You get story flashbacks at the start, as well as during conversations which gives your main character a lot of depth.
Vampyr is an open world RPG. The visuals capture 1918 London perfectly: street lights cutting through fog and darkness, and each respective area has a different look and feel to it, with characters that fit their surroundings. It is just that the open world isn’t actually that big, only covering 4 areas of London: Docks, Whitechapel, Pembroke Hospital and the West End. There are a few additinal smaller areas like the Cemetery and Whitechapel Road, but these are more like interconnecting areas to make the city more coherent, and makes getting back to the hospital quicker and easier depending on your locale.
The RPG elements are literally serviceable and combat-orientated. You have your usual areas like health, stamina and carrying capacity, and then there’s a selection of vampiric abilities which you choose. As an example, there are three ultimate attacks that you can only use every 90 seconds or so. These do huge damage and each one is very different. For basic abilities, you have things like claws and a spear, with which you can level-up. As you can probably tell, each of these change up the way the combat works. I would have liked to see a stealth element fully implemented, as vampires are hunters, so stalking prey from the shadows would have been great. Unfortunately, all that is included is an ability that makes you invisible to certain enemies for a short period of time.
The combat plays similar to Bloodborne, but not as hard! You lock onto an enemy and attack using main and offhand weapons. Oonce locked on, you will circle-strafe the enemy targeted. Hitting dodge makes you briefly disappear in a wisp of black mist to reappear in a better position. There are a good selection of both single-handed and double-handed weapons on offer, all of which can be upgraded. These, alongside the vampiric abilities, allows you to setup your character the way you want.
During combat, you have a blood pool which is essentially similar to what is more commonly known as mana. Each time you use an ability, you will use blood. To top this up, you need to add the ability to weapon-strike to draw blood, or using a blood-letting tool. Easiest way, though, is using a stake which stuns the enemies. Once their bar has depleted, you can then bite them getting quite a bit of blood back.
This makes combat quite dynamic, especially with tougher enemies, as it becomes a dance, dodging back, healing, and then moving back in to stun the enemy to get more blood. You then carry on fighting with your main weapon. It is fun and it works. During fights, you’ll get what is called “aggravated damage” which is taken straight from The World of Darkness. Essentially, this type of damage lowers your maximum health. You can get it from holy damage and the like. Thankfully, resting removes it. You can use your skill to heal this damage, hence needing to keep your blood topped up during battles.
The story, itself, really does make this game stand out. I am genuinely pleased that every character you come into contact with has spoken dialogue. It makes the characters more human and is much better than endless reams of text, which you can get on some RPGs. These characters all lead their own independent lives. If you decide to end one by draining their blood for greater XP, it will affect the area. Once an area is in, chaos you get attacked immediately by the numerous vampire hunters.
Now with you being a doctor, you have a lot of moral choices to make. You made an oath to help people and you will see that the numerous people in each area get sick. You can just leave them, but the overall stability of an area can go down if you choose taht path. You’re also fighting the urge to drink their blood – which kills them, so so much for the oath, “First do no harm”(!). It is certainly an interesting concept, making a doctor a vampire as you have to make decisions which could have serious repercussions further down the line.
The main story moves along at a decent pace, and each area has people who’ll give you side quests. These quests are fleshed out quite well, but essentially they will have you going into sewers or a derelict/unoccupied building to work your way through. These areas usually have a boss at the end, which you must pass in order to retrieve something. They add content, but they are all pretty similar in execution.
The enemies dotted throughout the city are also quite limited with only a few enemy types. You fight these over and over, but usually in new areas where they tend to be a bit more powerful. I would have liked to see a bit more variation here, even just changing the way they dress to make different mobs look different from the previous one you fought. The same can be said for what is called Beasts (essentially Werewolves) – they all look the same.
Overall, Vampyr, for me, has been refreshing. Instead of yet another bland military sho -oter, or an open world game that has way too many markers with things to do, the developers have crafted a fine story. The visuals capture the era perfectly, and the sound direction is superb. I certainly hope there will be sequels in the future, improving on what we already have here.
- Developer: DONTNOD
- Publisher: Focus Home Entertainment
- Players: Single-player only
Retro at heart and lover of all things ’80s, especially the computers, the music and the awesome movies and TV shows! Crazy huge retro gaming collection spanning the ’80s and ’90s with hundreds of tapes, discs and carts for various machines on top of a 600+ strong Steam library that is ever-growing. No I am not a serial hoarder, just a dedicated retro gamer!