Vampyr floated under the radar for many, including myself, due to its release window. Its launch was saturated with AAA titles on either side of its release, with Detroit: Become Human, Sea of Thieves, Far Cry 5 and God of War all being released within close proximity. In addition, many other excellent remasters and remakes were also released. If a vampire game heavy on the conversation wheel is not your thing then it would be easily missed – and that was the case for many.
At first glance this AA title from Dontnod Entertainment is a very dark but stylish looking game. The setting is London after The Great War, where a blight or plague has befallen the city. You play Dr. Jonathan Reid, who is coming home to his well-to-do family from a stint on the front lines. Upon your arrival you are accosted by someone or something which infects you with the vampire gene. All that’s left is for you to make your first kill and you become one of the nocturnal demons of the night. Of course you make the kill and start your journey as a new blood vampire called an Ekon.
Ekon, Skal, Vulkod and Nemrod are all different type of vampires within the game. This speaks to a well thought out lore that the game delivers effortlessly. You realise quickly that within the game world, vampires are not just a bump in the night but are in fact embedded throughout the country and have been for centuries.
With gameplay in mind, you start off with a base set of unique abilities which can be upgraded or purchased as you progress through the game. The term “evolve” is used here but it is essentially the upgrading of abilities. This is the framework for the combat and to some extent the speech element. The first noticeable ability you have is the dodge function. This function which looks like the blink ability from Dishonored or even the “baaamf” of Nightcrawler from the Marvel X-Men movies, is excellent. The dodge is a staple in many, if not the majority, of games nowadays but Vampyr makes it cooler than most.
The second ability is the detective/sense mode, which takes heed from the Arkham games You have the ability to sniff out human pray using their blood and heart rate. Where would we be in video games these days without this wonderful addition?
After this, there are a series of dandy upgrades to your weapons through collection of items and the use of a workbench. Abilities are upgraded through XP, as mentioned before. As you perform missions and put an end to the many blights that have infested the city you gain XP, using this XP allows you to evolve and thus upgrade certain vampiric tendencies, such as vicious claws, blood spikes etc. My personal favourite from all of the available choices of which there are ample would have to be the blood boiler. This is an ability where you can literally boil your victims blood. It is deliciously cruel and vicious at the same time.
If you haven’t already realised, this is an adult game with some very disturbing moments that would of course be unsuitable for anyone younger than the PEGI 18 rating. I am a fan of darker type games and movies so the subject matter and violence within this game was right up my street.
The combat is fluid if and when you master the mechanics. The seriously cool dodge manoeuvre is your friend here and is the main asset to be spammed in most battles. Enemies can be fairly unforgiving and if you do not use this ability you are in for a tough 20 hours or so.
The many different types of enemies lurking in ye old London town keep the experience feeling fresh throughout. The skals are the blight of the city and are the product of a virus breakout that has been shrouded by the Spanish flu currently ongoing within the human population. These skals are a violent almost feral vampire and are fairly easy to dispatch when not in large numbers. Other enemies include Vampire Hunters much like Van Helsing from The classic tale of Dracula. Clerics are brutal “Men of the Cloth” who can damage you with the holy cross or incantations. All in all the variety is good and means you will very rarely tire of the enemies you come up against. In addition to the standard “bad guys” there are also boss battles throughout Vampyr, most of these battles are fairly enjoyable and provide much more of a challenge than the standard street enemy.
The fluidity of the combat is one thing but another is the downright viciousness of its nature. You actually sound and feel like you are tearing your enemy’s limb from limb. After a few hours of playing I discovered a cudgel, this was instantly my go to weapon for two reasons.
- It was more powerful than my previous weapon (duh)
- It sounds absolutely God awful in the most amazing way possible. When it thuds into some poor unwilling enemy’s skull you can almost feel it yourself, it is gut wrenching and the sound employed for this weapon and many others in the game should be lauded.
Weapons come in two forms; single-handed or two-handed. The single-handed weapons allow the use of the “off hand” which, for me, took the form of a firearm but there is an array of choices here that can really assist you in your battles throughout London. The weapon sounds and in fact the sound in general is excellent in my opinion and really did help immerse me in the Vampyr laded old streets of London. One small caveat was that during my playthrough, I encountered a sound malfunction which caused a strange effect. It was certainly a glitch as it was gone completely upon rebooting the game. Great sound if not spoiled in the slightest of way with that glitch. Coupled with the sound glitch I would also like to mention that the facial animations / sync when speech is taking place is not something I would consider “top notch” and really needed more attention during the development cycle.
The narrative within this game is not something I will spoil but the way in which you navigate the world is something I very much enjoyed. As I alluded to in my title “Sherlockula Holmes”, this game has many lines of dialogue and conversations between a vast array of characters. The story line is one of mystery which must be solved by none other than London’s newly christened Vampyr, Dr Jonathan Reid. You move from area to area questioning people, occasionally using your vampiric abilities to help you. The conversation wheel is the “weapon of choice” for the linguistics within the game and it really lets you get stuck into the huge back story on offer. Most characters will have 3 or 4 secrets to uncover which will in turn help you on your journey be it XP or information on another character.
In terms of story, this is where I feel this game sets itself apart from many others available in today’s gaming market. There is a huge amount of choice and consequence in this game. Each area you discover has key people that you can either keep alive and try to find out their secrets or you can “embrace” them meaning you steal all of their ample XP whilst feasting on their neckline. This is a very quick way to become a powerful Vampyr but there is one HUGE catch. When you kill enough people within a particular area you.
- Lose any information that the person has
- You will cause the area to become unstable, ending up releasing many more powerful creatures upon the streets.
The second catch makes your journey more difficult but it’s an element from within the game that I love and is great for gamers who like to have the choice of how they play through the game. Slow and Methodical or total carnage.
This brings me to my first parallel that I have noticed with this game and another favourite franchise of mines Dishonored. The chaos causing effect is something that is within Dishonored, albeit not to the extent it is employed here. It mentions a stealth style or a chaos one. It is your choice which way you proceed with your missions. Vampyr takes it to the next level in my opinion. The second parallel is the art style, yes it’s not completely the same but elements are similar, especially when it comes to the comic book styled cut scenes. My final parallel is that I found the score / in game music to be both excellent and similar to Dishonored.
Vampyr is by no means, perfect and stumbles on more than one occasion unfortunately. The game does drop frames from time to time especially if there are more than 5 or 6 enemies on screen at once. When running between sections of towns I encountered a frozen screen and then a loading wheel. This was not ideal as it was the game essentially catching up to my fast running pace and did really “suck the life out of” the immersion factor. Along with the frame drops from time to time I did encounter 3 or 4 crashes over my 25 hour play through. Furthermore, the loading times upon death or loading a new area are not great. I timed three separate loading areas / deaths and they all clocked in at over 60 seconds. This is pretty long in gaming terms as most well put together games can perform a reload within around 30 seconds. So my advice is, if you don’t want long loading screens, don’t die very often Haha. As this a reasonably challenging game from time to time, all I can say is good luck.
One final gripe about Vampyr is that there is no addition of a new game + mode. My play through was high chaos meaning I essentially killed or “embraced” anything that moved. Upon finishing the game I was very much hoping to start the game a new but with all of my abilities making my second playthrough less tedious. Alas this was not meant to be but would have been a welcome addition in order to see the different endings instead of scouring YouTube for the content or blasting another 20 – 25 hrs into the game.
I don’t consider any of these issues to be game-breaking and they, in truth, didn’t sour my journey through Vampyr at all. In fact, I fully recommend this title to anyone who is interested in the vampire genre. If the visuals and optimizations were really on point with the addition of a New Game+ mode, this could very well have been the sleeper hit of the year.
Overall, I would attribute the following scores to Vampyr.
- Graphics – 7
- Sound – 7
- Music / Score – 9
- Voice Acting – 9
- Controls – 8
- Optimisation / bugs / Loading times – 5
- Gameplay – 9
- Narrative – 9
- Content / Worth the money – 9
- Fun – 9
Overall – 81%
I found this game to be a very pleasant surprise. I really enjoyed the story, combat and overall choice that I was afforded. It, in many ways, is the way modern RPG action titles should be played. If you take on board, going in, that this title is not developed by a AAA company and all the bells n whistles that brings then I would say that this is a buy at full price or even better if reduced.
Checking the PlayStation Store, it of course follows RRP at £47.99, however this game can be found at most other retailers for around half of that or even less if you shop around.