REVIEW – Welcome to a beautiful and personal vision of the myth of the vampire! After many years with a thirst for games of this theme, Dontnod creates his particular vision of the vampiric lore. An adventure in the London of the early twentieth century ravaged by the Spanish flu and more dangerous disease: the creatures of the night. In this review of Vampyr, we take a good look at all the strengths of this unique and personal work.
It may be that Dontnod is one of the companies that you are most eager to take when developing your ideas. They are not satisfied with following established patterns. The last one produced by them: Vampyr captivates since it is explained in the initial message before playing. There is no difficulty mode. This varies according to the decision to feed on the different characters of the game. Each inhabitant of the four districts of London that we have at our disposal to explore is an experience in its own.
Vampyr is a brilliant game. To convey the voracious thirst for the blood of a vampire and the temptation to want to feed you, it places the player in battles in which we are usually below our level. The experience that we have been fighting is not very high, so if we want to be up to the challenges that the game proposes, it would be as easy as finishing one of their NPCs and easily climbing ten levels. The question is: will you be able to sacrifice your humanity (and the corresponding side missions) by reducing the difficulty of the game?
“We walk amongst you feeding, raping, must we hide from everyone?” (Disturbed: Forsaken)
Vampyr is a game of choices, but it’s great that not all of them are with the typical dialogue wheel. Let the form in which you play also dictate your departure and that the gameplay conforms to all your actions. The different districts contain between 15 and 20 characters with whom to interact, and as a doctor, we must take care that their health is in optimal conditions to avoid losing the neighbourhood. If it is healthy, it will be safe to walk through its streets, but if we lose it, the enemies will be fierce and numerous.
It’s a brilliant idea, which unfortunately has not worked so well with me nor will it be with any player very experienced in action games. However, it’s my fault, not the game. I have been able to accomplish all the missions of history and almost all secondary ones dying only from time to time and without biting anyone because I have a particular skill at the controls and I have tanned with games that present a good challenge.
“Down With the Sickness” (Queen of the Damned OST)
It is also true that fulfilling all the personal stories and helping the population help you level up, so the game makes many efforts to make this path challenging, but not impossible for any player. The temptation, however, to sink your teeth into some delicious 5,000 experience points and improve your vampiric skills, even if only for the delight of seeing them in action, does not disappear at any time.
There is also a pillar of the community, a vitally important character whose destiny will be in our hands and will have a brutal impact on the rest of the characters. There are usually no good or bad consequences, but everything merges into that range of greys that is so well suited to a work where morality is a game mechanic. In my game, I followed the most “virtuous” path, without killing anyone until the end of the story, but I can guess what aspects of the story would change if I had altered my actions, so there is a certain amount of replayability. My game has lasted 25 hours.
The shadow of the vampire
Not everything is a delight for the wannabe bloodsucker. Vampyr is a sinister and beautiful game, but I cannot avoid a certain sensation of repetition in its scenarios, also caused by a palette of muted and homogeneous colour. There is some variation because we go from the poorest neighbourhoods of the docks, to the most voluptuous haciendas of the West End. From the iconic cobblestones of Whitechapel to the ancient sewers of the London underworld. But come to the end, we have some scenes that denote the engine that Dontnod has used for Vampyr it could have resulted in a much more varied print. Even if the night is forced in a vampire game, it is difficult for me to avoid that feeling that each district could have achieved something more differentiation. Personality does not lack, it is easy to immerse yourself in this London eaten away by the disease, in the difference of its social classes that are reflected in the dilapidated homes of the poor and the pomposity of the mansions of the elites.
The story is very important in a game of this nature, and the vision of Dontnod for Vampyr is a cross between the most monstrous and the most romantic vampire. I have practically been able to capture tributes and inspiration of each of the most famous monsters that populate the bestiary. There is a certain flair of Bram Stoker and also of the monstrous and dehumanized vampire. There is also room for the most romantic vampire of Interview with the Vampire that feeds on rats to cling to their humanity. Perhaps the greatest inspirations come from the role-playing game Vampire the Masquerade, with its different variants of bloodsuckers and the so-called Beast that happens when you let yourself be carried away by the thirst for blood. Vampires that hide in a Camarilla species and others condemned to live in the subsoil to hide their monstrosity. Here they are called Ekon and Skal.
As you can see in this review, there are many elements that make Vampyr a very personal title, one of the most traditional that we will be able to enjoy this year. Sometimes, everything goes smoothly and at other times the game loses a certain rhythm. It is a title that starts with true horrors, that invests a lot of time in developing the most mundane London and that does not captivate you completely until the second half of the game, in which the vampiric questions begin to emerge strongly. They are hours of many conversations, sometimes forced, in which our neophyte physician and vampire Jonathan Reid seems to use even a little bit of methodology to later pick up the sown and develop all the secondary missions.
There are occasions, even, in that many of the tracks that we collect to open new dialogues do not have a real playable purpose, relegating some conversations and characters in mere chit-chat. When these characters are vampires who tell us their mythology, there is no problem, but when they are mere mortals, the conversation may be less attractive. Of course, when it works, and the game introduces us to its most relevant background, it is where we really see the quality of the pen of the writers of the company, with some beautifully written conversations and a taste for detail and research of the really notorious era.
Thirst for blood
So Vampyr must be allowed to breathe, like a good wine. We have to absorb it little by little and to liven up the narrative effort that has been put into it, we have opted for a fight that works much better than we could have foreseen at first. For some strange reason, maybe because of that post-Victorian London and those quick dives, it reminds me of Bloodborne more than it should. The battle system is not as polished as that of From Software, but I think it is effective in what is proposed. The vampiric abilities are useful although perhaps there’s a bit too few of them, relegating the combat in many occasions in the use of conventional weapons and, above all, an utterly addictive dodging system.
The looting and equipment improvement system are relatively simple. We will collect pieces all the time with which we can improve a set of weapons that seem somewhat scarce. We have barely found a handful of weapons from one hand, two hands, from stunning and bleeding and some from the fire. The resources that we get to create remedies will allow us to cure the characters to keep the districts healthy and we will have to be attentive to the new formulas that we can find. We will also be able to create injections to heal ourselves, achieve a blood supply or improve our energy.
One of a kind
Vampyr is one of those games that you do not see every day. Not only because it is a vampire game (I’m still surprised that we do not have one every couple of years), but because Dontnod has created a beautiful work with a very tight budget, with personality, that does not seek to appeal to the public to obtain the maximum revenues. Frankly, I am only fascinated by the great work that has been done to achieve a video game that tries to encompass so much with the resources that were available.
Within their possibilities, they have perhaps lacked some finesse when embroidering the story, because I have been wanting to focus more on the vampiric myth and that the stories of the districts have more cohesion with each other. However, with everything, Vampyr It is a captivating game, and whose difficult comparison with other video games gives a good account of its originality and, therefore, of the necessary that it is in our industry.
+ The treatment of the myth of the vampire, contributing his own vision
+ The causes and consequences of our actions in the four districts
+ Some passages and conversations are beautifully written
– Little variety of enemies, equipment and skills in combat
– The game takes a long time to start and get really interesting
– Some conversations are somewhat redundant and some characters, of little relevance
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Genre: RPG, Adventure
Release date: Jun 5, 2018