Whether vampire games are your cuppa tea or not, you’re going to want to take a bite out of this one.
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Reviewed on: PS4 (Review code provided)
Oh 1918 London, what a dreary dull place you were with your rats and vampires. Yes, vampires are the main pinpoint of this game, as suggested by the title ‘Vampyr’.
You play as Jonathon Reid, a Doctor who has been ravaged by the vampire plague which is overthrowing London. The game starts showing the obvious aftermath of a massacre in which you survived, all thanks to the vampirism immortality. I won’t give away anything which happens in the opening cut scene, I’ll leave that for you guys to discover yourself. I will say this though, it straight away leads the player into the story and engages you instantly. The first 40 minutes to an hour or so serve as a tutorial for the player and establishes basic controls and prompts.
Gameplay is very simple with regard to controls. Left analog stick moves Jonathon and right analog stick allows you to pan the camera. Luckily the camera is very free flowing meaning looking at the environment can be easy too. The only camera issue I came across was that sometimes it would become stuck on the surrounding environments. For example if you’re in a house or alleyway and pan the camera, it would sometimes become stuck on the surroundings such as a wall or doorway. It’s such a minor issue and doesn’t take away from the gameplay at all. Game difficulty affects gameplay which of course is a given. Play a game on easy mode, you’re a boss. Play it on hard, you’re going to face challenges, which comes with the territory. The game does also support an auto save feature which is amazing because sometimes an RPG can really suck you in and saving isn’t always in the forefront of your mind. Be aware though, every action has a consequence which is a lovely nod (pun intended) to Dontnod’s previous work ‘Life Is Strange’ and with that in mind the art style is very similar too with regard to character builds. Not hyper realistic but not cartoon either. Just the right amount of balance.
It won’t take you long until you encounter your first enemy in game. Again like standard RPG fashion, square is to attack, which does of course consume stamina. Circle allows Jonathon to dodge enemy fire and R3 allows for a locking on system which can be useful when attacking more than one foe at a time. With regard to that and locking on you can also use the right stick to scroll through enemies and pick your victim. Repeatedly pressing circle will also make Jonathon enter wraith form, only for a second or two though but you cannot take damage in that time. Perfect for if you find yourself inundated with enemy fire.
The touchpad brings up a whole range of different menus for you to explore. You have the map which of course shows your current location and shows you which part of London you are currently in. You can use L2/R2 to view your inventories which like any good role playing game; you start off with nothing, thank you very much! You can see your health and stamina via touchpad too but that is also shown on an in-game hud. Here the player can also see the level of Jonathon as you progress through the game. With regard to levels and becoming more powerful, this is done from sleeping. In the game there are hide-outs for you to find and they allow you to sleep and ‘evolve’. Doing this brings up a skill tree in which you can use XP points to unlock and acquire new skill sets. So, gaining XP, how do you do this? You guessed it. Killing people. It’ll rack up on the top right of the screen as you’re playing so you can keep track in-game how much you’ve gained per mission. Watch out for day-light and fire attacks from enemies. As a vampire this will deal you aggravated damage which doesn’t regenerate over time. Only drinking blood will heal you, whether that be from humans or rats. Yes, rats. Gross right?
Inventory is important when you’re being hunted by vampire killers. You’re going to want to know what guns you have equipped and how much ammunition you’re carrying. You have three options in your inventory. You have ‘main hand’ which are melee attack weapons such as knives or machetes. These will serve as your main purpose of attacking. ‘Off-hand’ are also melee weapons but these are items such as stakes which can be used to stun enemies enabling Jonathon to bite their necks for a health burst. ‘Serums’ which are items you find within the world which serve as buffs for Jonathon and then you have your vampire ‘active’ skills which can be levelled up as you progress through the game. There is also a tab for collectibles which can be collected each mission. There are other aspects to the menu but they do breach ever so briefly to story spoiler territory so I’ll leave them out and let you explore them yourself. Okay so I’ve talked about the menu enough here I think and yes is it a very full menu but it is easily navigated and isn’t difficult to grasp. If you’re like me and love a good role playing game, you’ll be used to in-depth menu designs like this one. It really helps you feel for Jonathon and want to make him stronger as you seek revenge on the ones spreading the vampire illness.
The settings and level design is top notch. It’s all very dreary and dull and to be honest that is expected of 1918 rat and plague infested London. The music accompanies the visuals perfectly and you really do feel like you’re there. Probably not the place you want to find yourself but there we go, the game accomplishes it perfectly. Loot is also key in the environments. Chests of draws, cupboards and bodies can all be looted and with the in game prompts and visuals it’s easy for the player to establish what can and cannot be looted for goodies. These items will be instantly stored within your inventory and by accessing that via touchpad, as mentioned above, you’ll be treated to a brief description of each item you’re carrying, whether that be retail value or what it can be crafted into.
Once the tutorial as such has been completed you’re let lose into the world. It’s not an open world game but this doesn’t mean by any stretch that you’re left short of places to explore. Top of the screen there is directional bar which points the player in the direction of their next objective. I loved that the opacity has been set pretty low for this so even though it’s a constant factor on-screen, I didn’t find myself distracted in any way which is totally awesome. Don’t fear about being let loose into the depths of gloomy London, the game is very good at explaining its mechanics so you’ll never feel lost or confused. Keep L3 in mind when you’re exploring. This enables a vampire vision as such in which you can see blood trails much much clearer. You can follow these for side missions or for health. Like mentioned before, humans and rats obviously carry blood (Science lesson for you there) and you can drain these poor unsuspecting victims for a health boost. Think of them as portable health packs! L3 also allows Jonathon to see a brief drop down menu explaining how the character is feeling and the condition of their blood. All so in-depth but so SO cool.
Talking to a fellow human in game brings up a speech wheel which once again is very typical of RPG’s. These wheels lead to story continuation and can also lead to backstory and lore for the player if you’re interested in that kind of thing. The framerate holds up very well and with the time I spent with Vampyr I encountered no issues at all with it. The transition between NPC dialogue and actual gameplay is incredibly smooth which definitely helps the player stay in character.
Overall, Vampyr is a bloody good game. Yes, the ‘bloody’ pun was very much intended there too. The storyline is engaging and I found myself actively going out of my way to explore for collectibles. Some games can be a drag when it comes to collecting but not this gem. It really sets the tone and you want to find out more about Jonathon’s backstory and what’s happening with him and poor poor London. There haven’t been many good mystical beast based video games in a while now.. (*ahem* The Order 1886, I don’t count you considering you’re mostly cut scenes). That’s just my opinion here so no one lynch me for that, but luckily Vampyr has come to the rescue. My hat goes off to you Dontnod Entertainment. You’ve made a fantastic game here and I hope other people enjoy it just as much as I currently am.