What type of vampire would you be? This is what DontNod Entertainment, the team behind the critically-acclaimed Life Is Strange adventure games, gives you the chance to answer in Vampyr. In this new experience, players take on the role of newly-born vampire Jonathan Reid. He can’t recall exactly what series of events led to him being transformed, but his experience as a respected doctor makes him the target of a mysterious man who gives him work on a hospital’s night-shift despite his new identity as a blood-craving vampire.
The team’s ability to invoke an emotional response is due to the player’s ability to shatter the world of the innocent people encountered throughout the game. Despite some bugs that can bring the game to a halt, Vampyr is an exciting playground for one of fiction’s most legendary creatures.
Your new job title is Doctor/Vampire
Vampyr’s rhythm is one of an action-role-playing game but has bits of a city manager sim sprinkled on top. You can get into plenty of violent hijinks as you unravelled the protagonist’s predicament, but you also have to make decisions that influence how each of the four districts can change according to the nature of your choices.
As a doctor, you can create remedies with limited supplies and cure non-player characters before they die, or you can succumb to your vampire sensibilities and lead them into dark corners to become your meal. There’s a delicate balancing act that keeps this mechanic in a perpetual grey area, though. The healthier an NPC is, the better the blood for your consumption, but the NPC’s death could also send the district spiralling into chaos. There are serums that serve as typical boosts for your character as well, refilling health or blood stores for special abilities. With all of these things in the mix, there are some important decisions that will have to be made when you stop at the crafting table in the various hideouts.
Because you’re taking on the role of a largely traditional vampire, the game takes place at night. There’s no regular time progression, but the RPG elements are tied to letting Jon rest to use any accrued experience to improve stats. Thus the game continues in a perpetual night until you might feel the need to upgrade your character, or until a specific quest states that it will continue on the “next day”. This means Vampyr is a very (literally) dark game, so you’ll want to make sure your play area isn’t exceptionally bright. The glare can make the game unplayable.
Sharpening your vampiric claws
Combat is fast-paced, and there’s quite a bit of dodging and target-switching going on, but you will feel like a powerhouse vampire once you master the control scheme. Even if you don’t take the lives of innocent NPCs to boost your power, you are still a threat to tougher targets.
Keeping in line with the game’s overall vibe is the environment and the music. The game space has a subtle haze or fog to it that just screams that there’s evil afoot and the music serves as the exclamation point for that idea.
Feeling like a real vampire (not the Twilight kind)
The developers did a lot of work to keep the immersion intact, like not allowing you to use abilities while in areas with NPCs, for instance. This makes the map feel unnaturally bare when moving between districts, and also makes one particular series of option quests feel off. Occasionally, you come across helpless humans that you have to save from enemy creatures. When you do so, the NPCs don’t seem to notice that you totally vamp out and rip their assailants apart.
Top to bottom, Vampyr has some wonderful voice-acting. The NPCs are as much a focus of the experience as combat, so it stands to reason that the developers would invest in their vocal performances. These are characters whose lives are hanging by a very loose thread as you decide their fate, and you may find myself torn when choosing to take out even the most seemingly terrible and evil characters. Their threads are interesting and the voice performances are the final stamp on their impact.
DontNod has created an interesting concept in a world that many will want to learn a lot more about. It’s a world that is a lot of fun to explore and manipulate at its best.
ESRB RATING: M
Edited by Jamie Lam