Vampyr – Xbox One Review
Dontnod Entertainment have big shoes to fill after their success with Life is Strange. So it’s a strange choice to go from a coming of age drama to a game about a parasitic vampyr.
Set in the gas lit, piss ridden streets of old London town during the 1918 Spanish Flu Vampyr is an open world RPG that sees the streets and back alleys populated by all manner of beasts and vampires. You are Jonathan Reid, a doctor renowned for his work on blood transfusions has had the misfortune of being turned into one of the undead. Visiting London to visit his Mother he is bitten and left for dead. Upon waking you stumble to your feet and stagger your way through the dark streets until you stumble upon your Sister. It’s here that Vampyr introduces you to its decision making mechanic and I’ll let you discover how that turns out. Now it’s up to you to save London from the Spanish Flu plague and stop London from tearing itself apart.
It’s been a while since a games premise has interested me this much but everything I’d seen beforehand had me itching to get my fix. Despite the harrowing twists his life has taken Dr Reid is still a dedicated doctor and does up taking a job working the night shift. It’s while working in the hospital that the good doctor takes it upon himself to cure the Spanish Flu that is ravaging London and the towns otherworldly residents.
London is split up into four districts and your free to roam them as you see fit. As you explore each area you’ll talk to London varied residents which opens up quests depending on how you deal with them. While your talking to these NPC’s a graphic appears which tells you how much their blood will upgrade you but the most morbid aspect of this graphic is it let’s you know how their blood will taste if you decide to kill them.
Every interaction has a knock on effect which might not be immediately noticeable but as the story branches out you’ll certainly notice the effects your decision making has caused. You’ll deal with prostitutes, soldiers, priests and nurses among the many others you will meet along the way. People’s lives unravel around you and the knock on effect it has on your own story.
Vampyr isn’t just about these interactions though. There is a lot a brawling and I do mean a lot. Pretty much every corner you turn around will end up with you brawling your way out the other end. These fights can be against either humans or any of the games monsters. Combat is a mix of melee, magic and ranged attacks/weapons. Each move drains your ever depleting stamina bar and only a quick respite allows it to refill.
The moral dilemmas you face along the way hits home during these fights because the more innocents you kill the quicker you’ll level up. Killing a human rewards you with a lot more experience points than killing a monster. It should make the decision to kill a difficult one but due to the extremely tough nature of the enemies you face your left with little choice but to kill them. The enemies straight from the off seem to magically lock onto you, parry your attacks with ease or hit you with combo after combo even low level enemies are tough. It makes for some extremely frustrating encounters and when you’ve nearly cleared an area of enemies only to die and face them all again it’s rage inducing.
Upgrading your character to suit your play style is something you’ll want to get started straight away but how you do this can deeply impact your experience. The more humans you kill off will greatly impact the morale of the surrounding area. This means that there will be fewer humans in that particular area which has the knock on effect of the monster becoming more active in that area and more enforcers will patrol the streets making the already hard fights even harder. It’s a delicate balance and it just doesn’t feel fair. On one hand your trying not to kill innocents but on the other hand you’ll need to so you can progress.
The biggest complaints I have are the long loading times/seemingly random loading screens which break the flow of the game. I lost count of the times I was in the middle of a fight and because it spilled into another area I hit a loading screen. When this happens your left looking at a screen full of action on pause and the immersion is completely broken. Dying brings its own ridiculously long loading times before the game dumps you back into this Victorian hell hole. Moving from one mission or area to the next is also a bit of a ball ache. Everything looks nice but sadly very much the same. When you’ve been down one alley or street view very quickly blend into one. Even the different areas which go from the slums to the affluent bare no difference. I found myself lost several times over the course of the game.
Vampyr stands out most when your interaction with the varied inhabitants of London town and making life or death decisions about them. The repetitive combat and frequency of brawls soon becomes boring instead and instead of it becoming a welcome change of pace it left me wanting to avoid it. The loading issues also have a frequent habit of drawing the game to a standstill mid combat and that it totally unacceptable. Vampyr should have been a heart wrenching RPG especially after the events of the opening sequence but it soon becomes a slog.
Vampyr is available now for £49.99
Review code supplied by Bastion