Archive for Vampire

Vampyr or Undeath is Strange

Posted in Hands On, The Latest with tags , , , on June 15, 2018 by Rabidgames

After Life is Strange, the expectations were high.Would Dontnod’s take on vampires follow Max’ and Chloe’s adventures, or would it rather be like Remember Me, a game with good intentions and great design, but ultimately remembered for being a bit mediocre because of the weird combat and some strange puzzles? Long story short, Vampyr is a bit of both. And there are some nice easter-eggs and trophies in there as well to remind you of the developer’s heritage …

Vampyr has the long yet intriguing dialogues of Life is Strange, and it also has a similar yet considerably darker atmosphere. But the fighting also feels a bit disjointed from the rest of the game sadly. More on that later, but let’s just making the fighting optional certainly wouldn’t have Vampyr a worse game. Anyway, most of the time, you’ll talk to people and try to find clues that serve two purposes: First, you unlock hints that might be useful later, and second, the more hints you unlock and the healthier a NPC is, the more XP you get for drinking their crimson wine. Each NPC has a story to tell, and it is interesting to get to know more about them – if they survive long enough.

But the consequences … fuck. They are brutal. Let’s just say one decision can doom an entire district. For good. And worst, Rabidgames meant well! Vampyr doesn’t bother to give you any indication how to achieve a good or bad outcome, so prepare to restart the game and playing up to 10 hours if you mess this up and you can’t live with the consequences. Or save the game on a USB stick frequently … just asking for a friend, you know … Like said before, Vampyr is not shy to kill off everyone in a district if you don’t keep everyone, especially the so-called “pillars”, important NPCs in an area, alive. Alive and healthy, so you’ll spend time talking to them and keeping them healthy by brewing medicine – a lot!

Vampyr is a game that can be played fundamentally different. The main thing is that you get lots of XP and thereby an easy game if you “embrace” NPCs – embracing being the best euphemism for drinking their blood like Russians devour alcohol! If you do this, you quickly unlock the powerful skills of Vampyr – but it comes at a steep price – every living person gone brings a district closer to chaos.

Now, let’s talk about combat. While there are some fights you sadly have to fight, you can evade many. Now, the combat in Vampyr isn’t necessarily bad, but it takes up too much room in a game about choices. Way too much room. So, you can mix and match your weapons and abilities, which works for different playstyles. You can stun and suck blood, you can shoot your guns (although you don’t have many bullets at your disposal), you can use blood or shadow “magic”, there’s plenty of choice to be had. If only the fighting was fun … It feels a bit like Dark Souls though – more a chore on the way to your target than something to enjoy.

And then, there are boss battles. If you choose to be a “good vampire”, well, you’re fucked. There is a special boss fight around the middle of the game where you can easily get killed with 2 hits in this case. It’s fucking stupid. This is a case of Deus Ex: Human Revolution all over again – why bother playing non-violently when it boils down to brute force after all?

Even worse, the loading times. Vampyr takes forever to load, and if you die, prepare to watch the screen for at least a minute, at least on the base PS4. And you wonder why – the graphics are nice, but not spectacular. The physics also don’t justify it, and neither does the size of this Victorian London. So why does it take so long? Oh, and once every full moon, the game also crashes during fights.

So, where does this take us? Well, Vampyr is unfortunately a hybrid of great adventure moments and tedious combat, the latter heavily weighing down the former. And if you choose to be a good doctor, well fuck you very much, Vampyr becomes ten, okay, five times harder. The idea is alright, but especially the addition of way too many sub-bosses takes away from the great atmosphere. Another issue is the backtracking – there is no fast-travel so you’ll walk back and forth (with optional fighting, of course) quite a lot, often a couple of times the same way in a given chapter.

But despite all the shortcomings, Vampyr is a fascinating game. It is not as captivating as Life is Strange was, but it can mesmerise you when you investigate a scene or listen to all the dialogues and come to your conclusion, and if you get a decision wrong, you feel the same kind of pain you felt when you made that agonising last decision in Life is Strange. The game definitely has a soul. Whether that’s enough for you, well, that depends how thirsty you are for a vampire game.

Rabidgames ponders in the dark: It’s not that Vampyr does a great many things wrong. A few technical hiccups aside, it’s only the tedious combat that keeps the game, and the fun, down. And yet, it is hard to put the controller down once the story continues, once you’ve found out another secret of a NPC – and once you got over the fact you doomed 12 people because you meant well!

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