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Vampyr

Posted by GG Goblin On June - 21 - 2018

Being a Vampire who will drain the blood of a victim, and then give them a plaster afterwards.

 
There were no vampires in Arcadia Bay, the setting for DONTNOD’s Life is Strange. It could have been interesting, but there was more than enough dodgy goings on to keep players happy as they worked through the narrative adventure. It’s the dodgy goings on, and the moral quandaries that come with them, that links Life is Strange with DONTNOD’s latest game Vampyr, an action RPG featuring a doctor turned vampire.

 
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That there is a big ole lump of moral dilemma to begin with. Vampyr is set in London during the Spanish Flu pandemic, and sees an accomplished doctor return from the war only to be turned into a vampire. Jonathan Reid is a good man, and one that had previously dedicated his life to helping those in need and doing no harm. Now, in the most dire of circumstances, Reid finds himself having to drain the blood from those he presumably should be protecting and healing.

 
DONTNOD are very good at story telling, and here in Vampyr the team have done another great job at weaving a tale filled with humanity, despite the inhuman situation that Reid is in. The choices that players have to make, because there is a lot of choice for the player in the day to day runnings of Reid’s life, will cause them to take pause and consider the potential ramifications before jumping in, teeth bared.

 
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Reid cannot help himself, he needs to feed in order to improve and become stronger. Taking on a job at the local hospital, he is still very much driven to try and heal people, but is equally invested in finding who did this to him and why. This will mean not only working with the sick and creating medicines, but also talking to the variety of well written NPCs, getting to know their stories and possibly finding clues.

 
The main mechanic that will drive a lot of the decisions in Vampyr revolves around the blood quality. There are a few factors at play here that will make feeding on a human more than just a simple choice. While there are some other ways for the player to gain experience points, the best way is through draining the blood of innocent people. I say innocent, but there are plenty of nasty people that it could be said deserve to become a meal, but players won’t necessarily  know the whole story until they investigate these people further. So, sure, players could just feast on the bad people, but it really is a grey area in this grey landscape. The thing is, the more the player investigates and finds out about a character, the more their blood quality increases, and the more experience the player will get. But then, maybe they will find out that they are really a nice person, leading to more moral choices.

 
Apparently it is possible to make it through the game without feeding on anyone, but as this is the quickest way to level up Reid, I imagine that would be the challenge for gamers with far more time than me. Another choice would be to feed on the sick, but then their blood will be lesser quality. Reid could spend some time healing them first to improve the blood, but is that really fair?

 
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Going on a rampage and feeding without consideration could be a solution, but every action has a consequence. Some of the victims could have lead to further quests down the line, and ending their lives would shut them down. Also, districts will become more panicky and out of control with each victim the player feasts upon. There is no right solution, each choice coming down to the player.

 
In the main story, on the other hand, players are guided along with little chance for carving their own path. The developers have created an incredibly atmospheric setting for the game, with four districts available to explore in the darkness. And the story is good and engaging, but feels much more out of the players control. While the main story takes a lot of the choice out of the players hands, or at least makes the players choices irrelevant, it is in the little choices that the game really shines.

 
Vampyr is no narrative adventure though. It is an action RPG, and as such the action comes from an attempt at Bloodbourne style combat, combining vampiric abilities with a good old fashioned punch up most of the time. Reid will find himself facing off against very enthusiastic vampire hunters and a variety of creatures of the night, and in true Bloodborne combat style, it can be very difficult, especially if the player is trying to take the moral high ground and not feed on too many innocent bystanders. Sadly, unlike Bloodborne, the combat in Vampyr is no where near as slick, often making combat encounters more difficult than they need to be. If the combat were removed from Vampyr, I certainly wouldn’t miss it.

 
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Vampyr is a well crafted modern vampire game from a studio known for their branching decisions and ability to make players question their choices. The storytelling is good, and the game world is dark and atmospheric, fitting perfectly. It really is the combat that lets things down, feeling stiff and unnecessary. If the action part of action RPG is what grabs your interest, it may be better to keep moving. But for an interesting world filled with deep characters and difficult decisions, Vampyr would be a great place to visit.

 

 ★★★★★★★½☆☆ 



 

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