While Dontnod Entertainment has predominantly been known recently for the Life is Strange series, their latest opus is pretty much the complete opposite to a coming-of-age adventure that stars pubescent teenage girls. Vampyr, their ultra dark action game set in post World War 1 London, stars doctor Jonathan Reid. As the name implies, the game is focused entirely on the spreading vampire epidemic in England, albeit from the perspective of a medical practitioner deeply struggling to deal with his newfound abilities, or from a different point of view – curse. Does the game stand up to their other titles, or other games within the vampire genre? Find out in my review!
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One (Reviewed), Microsoft Windows
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Players: 1 Player
This game starts off with you lying in a pile of bodies as you pull yourself up from them, you’re soon met with tragedy – while not even realizing where you are and what is even happening. While you’re stumbling along, you find someone and all you can see are their veins and blood pumping, only to be overcome with vampiric thirst.
When you come to your senses, you realize that you just took the life of your only sister. This sets the tone for the rest of the game, complete with heavy handed vampire culture, politics, and dealing with a plague ridden London to boot on top of the other vamps running around.
The game mechanics are a bit clunky to get used to where you combine stunning your opponents and biting them for blood powers. As you progress, you get special abilities that use blood to damage foes. The crafting system, inventory system, and weapons seem a bit unbalanced when you get more powers, and you don’t really need powers aside from just stunning your foes.
Most of your combat will be: bite, rip and tear, rinse and repeat. It can get a bit repetitious but it’s okay overall. The trips to find materials to make weapons can seem a bit grindy but are not completely awful to where you have to search for a lot of them. When you do find materials from fighting and searching, you end up with a decent haul most times.
The boss battles have cool visuals and give you a glimpse into the hierarchy of vampires. Whereas we’re mostly familiar with the one kind of vamp that lurk in the darkness, suck your blood, and is afraid of garlic, those myths are laughably useless in this game. There is a whole ladder system of elder vamps, newly born vamps, mid-tier vamps, and so on.
The only constant seems to be the holy element where crosses hurt vampires in general but I rarely ran across it except in a few random fights with goons on the streets of London. You fight vampires with the power to generate hallucinations and disappear into thin air only to appear on top of you and you have to have fast reflexes to dodge being torn apart.
Your interactions with the environment and characters in terms of whether or not you choose to feed on them or not impacts your play experience. This boils down to the more you feed, the more dangerous the streets become, so use your vampiric prowess wisely and only feed when you need to, otherwise you’ll be in for quite the challenge.
If you choose to bite everything and everyone like the bloodthirsty monsters vampires are known for in legend, every time you step out on the streets you’ll have bounty hunters hired by the church to hunt you down at every turn – which can make navigating around quite a slog.
The dialogue is quite well put together as well, and depending on your vampiric level or if you’ve found out little ”secrets” about each person you talk to, you can get more info out of them and make the navigation of the world easier. If you choose to feed on people, the more secrets you find out about them, the more experience points they produce if you choose to do so.
One thing I do like is the map marker system that indicates how far you are from said target in meters. There are also various hideouts where you can sleep and evolve your vampiric powers if you feed constantly. You’ll become stronger each night, but every night you sleep in game – again pending how much you feed, affects the world at large.
You can also heal people in the sense of if they have a headache, or are fatigued, and so on. You can craft healing items in your hideouts and use those to heal people so that you get a full chunk of experience again, if you choose to feed on them.
If you go the diplomatic approach, this seems to deliver a more tangible and realistic outcome, but it takes longer to develop those nice vampire powers – like being able to generate blood shooting out of your hand. Think of it like Spider-Man’s web ability but instead of webbing, it’s a spear that goes through the enemies’ throats.
The music is what kept me hooked thoughout my play, as music plays a big part in my gaming experience overall. The soundtrack is superb, and the way both classical notes and vocal tracks work into you doing certain things in the game works quite well. The dark environment as a whole was nice, spooky, and had a very gothic vibe, which I dig a lot in my vampire fiction.
The violin and cello heavy soundtrack really drives home that gothic feel, combined with dark overtones in the game, reinforcing the darkness enveloping all of London every time you feed. It all just really brings everything together, complete with the ambiance of the world and the people in it.
If you like a good angsty vampire story, Vampyr is worth checking out. The game is well put together, it has some flaws yes but I was pleasantly surprised with it. I’d even like to see a sequel perhaps, or some good world-expanding downloadable content.
While I was satisfied with the amount of content in the base game, I’d love to have more places to roam about and bite people, or save them depending on your style. The game is open enough to the point of not being too annoying, and linear enough to keep you both focused and interested, while wanting to see where the journey takes you.
Vampyr was reviewed on Xbox One using a review copy provided by Focus Home Interactive. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 7
- Decent story, fleshed out characters
- The ability to choose and control your own fate of sorts in the overarching narrative
- Fantastic soundtrack and score
- Repetitive battles and gameplay made the game monotonous in some parts
- Some bugs and glitches where peoples’ legs would disappear and faces would bug out and glitch even after multiple restarts (there has since been a patch upon writing this review but I hope that was one of the things that got fixed)
- The crafting and inventory system seemed rushed and had a lot of potential but not much customization.