Vampyr carefully balances a strong narrative with strategic player choice, while returning vampires to more animalistic behavior and less emo personalities. It has a few missteps that keep it from being as powerful as it could be, but I had a bloody good time.
Vampyr is set in 1918 London. The horrors of World War I are still fresh, and the city is starting to struggle with the Spanish Flu epidemic. Science is becoming more relevant, and society is starting to question itself and push for change.
The main character is the famous Dr. Jonathan Reid. He survives his time on the battlefield only to be turned into a vampire when he returns home. Confused and alone, Reid doesn’t know who his Maker is or why he was chosen, and you will solve this puzzle over the course of the game.
After taking a job at the Pembroke Hospital, he is given free reign to investigate London’s four districts. They open up slowly over the course of the game, and all of them have a life of their own.
The district health is impacted by the health of its citizens. Some of this is under your control. You will often see that people are ill, and you are able to make medicines to help them recover. This boosts the overall health of the district. Eating citizens will lower it, and some are more important than others.
If you let a district’s health fall far enough, all the citizens in the area disappear, and it is overtaken by monsters. Any quests or stores disappear with them. The developers say that you can lose all four areas and still win the game, but your ending will be equally bad.
As long as you can keep them moderately healthy, each area is filled with characters, and you can speak with them to discover their secrets, perform quests, or trade with them. Beyond just interviewing them, the more you learn about them or keep them well, the more experience you gain when you invite them to a final dinner. They are like little walking crops.
The fastest way to gain experience is by eliminating people, and the game keeps you from living in a ghost town on your first day through its mesmerize level. It increases throughout the game, and you can only kill people who are at your level or lower.
- Developer: DontNod Entertainment
- Release Date: June 5th
- Price: $59.99, £49.99
Skills and difficulty are cleverly tied directly to your experience. These include increasing your blood level for special attacks, your health, and your stamina. There are offensive and defensive skills that help you build out a more melee or ranged character with a couple of ways to heal yourself, including items you can craft.
This is where Vampyr’s strategy comes into play. You can choose and improve skills with experience. This could make you much more powerful, but, to really enjoy that power, you will need to eat for the most experience. If you choose to abstain, the enemies become much harder over time, but your districts stay healthier.
I tried to choose a middle path that focused my experience into specific skills, but I did not come close to maximizing them, only my health and stamina. If I binge ate my way through a district or two, the skills would have been more powerful, but I’m still not sure you can have everything on a single playthrough.
Since sunlight turns you into a walking campfire, the game takes place at night. You can run around as much as you want and stretch out what is essentially your turn. When you sleep to apply your experience, every district and person will update to reflect the impacts of your decisions.
This is another thing that Vampyr does well. Talking to people and making decisions felt like they had some weight. I could choose to skip a response and talking to others in that person’s social circle brought up new conversations that delved below the immediate surface, along with quests that would grant me some rewards.
Most of these are small changes, but there are a few large decisions scattered throughout the game. These usually include whether to spare or kill someone. I had a few surprise consequences, and I made some decisions that seemed good that turned out to be terrible.
For others, I am not sure I felt enough or any lasting consequences or connection to my previous actions. In one part, I was given information I should not have already known. Someone else forgave me and decided to help me with very little convincing, and some relationships became much closer without a strong reason.
It’s still mostly great, but there is one part of the conversations that I hated. In an effort to make them more realistic, characters will move when you talk with them. This ranged from successful mannerisms that gave the characters more depth to almost making me seasick from rocking back and forth. It was really distracting at some points.
There also may be some political commentary that isn’t exactly pertinent to the story. I won’t spoil it in case it is only my overly sensitive imagination. It might also be that nothing is new, so we just tend to repeat the same actions and ideas throughout history. It’s not constantly in your face, and I didn’t care. I just know that some might.
Along with a story and investigation, the Guard of Priwen is in every district. These vampire hunters are your main targets throughout the game. They give a little experience, but they can end you quickly if you are too weak or unprepared.
To keep them from being a bother on your evening strolls, you have a primary weapon and an offhand weapon. All of these can be found throughout the world, and all of them can be upgraded with loot you find. Thankfully, you can loot almost everything. There are even different choices to make for the upgrades, including whether to increase the damage or decrease the loading time of a gun.
The combat is decent, and it reminded me that I was not an unassailable force at the top of the food chain. I had to dodge, let my stamina recharge, blast off a special or ultimate attack, heal, and keep hitting or biting some opponents until they went down. Melee attacks require stamina and special attacks take blood to function while being limited by a cool down.
DontNod gives you a captivating world to explore in Vampyr. There is a developed rich history with just enough ankle showing to keep you hungry for the next story event. People who take the time to dig into the written materials scattered throughout the game will find there is a strong lore permeating the groups and people you meet.
The sights and sounds in Vampyr help to set the stage for your investigation. They transport you back in time with foggy streets, dim lanterns, and an appealing aesthetic around every corner. The game is set at night, so the streets are shrouded in darkness, adding to the mystery.
Aside from a noticeable, but not horrible amount of general pop-in, the faces are the only place where the visuals slide a bit. Some of the character faces need more detail, and they can be a little bland.
The music and sound effects are usually spot on, but they have varying quality. There is a haunting theme on the violin that is absolutely wonderful. The rest of the music is fine too. The sound effects are good, but the voice acting can be hit or miss. The people you see the most are convincing, but there were some characters that did not rise to the same quality level.
There is a patch that will be ready on release day that could fix some of my minor technical problems with the game, but I wouldn’t let anything keep you from Vampyr, if you have been anticipating it like I have. The setting is great, the story is interesting, and I am still wondering about some of my choices.
Despite my issues, Vampyr kept my eyes glued to the screen, and not just because some of the text was small. I could not wait to pull a new story thread, meet a new character, or spend a few minutes weighing the consequences associated with leading someone into a dark alley for a midnight snack. These choices created a game filled with freedom while still preserving a fantastic narrative. If this sounds good, you should definitely let Vampyr sink its teeth into you.
Vampyr PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8.0/10
Vampyr is a game that many try to make, but few are successful. It has a captivating story while still letting me make some choices to guide the outcome, and deal with the consequences. The combat, skills, and items support the narrative, and, outside a few barriers, the developer believes in its own game and trusts the player enough to let them make “bad” choices.
Although it has a few problems, it is overwhelmingly a very good game. I can only hope that the developers are already working on a sequel.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.