Vampyr Reviews

  • Slam-Shot-SamSlam-Shot-Sam102,047
    05 Jun 2018 05 Jun 2018
    7 0 2
    Vampyr | PS4 | Review

    The latest entry in the rapidly expanding Focus Home Interactive stable, Vampyr is brought to life by sleeper development studio DONTNOD Entertainment (Life is Strange, Remember Me). An ambitious action RPG, Vampyr casts players as Dr. Jonathan Reid and unleashes them on an occult interpretation of 1918 London, framed by relevant Victorian themes in class, disease, race and religion.

    It’s an immediately engaging premise, all the more so when the good doctor awakens to find himself amnesiac, undead and succumbing to an insatiable bloodlust; unable to resist feeding on the first person he sees, the newborn vamp unwittingly draws the ire of a professional beast hunting company. Flashbacks piece together how Jonathan came to be in such an unenviable situation, leading him to seek concealment by pursuing a job as resident surgeon for a struggling hospital.

    From here on in, you’ll aim to seek out the vampire responsible for turning Dr. Reid, whilst also juggling occupational and moral commitments to hospital staff and patients. It’s easy to dismiss the familiar exclamation that your choices will carry significant consequences - they very rarely do, in spite of many games spuriously spewing similar boasts - but through its dynamic difficulty and community systems, Vampyr makes good on its promise.

    Every single citizen you encounter has a personality, relationships and community standing within their borough. As you interact with the people of London you’re drip fed tidbits that slowly lead you to unfurl the city’s intricate social tapestry, gleaning valuable knowledge that can be employed in numerous ways, for example unlocking unique dialogue options that might lead to optional side quests.

    Dining on these rounded townsfolk is by far the most efficient way to acquire experience points, which you’ll need to evolve and acquire a wide range of powerful abilities. Deviously, the experience you earn from ‘embracing’ a character increases alongside your perception of them, so supping on those closest to you is the most rewarding. In a world so desperately bleak, you’ll find that every character is sympathetic to some degree, making for a constant moral quandary as combat encounters grow increasingly more difficult should you choose to abstain from having a friend for dinner.

    Every single citizen you encounter has a personality, relationships and community standing within their borough.
    Furthermore, should your moral compass be broken, you aren’t entirely off the hook. Mounting homicide cases may lead people to flee, stores to increase their prices due to the dangers of operation, or, if you’re a real glutton, even plunge a district into irreparable chaos and eradicate its population. That’ll lock you out of any content tied to the unfortunates at hand and also prevent you from rearing any more meat in the area, so it’s best to use your skills as a medical practitioner to craft cures from looted gubbins and subsequently use ‘em to keep the health of a borough at an even keel.

    When Shadow of Mordor and later Shadow of War were lauded for their ‘revolutionary’ Nemesis Systems, which supposedly served to build meaningful rivalries, we wondered if we might’ve missed something. The community systems within Vampyr don’t fall similarly flat, realising the potential in attaching a player to what would otherwise be secondary NPCs by making every exchange consequential on multiple levels.

    Exploring the quasi open world, rich with environmental detail and written lore as it is, can be as fruitful as conversing in the pursuit of useful information. You’re often kept to a relatively linear path by unpickable locks that gate progress, which isn’t an inherent issue, but is somewhat galling when you consider Jonathan has the ability to teleport and could feasibly get anywhere, but arbitrarily can’t outside of designated contextual prompts. Regardless, streets and interiors alike are a dark and moody treat to turn over for crafting components, used to upgrade weapons and produce injectable buffs that aid in violent confrontations with humans, vampires and additional beasties.

    As an immortal, Dr. Reid eats bullets for breakfast, but the likes of fire and holy symbols will quickly turn the tides. Each enemy has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, which, when coupled with a range of classes, create a varied opposition that present challenge in numbers. They’ll work in synergy to bring you down, necessitating knowledge of their respective attack patterns and target hierarchy.

    The community systems within Vampyr attach players to what would otherwise be secondary NPCs, making every exchange consequential on multiple levels.
    Bouts are fast paced and scrappy, very similar to Bloodborne both visually and mechanically, seeing you lock-on to a single target before launching attacks and dodges at the cost of stamina. Firearms can be equipped to the off-hand when using a one-handed weapon and unloaded without need to manually aim, or, alternatively, a secondary off-hand melee weapon can be used to inflict negative status effects, like a stun that presents feeding opportunities.

    This is where the more unique aspects of combat come into play, as you’ll periodically want to clamp your jaws around someone’s neck to keep your blood gauge topped up - blood being required to perform a range of lesser and ultimate abilities that range from simply healing yourself to boiling an opponent’s blood. There’s really a lot at your disposal, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that combat here isn’t nearly as polished as its clear inspiration, lacking the same engaging challenge thanks to some simple exploits.

    Animations can also come off as a little stiff, pulling you out of the moment in the midst of an otherwise satisfying combo, but even on the odd occasion that Vampyr underwhelms visually it continues to impresses aurally. Battlecries are particularly guttural, while theatrical voiceovers commit to the patchy script with convincing verve, all complemented by the bellowing chelos and screeching violins of an excellent - and also decidedly Bloodborne-esque - ambient soundtrack.

    Whilst Vampyr can feel overly familiar in certain areas, it borrows from the top and at its core holds a unique and intelligent social framework that intertwines engaging themes and characters to birth an enthralling, meaningfully manipulable narrative. It mixes up the conventional RPG structure whilst maintaining a nice balance between management, conversation, combat and exploration to retain the same moreish X factor that made so many fall in love with the genre to begin with. If you can take the rough with the smooth, you’ll find a lot to love in what’s easily DONTNOD Entertainment’s best game yet.

    Pros

    + Thoroughly engaging social systems
    + Dynamic, morality-based difficulty
    + Impactful decision making
    + Developed characters & setting
    + Satisfying, varied combat...

    Cons

    - … Which can at times feel derivative & exploitable
    - Some jarring animations & ugly character models
    - Areas are restrictively gated

    8/10

    Trophies

    Vampyr has a pretty easy trophy set, only really requiring commitment to finding all weapons and completing a playthrough without eating any citizens. While that can be done on a first playthrough, I'd recommend attempting it on a second both to make things a little easier on yourself and to allow proper interaction with the excellent social systems.

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    Originally written for Pass the Controller, a digital copy of the game was provided for the purpose of this review.

    Feel free to check out my other PlayStation 4 (Pro) and PlayStation VR reviews, as well as my Xbox One (X) reviews on TrueAchievements, and PC reviews on TrueSteamAchievements.

    Thanks for reading!
    4.0
    Showing both comments.
    Prem-aka-PrinceNice review, and I appreciate the little trophy commentary at the end. Thanks!
    Posted by Prem-aka-Prince on 30 Jul 18 at 12:03
    ManuBAD_iT+1
    Posted by ManuBAD_iT on 28 Aug 18 at 13:33