Vampyr is a third-person RPG adventure game that oozes Gothic charm thanks to dark themes such as death and the presence of moral conflicts. Very ambitious and full of creative ideas, it is a game that aims to combine the weight and importance of a choice with a complex combat. Unfortunately, despite some noteworthy mechanics, the Dontnod game fails in its intent.
Set in an unearthly 1918 London, the Spanish flu epidemic is quickly killing the population and vampire monsters roam the streets at night. The dott. Jonathan Reid, a strict and stoic doctor, intends to treat the city from the epidemic, but nevertheless, has a secret; he’s a new vampire who needs to find the vampire who, in turn, made him a vampire.
In the role of Reid, the player quickly discovers his vampiric weaknesses, such as the typical aversion to sunlight and crucifixes and the impossibility of entering a house if not invited. We also discover that it is very eloquent, irascible and very intense. Although this adapts to its conflictual nature, it also makes it rather unlikely.
At the heart of the Vampyr gameplay there is the need for Reid to travel between the four accessible districts of London, in order to find clues about the epidemic and the causes of its transformation into a vampire. To get to each place, Reid runs through streets and sewers full of deadly monsters, but surprisingly there are no hidden mechanics that we thought would be found in the game, moving forward. Instead, Reid moves from place to place running for London late at night and arguing with any enemies he meets.
There are four types of enemies: Skal vampires living in the sewers, the giant bestial vampires Vulkod, the sophisticated and fierce Ekon vampires, and finally the deadly vampire hunters called Guards of Priwen. Each type of enemy has different classes, like ranged and melee, but we have found few reasons that have pushed us to change from our pattern until the end of our vampire skills before performing some melee attacks, regardless of the enemy we have of front.
Regardless of how we played, the fights were constantly punitive. These imply almost perfect dodges, in which all types of attacks must be combined and the limits of health, resistance and blood must be managed using sera. To fight the characters closely, you use axes, clubs and poles, but for medium to long range combat there are firearms and blood powers. If the blood runs out, the vampire powers are blocked, if you find yourself short of bullets, the gun is useless, and the exhaustion of the resistance makes it impossible to dodge or fight. This aspect, combined with the fact that the enemies only have to inflict a handful of blows to kill us, means that combat in Vampyr should in no way be taken lightly.
There are a couple of short diversions from fights. Sometimes it is necessary to use “vampire vision” to investigate and find the clues of the story or to follow the traces of blood, similar to the Arkham or The Witcher games, for example. There are also quite simple environmental enigmas that we liked even though they present a certain difficulty. If these were used in a slightly more creative way, Vampyr could have benefited from many more moments like these, although those present were still good, even if fleeting.
During the game players can level up, improve their weapons, prepare the sera and prepare the cures in their hiding place. These safe areas become increasingly important as the gameplay becomes harder, and Dr Reid rises much more slowly than his enemies, which means that sometimes it may seem impossible to reach the next goal. This is when Vampyr’s most interesting mechanics gives the player a morbid dilemma to deal with. Should the good doctor repeatedly fight harder enemies because of his lack of experience, or should he feed on the inhabitants of London to become a much more powerful vampire?
Whenever Reid reaches a safe district, there are friendly NPCs willing to chat with him, each of whom has definite personalities that can be learned by selecting options from a dedicated dialogue wheel. In addition, each character is associated with others in the district, both for relationships and for reputation. Yet, this is not their only function: they are also possible prey that Dr Reid feeds on.
Snacking with these chatty individuals you get a lot of experience points that the player can spend to increase the health, endurance and skills of the blood. However, it is not so simple to sink your canines into all those around us: Reid must hypnotize the NPC, a control ability that does not last forever, and it is important that he knows his victims before having them for dinner. This is not just about good manners, because by discovering past stories and taking care of any medical problems suffered by these characters, this increases the amount of experience taken from their blood.