The Life is Strange developer's latest game is good, but not great.
DONTNOD is still a relatively new developer, having only released three games in their ten years as a company. Their first, the action-adventure Remember Me, was released in 2013 to mixed reception. Two years later, however, the company rose to prominence with the episodic release of the cult classic narrative adventure Life is Strange, putting the developer on the map. Now, the company’s third game is releasing, and it takes quite a turn from DONTNOD’s previous games.
Vampyr is an action-RPG about a man named Jonathan Reid, a doctor who served in the first World War and returns to London to find his home ravaged by the Spanish Flu. Reid is suddenly and unexpectedly turned into a vampire, which further throws his life into turmoil. He now has to struggle between two identities: a doctor who uses science to help people, and a supernatural creature with a thirst for human blood. How Dr. Reid manages his predicament is up to you, the player.
The whole game is a delicate balancing act that takes a lot of thinking and strategy.
The premise of Vampyr is one that I find fascinating. The idea of introducing character-driven narrative elements into an action-RPG isn’t exactly new, as we’ve seen it done before in games like Mass Effect. However, the promise that the game’s narrative will be shaped by whether you decide to heal London’s citizens or feed upon them is very interesting. The game features over sixty characters, all of whom have their own personalities and backstories. If one dies, it has the potential to determine how other characters that character knew, or potentially the entire area in which that character lived, react. Since the game takes place in the era of the Spanish Flu, NPCs are constantly getting sick, leaving it to Dr. Reid, one of the most accomplished physicians of his time, to heal them. Or, if you so choose, you can decide to give into Reid’s new vampiric instincts and feed upon civilians.
This whole heal/kill dynamic is made complicated by the game’s various mechanics, and will leave you constantly second-guessing your choices. For one thing, as with any RPG, you’ll want to gain experience points to level up and get stronger. However, in Vampyr, you gain very little XP from defeating enemies. An extremely insignificant amount, in fact. You’ll also gain XP by finishing various quests, both story-based and side-quests. But the easiest and most effective way of gaining a ton of XP is by killing citizens and drinking their sweet, fresh blood. Even if you try to be a pacifist and not kill any civilians, the temptation is always there. However, you’ll likely want to be careful to not kill too many people. For one thing, each NPC is a decently fleshed out character, so you might just feel bad about killing the widow who has been using the fortune her husband left her to help the sick and poor. Additionally, each of the four districts you can travel through in the game has its own health meter, which goes down for each sick or dead citizen. If a district’s overall health is low enough, the district will collapse and all its citizens will die. This means that you won’t be able to feed on the district’s various citizens for XP anymore, but it also means that you won’t be able to do any of the side quests that take place in that district anymore, so a ton of potential XP is lost. The whole game is a delicate balancing act that takes a lot of thinking and strategy.
It’s really a brilliant mechanic that truly puts the player into the shoes of a bloodthirsty vampire
Vampyr really shines in presenting this moral conundrum in an effective manner. I tried to see how far I could get in the game without killing any citizens, as I did not want to give in to Reid’s new murderous instincts any more than he did. But eventually the enemies in the game will start to overwhelmingly out-level you, and bosses in particular will begin to feel impossible. The temptation of the XP you can get by killing citizens becomes stronger and stronger, perfectly reflecting a vampire’s thirst for blood. It’s likely that you’ll eventually succumb to your thirst for power and rationalize murdering civilians. You might start off by only killing bad people. There are murderers, gang members and other despicable people that you’ll meet across London, so you might think that the city will be better off without them anyway. You’ll kill them and gain a ton of XP, allowing you to level up, become stronger and unlock new vampiric abilities. And it will feel good. Bosses will be much more manageable and common enemies will present much less of a threat. But soon, you’ll start running into enemies on higher levels, and you’ll have trouble defeating them again. You might be content having long battles with normal enemies you encounter on the streets, but you might long for the times when you could decimate your enemies with your vampiric might. So you might think about killing more citizens for even more XP. Eventually you’ll run out of terrible people to feast on. So you might consider killing citizens who maybe aren’t bad people at their cores, but who have done some terrible things. Surely London would be a safer place without those people too, wouldn’t it? And you get more XP in the process. But then the slippery slope continues. Maybe after you’ve killed all the people who’ve done terrible things, you’ve become too dependent on your powers and need to keep leveling up. Maybe you’ll start thinking about killing NPCs who maybe aren’t bad people, but who you personally just don’t care for as much. Maybe if there’s a character who you don’t find very interesting, or who rubbed you the wrong way once, you’ll decide that they deserve to die so you can continue to grow stronger. It’s really a brilliant mechanic that truly puts the player into the shoes of a bloodthirsty vampire, trying to contain his bloodlust, but not always successfully.
The mechanic isn’t perfect, however. One of the things that makes this aspect of gameplay so effective is the developer’s intent on making each character feel like a real person, with their own lives and problems, rather than just a bunch of faceless NPCs. Unfortunately, this only works to a certain extent. Each character only has so many dialogue options, and once you’ve exhausted them all, that’s all that character is. Chances are, when you first meet a new character, you’ll talk to them a lot and get to know them and their story. There will be a few hints about characters you can find by either talking to other characters or finding items that give more insight into their characters. They may even send you on a side-quest that further expands their individual story. But once you’ve done all that, they’re nothing. Once all hints are found (each character has about three or four each) and any side quests they offer are completed, they become just a faceless NPC. Sure, you can continue to talk to them, and they might have something new to say based on how far into the story you are, but for the most part, you’ll just have the same old dialogue options that lead to the same old responses. What once seemed like a fleshed out, real character suddenly becomes hollow and boring, and you likely won’t feel too bad about killing a stale NPC with nothing to offer you or other characters or the world. This is remedied a little bit by the fact that you will hear each character’s final thoughts upon killing them, leaving you to possibly regret your decision, but by that point it’s too late anyway.
Vampyr‘s healing mechanic is well-meaning…but I often just found it tedious and annoying.
There’s also the simple fact that there are a ton of characters to meet, which is ambitious, but doesn’t always work. The idea of having a game with over sixty unique characters with individual personalities sounds great of paper, but in practice, at least in Vampyr, the reality is that having so many characters to meet can get pretty overwhelming. There are a few characters who the game will make a point to introduce you to individually, but usually you’ll just enter a new area and find a ton of new characters and try to meet them all at once. When you’re meeting ten or fifteen characters at once, it can be hard to remember them all. You might be able to remember the first ten characters you meet, but once you enter a new area and suddenly meet ten new characters, then enter another new area and meet ten more characters, it will start to become difficult trying to keep track of all of them. There were multiple times when I would be talking to a character who would start talking about another character and I would think, “Wait, who are we talking about?” Sometimes I couldn’t tell if they were talking about a character I had already met or one I had yet to meet, or I might get characters confused with each other and think they were talking about a different character, or I might just not remember the character they’re talking about at all, even if I already met them.
Additionally, one of the selling points of Vampyr is that every character matters and somehow contributes to the story and world of the game, so killing any one of them could have serious repercussions on your playthrough. However, this is rarely the case. Across the over sixty characters you can meet in the game, only a few actually matter to the overarching story and the rest are just there to flesh out the world. The inclusions of these characters do an effective job of making you feel like you’re part of a larger world outside of yourself and your story, but it turns out that killing civilians usually won’t have that big of an impact on the game. I only killed a few characters in my playthrough, but each one had but a minuscule impact on the rest of the game. Other characters that they interacted with might have something new to say about their death, but that’s about it. Some characters are more important in their communities than others, such as the Pillar characters, but most characters don’t actually matter to the overall narrative and won’t exactly propel your story down a new path should they die. As long as you make sure to not kill so many characters that a district collapses, your playthrough likely won’t change very much based on who you kill and who you don’t.
On the other hand, the whole mechanic of healing sick citizens in Vampyr is kind of a pain. At the end of each night (which doesn’t end until you want it to, and gives you the opportunity to use experience points to level up and gain abilities), you’ll see how your actions affected the city of London. Healthy citizens may become sick and sick citizens may become sicker. As the best doctor around, it’s your job to go around healing as many people as possible. There are a couple of incentives for doing this. For one thing, healthy citizens give you more XP upon being killed than sick citizens. However, there’s also the risk of characters dying of their diseases if not treated quickly enough. And if enough characters die, the district collapses, and we already discussed why you don’t want that. Assuming you don’t want all four districts to collapse early on in your playthrough, you’ll probably spend a significant amount of time going around trying to heal people. But people can be hard to find and trying to heal all sick citizens can take more time than you’d like. I often found myself putting off ending the night (meaning I couldn’t level up and gain new abilities) as long as I could because, even though I would have liked to level up, I was really not looking forward to seeing the “results of my actions” and having a ton more characters become sick, because it meant I would have to spend up to an hour or two at the beginning of the next night trying to find all the sick citizens and heal them all. This becomes particularly frustrating when you can’t find all the sick citizens or you don’t have the right medicine to treat them or if a citizen you literally just healed suddenly becomes sick again. I feel like Vampyr‘s healing mechanic is well-meaning, trying to provide an alternative to killing that makes sense for a doctor-turned-vampire, but I often just found it tedious and annoying. And if you have killed a few characters and learned that they don’t actually all matter to the narrative, you’ll probably be tempted to not spend an hour or two every night trying to heal them all, which may result in the collapse of a district, which kind of just feels like the game punishing you for not partaking in something that’s tedious and boring and overall not particularly important to the narrative.
Speaking of the narrative, let’s talk about the game’s story. I found it to be interesting enough, but it wasn’t ever something I felt super invested in. I think part of the reason I wasn’t particularly attached to the story is because everyone was very proper and stereotypically British. For example, right at the beginning of the game, a character dies and her last words are, “What have you done?” It reminded me of that video of the guy on a webcam who gets punched in the face by his friend and reacts by saying, “I can’t believe you’ve done this!” It just seems like a very odd way to react to what just occurred. To be fair, the game does take place in 1918 England, so it does make sense for characters to talk in this way to a degree, but it borders on the superficial. The game’s romance sub-plot in particular was hard to take very seriously since it exists between two characters who don’t know each other for very long before getting all “I will cherish you forever, my love” on each other. There were also multiple times when character motivations seemed off. A character might suddenly act a certain way in order to provide a twist in the story, but when you think about it, you’ll be thinking, “Wait, it actually doesn’t really make sense for that character to suddenly act this way.” This isn’t always the case, but it happens more than it should.
I found [the story] to be interesting enough, but it wasn’t ever something I felt super invested in.
Fortunately, what Vampyr may lack in a super interesting narrative it makes up for with lore. In the world of the game, there are a number of different types of vampires, with plenty that make them distinct from each other. How these different types of vampires interact with each other and with humans is always interesting, as the world of vampires basically has a social hierarchy of its own. The Ekons are the sub-species of vampires that most closely resemble traditional vampires, but the Skals and Vulkods and other sub-species all bring their own quirks to the table and learning about all the different types of vampires and their relationships with each other is almost always interesting. Unfortunately, while there are some sub-species of vampires that are detailed thoroughly throughout the game, there are others that are only briefly mentioned and make very few appearances, leaving you wishing that the game had taken the time to explore those sub-species more.
As for the world you’ll be exploring in Vampyr, it’s pretty cool at first. The setting of a ravaged London at night is creepy and intriguing, but I have to say, I got over it pretty quickly. This is partly because it’s largely the only setting we get in Vampyr. In many open-world games, there are several different areas you can explore that are all very distinct from each other. To use my favorite open-world action-RPG, NieR:Automata, as an example, there was a city area, a desert area, an amusement park area, a forest area and a flooded area that were all drastically different from one another. While there are technically different areas in Vampyr (wealthy district, poor district, hospital and docks), they all just kind of feel like run-down, early twentieth century London. The overall structure of the open-world didn’t help very much either. You won’t be seeing the vast, open plains of Breath of the Wild here; instead, the entire city of London feels like one huge labyrinth, with thin streets and alleyways that take lots of twists and turns and lead to random dead-ends. This maze-like structure makes it very difficult to navigate the world and the in-game map doesn’t help very much. You have a compass that points you in the general direction of your next mission, but it’s not terribly useful when you can head in that direction only to hit a dead-end or reach the ocean and have to do a ton of backtracking and try a different path instead anyway. As far as I could tell, there is no fast travel, and the in-game map only names the general districts rather than specific areas, which makes it hard to tell where things are and how to get to them. If you need to get to the cemetery but you don’t have a mission there, you won’t be able to put a marker on the map to guide you there since the map doesn’t tell you where the cemetery is. You’ll just be blindly wandering around the Whitechapel district until you happen across the cemetery, unless you’ve memorized the path to get there after traversing the labyrinth of London for long enough. This also makes finding the aforementioned sick citizens very annoying. I personally don’t have the best spatial reasoning in the world, so it’s certainly possible that the layout of this open-world is a bigger problem for me than it will be for others, but those who plan on picking up this game might not want to expect the ability to get around from place to place very easily.
Learning about all the different types of vampires and their relationships with each other is almost always interesting.
So now let’s talk about Vampyr‘s combat. After all, what’s an action-RPG if it doesn’t have good combat mechanics? Action game enthusiasts will likely be happy to find that there are a ton of different options for combat in Vampyr. Between one-handed melee weapons, two-handed melee weapons and firearms, all of which may differ in function from causing damage to stunning to absorbing blood, as well as the various vampiric abilities you can unlock by leveling up, there are plenty of ways to customize Jonathan Reid to fit your preferred combat style. However, new combat abilities aren’t the only thing you unlock by leveling up. You don’t level up by gaining a certain amount of XP points in this game, as is traditionally the case in RPGs; rather, you level up by spending a certain amount of XP on abilities, rather than just attaining the XP. Again, there is a lot of customizability in what you choose to spend your XP on, but I usually found myself spending most of my XP on things like increasing my health, stamina and blood (this game’s MP) gauges rather than using XP to unlock new abilities. Obviously, this will be a choice each individual player will have to make for their self, and the more citizens you kill the more XP you’ll have to work with, but by making the player spend XP points on things like HP and stamina, which are things that would be increased automatically upon leveling up in most RPGs, you might not be able to afford to unlock many of the vampiric abilities. It seems like the point of the game is that the player is supposed to be tempted to kill citizens to get XP to gain more powers, which reflects a vampire’s thirst for power, but instead I found myself considering killing citizens not out of some hunger for power, but because I wanted to increase my total HP so I wouldn’t die so easily in combat. So the game telling me, the player, that I’m just as power-hungry as a murderous vampire for killing citizens for XP didn’t really work since I wasn’t killing for powers; I was killing so that the next boss wouldn’t take me out in three hits.
As for the actual combat itself, it can be hit-or-miss depending on what you like in action games. It seemed to me that Vampyr definitely leans toward the difficult side of combat for numerous reasons. For one thing, it seems like enemies have the advantage a lot. Oftentimes, their melee attacks will have longer range than your melee attacks, meaning you have to get in really close to attack them, but they might be able to attack you even when decently far away. The weapon I used for most of the game was a long Negan-style baseball bat, which looked like it should be able to hit enemies from some sort of distance away, though I obviously still had to be pretty close. But I kept missing even when it looked like at least the tip of the bat should have made contact. I basically had to be right in front of an enemy for my attacks to connect. Meanwhile, I might be right in front of an enemy and see them readying a melee attack of their own, so I’ll teleport backwards to dodge the hit, only to get hit by it anyway. There’s also the fact that teleporting (the game’s dodge mechanic) doesn’t always work the way you want it to since, despite being a teleport, you can’t teleport through solid objects. This means that if there’s some small object on the ground that you should be able to step over, or if there’s an invisible wall you didn’t notice, you’ll be stopped from teleporting and just teleport to the same area you were trying to teleport away from and end up getting hit by the attack you were trying to avoid. There’s also the fact that your dodge doesn’t have priority over many other actions. You might be in the middle of an attack, only to notice that your enemy is about to attack and will likely hit you first, so you’ll try to teleport away, but it won’t work because you already started attacking, and once an attack has started, you can’t abort it or try to dodge or anything else until the entire attack animation has finished. You’ll have to save attacking for when you’re absolutely sure the hit will connect, since once you begin the attack animation, there’s no going back. The addition of a stamina bar also makes things harder, since just about everything, from attacking to dodging to running, takes stamina. You’ll have to very carefully monitor your stamina bar so that when you’re done attacking an enemy you still have enough stamina to get away from them before they start attacking. Fans of more difficult action games may find these various mechanics fun for the challenge they provide, but fans of more casual action games may want to be wary. Of course, the game is only as hard as you make it, so to speak. If the game is getting too hard and there’s just no way you’re getting past that boss, you might have to put your morals aside and kill a ton of civilians, granting you a bunch of XP to use on increased health, stamina and abilities that will make the game easier as you cut through all enemies in sight with your newfound power. If you’re looking for a real challenge, try getting through the game without killing a single civilian. Better yet, try getting through the game without killing anyone at all. The bosses are mandatory, but otherwise, you can try to just sneak past other enemies without fighting them.
There are a ton of different options for combat in Vampyr.
Combat in Vampyr can get tiresome, however. There’s a good amount of variety in the enemies you’ll encounter, but there are so many enemies around every corner, you’ll probably end up getting sick of them. As stated earlier, you get almost no XP from fighting enemies, so there isn’t even much incentive to take the time to battle them, but they usually appear in large groups in skinny corridors and will follow you if even one of them notices you, making it difficult to get past or away from them if you’re not in the mood to fight, meaning you’ll be doing a lot of fighting, even if you don’t particularly want to, and you get almost nothing for it. It’s like playing a Pokémon game where you run into Zubats every three steps in a cave, except that the Zubats also appear every three steps outside of caves and you can’t run away from them, but have to take the time to battle each one. Not to mention each individual encounter can potentially take quite a while if you haven’t leveled up or upgraded your weapon recently, so if you are trying to do a pacifist run, you’ll not only get into a ton of fights, but each one will take a while, which can get exhausting. It does provide more temptation to kill civilians, so you can get stronger and deal with all these random enemies more efficiently, but I found that I usually wasn’t super tempted to kill more civilians since leveling up doesn’t help you dish out more damage as much as upgrading your weapon does, which requires crafting parts rather than XP. These parts can be found by randomly searching through cabinets and trash cans in the open-world, as well as finding them on the corpses of enemies, but the better parts needed for better upgrades tend to be reserved for the later sections of the game. So when I was forced to fight a bunch of faceless enemies on every street I came across, I wasn’t really tempted to kill citizens for XP so much as I was just frustrated that the game wasn’t giving me the parts necessary to upgrade my weapon.
So now let’s discuss the crafting mechanic for a moment. Crafting is another neat mechanic that allows you to customize your playstyle. All the weapons in Vampyr can be upgraded to increase damage, increase stun damage, increase blood absorption, increase weapon speed, lower the amount of stamina a weapon takes to use, etc. In addition to weapons, parts and items you find can be used to craft medicine to heal sick citizens or serums that the player can use to replenish health, stamina or blood in battle. You can also find items that might be useless on their own, but can be taken apart to gain parts that can be used for something else. You can also buy parts and sometimes items from merchants, if you’re not finding what you need in trash cans. Though this mechanic does provide another layer of customizability, which is cool, it’s also plagued by being overly complicated. The process of crafting and finding parts itself isn’t complicated at all, but the sheer number of different parts that exist is overwhelming. The Last of Us is a good example of a game that I think did crafting right. In that game, there were just six different kinds of crafting materials you could find and six different items that you could craft (including melee weapon upgrades), along with generic parts you could find to upgrade firearms and pills to upgrade skills. It’s enough to add depth to the gameplay, but there isn’t so much that it’s overwhelming. In Vampyr, there are so many different kinds of parts to find, it’s difficult to keep track of them all. In The Last of Us, there’s alcohol, bindings, rags, explosives, blades, sugar, parts and pills. That’s it. In Vampyr, there’s sodium hydroxide, white phosphorus, rivets, aluminium parts, common trigger parts, good trigger parts, common handle parts, good handle parts, tiny common handle parts, tiny good handle parts, springs, lead sticks, lead rods, lead plates, aluminium powder, screws, grease, aluminium shards, sturdy blood samples, watery brisk blood samples, watery rich blood samples, watery sturdy blood samples, salicin, clove essences, potassium permanganate, ergotamine, sodium hypochlorite solutions, ferrous tartrate, quinine, opium, codeine and glass vials. And that’s not even everything; those are just the items that happened to be in my inventory by the time I finished the game. It’s too much. I almost never used merchants since I never really knew what items I needed because there is just way too much to keep track of, so I just ignored my inventory and crafted what I could when I happened to reach a crafting desk.
Clearly, there’s a lot happening in Vampyr. There’s the narrative elements, the action elements, the RPG elements, the crafting elements, etc. It’s very ambitious, but with so much going on, there may not have been time to polish everything. This unfortunately manifested itself in a number of technical glitches and other issues that I ran into. Sometimes these things were very minor. For example, I would sometimes come across an enemy or NPC just waiting around in its T-pose. I found some character models or textures spazzing out, either moving around rapidly for no particular reason or clipping through other surfaces. I would occasionally find myself trapped in between non-sensical invisible walls. Probably the biggest glitch that I encountered was when I went to go face a boss who I had battled and lost against many times before, but for some reason this time I entered the area and the boss just didn’t spawn. The entrance to the area closed off and the boss music began, but the boss herself was nowhere to be found. I managed to find another exit, aside from the path I used to enter the area, and was able to escape into the rest of the over-world again, but the boss music kept playing no matter where I went. I decided to make Jonathon end his night and rest, but upon starting the next night, the cursor telling me where my next mission was had disappeared from both the compass and the map. I had no idea where to go and spent a while wandering around the labyrinth that is Vampyr‘s London until I finally got back to the boss area, where my mission cursor came back and the boss finally spawned and everything seemed to be working again. But this experience, coupled with the previous glitches I mentioned, made me feel like I was playing a game that wasn’t quite finished. I know that DONTNOD is busy working on the new Life is Strange game, as well as that mystery game they’re working on with Bandai Namco, but I wish they had taken some more time to iron out some more of the issues in this game before releasing it. This all being said, there could be some sort of day-one patch that becomes available that does in fact clean up the game before its actual release, but I can only speak to the experience that I had, which was unfortunately one where glitches weren’t uncommon.
I had some other technical issues aside from the glitches, too. This one is very specific, but I had some trouble with the d-pad the the menus corresponding to it. The d-pad is used in Vampyr to administer serums while in combat. I had health serums set for the up button and blood serums set for the down button. However, I found that when in combat, pressing up administered the blood serum rather than the health serum and the down button administered the health serum instead of the blood serum. In other words, it was backwards. I checked the button configuration page to see if I was just remembering how I set my serums wrong, but no. My health serums were in fact set for the up button, but actually pressing the up button administered my blood serum and vice versa. When I tried to change the designation of the up button, the game went to the screen for changing the designation of the down button, and vice versa. This wasn’t something super hard to figure out or anything, and I eventually just learned that up on the d-pad activated the down button and pressing the down button activated the up button, but it’s still clearly something that didn’t work the way it was supposed to.
[I felt] like I was playing a game that wasn’t quite finished.
I was also disappointed by many of the character models in Vampyr. Maybe it’s because I just came off of reviewing Detroit: Become Human, which had some of the best graphics I’ve ever seen and really showed what the PS4 is capable of, but the character models in Vampyr seemed pretty bad. They might have been considered okay on the PS3, but considering we’re about four and a half years into this console generation, most of these character models just don’t look good. The graphics in Life is Strange weren’t exactly the best in the world either, but at least that game went for a more stylized art style rather than trying to come off as realistic, which ultimately helped the game stand out. But it seems DONTNOD tried to go for a more realistic style for Vampyr and it just didn’t work out terribly well. I’m not someone who usually cares a whole lot about graphics, but considering how much of an emphasis Vampyr wants to put on each individual NPC, it seemed pretty odd and even distracting when they would never emote, or when their shirts would clip through their jackets, or how their lips never quite synced up to their words, or how their faces in general fell very deep into the uncanny valley. Some of the game’s cutscenes were presented in this cool, drawn art style that looked like a dark comic book or something, which made me wonder why they didn’t choose that art style for the whole game instead of trying to make it look realistic and not quite hitting their mark.
The last thing I’ll complain about is the loading screens. My god, those loading screens. A lot of the loading screens in Vampyr take a long time. Which wouldn’t be much of a problem if the appearances of loading screens wasn’t incessant. Weirdly enough, loading screens were also often inconsistent. Sometimes you’d be faced with a loading screen upon entering a new area or district, but other times there wouldn’t be a loading screen. Sometimes the game would have to load before interacting with an NPC, and other times it wouldn’t. There would even be times when the game would stop and start loading for no discernible reason at all. One constant, however, was that I had to wait through a 70-second loading screen every time I died. 70 seconds may not seem like a very long time, but set a timer and try doing absolutely nothing for 70 full seconds. It goes by longer than you’d think. And if you were in a particularly difficult section of the game, this will be happening a lot. It’s one thing to die over and over during a hard section in a video game. It’s another thing to die, have to sit there waiting for more than a minute, try again and maybe die almost immediately if it’s a particularly difficult section and have to wait 70 more seconds before getting to try again, and have this cycle continue for a long time. I found myself considering killing citizens not because the added strength would help me get through the game easier, but because I was sick of enduring these long loading screens every time I died. With each death resulting in a 70-second loading screen, assuming I died about 50 times during my playthrough (which I think is a pretty safe assumption; I tried to kill as few citizens as possible and ended up dying a lot), that means that an entire hour of my playthrough was spent waiting through loading screens. And that’s not even counting the loading screens that weren’t connected to deaths. When it comes to dying in Vampyr, the defeat itself isn’t nearly as frustrating as knowing that you’ll have to wait so long to be able to try again. Especially considering that the respawn points are weird and random and could very likely either put you in a bad position or start you off pretty far from your objective.
When I finished my playthrough of Vampyr, I got a bad ending. Apparently, I had “betrayed” an important character, though how I did so I can’t figure out. The only thing I can think of is that this character was upset that I killed any citizens at all and that getting the “good ending” involved getting through the game without killing any citizens. I thought for a moment about if I wanted to play through the game again, trying to attain the good ending. I concluded pretty quickly that I wouldn’t. I think it’s generally a pretty good game, and I’m glad that I played it the one time that I did. The core mechanic of killing or sparing citizens is cool, the lore is interesting and the gameplay, despite its difficulty, could be pretty fun. But, aside from the fact that the difficulty of a pacifist run doesn’t appeal to me, there are several reasons why I’m not particularly eager to jump back into the game. The glitches and general lack of polish diluted my experience; the loading screens were borderline unbearable; the gameplay, while sometimes fun, could also become very tedious; and the characters just weren’t likable or relatable enough for me to want to endure another 30-hour playthrough to try to get them their happy ending. Vampyr is very ambitious and presents a lot of cool and interesting ideas, but just doesn’t quite hit its mark.
- Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
- Published By: Focus Home Interactive
- Developed By: DONTNOD Entertainment
- Genre: Action-RPG
- US Release Date: June 5th, 2018
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
- Quote: "Vampyr is very ambitious and presents a lot of cool and interesting ideas, but just doesn’t quite hit its mark."