Some of the best ideas are adding a new twist to an existing favorite. Vampires in Victorian London is nothing new, but the idea of making it an open world action-RPG is certainly interesting. Add in a developer with a history of making thrilling stories and it seems like the perfect match. Between blood, romance, haunting settings and more than enough to do, will Vampyr be a sleeper hit or should it have remained dead?
The best way to explain Vampyr’s story is cluttered and clumsy. At it’s core, the story is about love, surrounded by a plague, secret organizations, figuring out Jonathan’s place in the world, plenty of blood and the struggle to remain human. If nothing else, the thing that stands out about Vampyr is the willingness to give answers, no matter how random or underwhelming they might be.
This is best illustrated by the ending. Without actually revealing anything, where other games/movies/shows would turn the last question into a sequel/additional season, it’s all revealed in the epilogue. Not only is it refreshing, especially given how many fascinating stories are ruined by unresolved cliffhangers, it offers a satisfying conclusion to Johnathan’s adventure. That is, assuming you get the good ending.
As hinted at above, Vampyr features a morality system that manages to walk the line between brilliant and frustrating. Like most (all?) morality systems, your choice has little to no impact on the end result, though it does impact difficulty. Choosing to fight your urge to kill will make you weaker, both in terms of level and equipment, but adhering to that moral code will reduce the difficulty of the final boss and give you the better ending.
If this isn’t enough story, every location has a number of residents you can interact with. Not only do these interactions shape the world, they offer insight into other characters, what is going on and may even tell you where to find others, additional quests and a number of other things. Best of all, these parts are largely optional, meaning those uninterested in side stories can freely ignore them without any real consequences.
For as much story is in Vampyr, there is a surprising lack of things to do. Most of the world is closed off or irrelevant to whatever you need to do, making it feel more linear than it really should. The same is true for enemies and combat, as there is small handful of enemies, with the best tactic being attack fast and back off. Often times the biggest limiter is stamina, as dodging will eat through it fairly quickly.
Those chasing after the true end or limiting those they kill will quickly find themselves under-leveled and learn that level determines defense. This means, regardless of how you play, you will always be at a disadvantage unless you figure out a tactic that works. This will vary depending on what you’re doing and the advantage you’re looking for, with later levels devolving into DPS races.
Outside of limited fighting options, fights feel really rigid and clunky. It often times takes multiple dodges to actually dodge, with high powered enemies often getting an advantage by forcing you to dodge until you run out of stamina. Even this wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t camera glitches and other issues during combat. For instance, teleporting enemies can cause all kind of issues with lock on, often times randomly changing position based off their movements. Through in lopsided damage numbers, cheap mechanics (draining stamina, abusing DoTs, etc) and fights can manage to be easy, yet frustrating.
Similar things can also be said about waypoints. Often times you’ll need to figure out how to enter a building or get an item, with the solution requiring a lot of trial an error, looking at the map and going over every conceivable location. At times this is fine, it just gets frustrating when the only way to progress is a very specific hallway or path, one that is only visible if you run around long enough or study the map, with a waypoint that doesn’t help. If nothing else, showing variable waypoints, so instead of showing the location in the sewer, it shows the location of the entrance to the sewer, followed by showing the exact location, would go a long way, though it is solvable with enough time.
Vampyr is a hard game to review, because there is enough to warrant a low score, yet the experience is satisfying enough to make up for this. For better or worse, giving answers and explaining things make it easier to invest in the story, with the conclusion certainly being worth the time. The ability to interact with NPCs, heal them, figure out more about the world and extract new information also adds a lot. It’s just, when it comes to gameplay, Vampyr falls short. With loading screens being common when players move too fast, combat often being more about managing stamina, difficulty stemming from how willing are you to kill innocent people and a needlessly frustrating waypoint system, it’s easy to get frustrated. With this in mind, anyone looking for a vampire romance story or just want to experience a world filled with answers should consider picking Vampyr up, where as action-RPG or open world fans can probably skip it.
[Editor’s Note: Vampyr was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]