Vampyr released earlier this month to a mixed reception from fans and critics. Everyone was hoping for a masterpiece from the developers of Life is Strange, but what they got was quite different from game that made Dontnod popular. Vampyr is in many ways flawed, but that doesn’t undermine it’s charm by much.
The first time I played Vampyr, I went in expecting a riveting narrative, with lots of player choice and a mediocre combat. Since most of their previous games didn’t really have a combat system, I didn’t expect much in that department. I was pleasantly surprised though, and while it’s not exactly phenomenal, it is enough to cement Dontnod’s reputation as a talented studio. The part where Vampyr falls short however is the plot-line. The story is lousy and does little to keep the player immersed. Most of it is covered in the very last minutes of the game and can only be chalked up to lazy writing.
Moving on to the gameplay, Vampyr makes it a point to repeatedly remind the player of the benefits of drinking civilian blood, and to top it off makes you work for it. But killing even one NPC, even if they are murderers or major criminals prevents you from getting the good ending. This just doesn’t sit right with me. You need to stay away from one of the core mechanics of the game to experience the true ending. That is just counter-intuitive, but I believe this has been done deliberately to encourage multiple playthroughs which again is a cheap tactic.
However, this article is about the positives of Vampyr and not the unforgivable flaws. The most appreciable part of the game is the player choice, or to be more specific, the choice to kill or to let live, while trying to get by as a vampire in a Victorian London crawling with powerful vampire hunters. The game keeps a track of every civilian and taking lives has a notable impact on the district health as well as the ending.
Apart from the district status, every citizen in the district reacts to a killing, sometimes in a positive way, sometimes in a negative. This is not just limited to dialogs, but it also affects their individual moods, habits and futures. Sometimes it also reveals secrets and unlocks certain locations that would have been otherwise inaccessible. The characters are also superbly written, and each NPC has his/her own distinct background and motives, and accordingly, temperaments to compliment them. This further strengthens this complex network of interdependent citizens who interact with each other in a delicate eco-system.
At the beginning of the post, I mentioned that the game seems to reward multiple playthroughts, and after doing exactly that I will admit- replayablility greatly adds to the charm of the game. It’s nearly impossible to explore all the locations and meet every character during the first playthrough. The interactions with the citizens of London change significantly depending upon the number of people killed, however the main story, with the exception of the ending, remains largely the same.
There are a bunch of Life is Strange references that are hard to get the first time you play the game. Vampyr reveals most of it’s mysteries in the end, but careful exploration and a bit of investigation of your own initiative gives away many hints about the prevalent situation in London. This again will be unlikely for players to grasp on the very first playthrough.
Lastly, the atmosphere makes the repeated midnight-jaunts across Victorian London ever so pleasing. Dontnod has done an excellent job of depicting the effects of poverty on a disease-stricken industrial city. A lot of attention has been paid to the details and in the end, although the map may be small, the number of explorable areas is insanely high. It tells a lot about the overcrowding and unplanned expansion of Victorian London. The soundtrack goes well with the tone of the game and further adds to the appeal.
So as you can see Vampyr has a lot to offer, but you won’t be able to experience a lot of it the first time you sink your teeth into the game. This could be a big turn-off for players who are against or not used to replaying games, and that’s the catch. What do you think? Did you buy Vampyr or are you planning to? Lastly, do you replay games and if yes, then after how long and how many times.
For the 4K versions of the in-game images, click here.