To suck or not to suck:
Ever since I was a little kid I’ve been obsessed with vampires – I love the stories, I love the striking look and creeping menace, and I love how they capture a little moment in time when a bloodsucking stalker from the shadows symbolized all of the fear and evil of Western civilization. I was really excited when the developers behind the excellent Life is Strange decided not to play it safe by rolling straight into season two and instead went on to tackle the myth of the vamp with “Vampyr“.
The early nineteen hundreds were a dark time for jolly old England. We were embroiled in our first world war, tackling Spanish influenza and – wouldn’t you know it – fending off the ever-thirsty undead in the streets of London.
Vampyr presents a dingy, dilapidated capital to run around in, never opting for anything light and breezy when instead it can go for dark and moody. You play Jonathan Reid, a doctor-turned-corpse-turned-monster who awakes amid the bodies of plague victims to find himself unsettlingly undead. Upon stumbling out of the mass grave he quickly eats his sister by mistake, and from there a dark tale of a man haunted by what he has become ensues.
It’s a good tale, too. DONTNOD are clearly great storytellers, and it’s where Vampyr shines. In is morally grey narrative we’re asked to see the world – and humanity at large – as something deserving of both our mercy and our unquenchable bloodlust. Vampyr does some really interesting things with its story – none of which I’m willing to spoil here – but it’s definitely worth checking out for the strength of its storytelling alone. I just wish the gameplay had been a bit more up to snuff.
A game quite a bit more interactive than DONTNOD’s previous efforts, you can see Vampyr straining their technical muscle from early on. It’s not a bad effort, per say, but it trips and stumbles enough to let down what is otherwise a very competent experience.
From it’s opening chase through London – as you burst down grotty streets and into random buildings to escape the torch-wielding hunters behind you – it’s plain to see that exploration and combat are going to be a little unpolished going forwards. Whilst the experience evens out as the game progresses, you never shake the feeling of gummy controls or clunky combat.
Vampyr is at its best when it commits wholly to its story, in its many conversations with the colourful characters the game presents. The seemingly endless supply of dialogue options, and their resulting conversations, made up my favourite time with the title. As a big fan of vampire mythology, Vampyr does plenty to add to and explore that rich, delicious vein. That was a vampire pun.
In one of Vampyr’s best twists, the more you engage with the game’s cast, the more delectable their blood becomes – granting you bonus experience points should you decide to give in to your more monstrous side – but you’ll lose that NPC and any quests you haven’t completed for them for good.
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