‘Victor Vran‘ is a game I’ve had on my Steam wishlist for a couple years now, but I’ve always passed it up in sales because I’ve been disillusioned by the genre of late. ARPGs have struggled to overcome the legacy of Diablo III, and I’ve been burned a few times since trying to find something to satisfy that particular itch that doesn’t come up short.
Playing the souped up version of Victor Vran this week on PS4, however, I can safely say that it will do just fine. Just fine indeed.
Victor Vran is a game about a demon hunter who wants to hunt some demons, and who definitely isn’t Van Helsing. Absolutely no relation.
I’ll be completely honest, I didn’t catch much of Victor Vran’s story aside from his penchant for killing monsters, but I didn’t need to. Victor Vran encourages the player to keep playing with different, more engaging tactics. It’s ‘storyline’, if you can call it that, is mostly an excuse for its core gameplay loop.
There’s a queen, her kingdom has become overrun, and you’re here to fix that problem with the business end of a pointy sword, or hammer, or shotgun. The characters you meet along the way are fun enough, but you’ll spend such a little amount of time interacting with them compared to all the time you’ll spend interacting with, say, zombies or ghosts or skeletons, that it really doesn’t matter.
Since the launch of the wildly succesful Diablo III, competing isometric ARPGs have had a hard time vaulting the incredibly high bar that game set. In fact, with the exception of perhaps Torchlight II – a game by the original Diablo devs – I don’t think anyone has come close. I went into Victor Vran with my usual ARPG skepticism, then, and came away very pleasantly surprised.
Whilst Victor Vran shares a lot of core elements with its obvious competition, it does plenty of interesting things that helps set it apart. That it’s bloody fun also helps. Whilst games of this ilk often task you with clicking something until its dead, Victor Vran often feels smarter than that. Each encounter with enemies whilst out exploring seems intelligently implemented. Mobs of enemies will try and overwhelm you with sheer numbers, demanding you quickly get to grips with your dodge button and methods of crowd control. Thrown into this mix however are single enemies that have varied and deadly movesets that will keep you on your toes, mixing these encounters up and forcing you to strategize on the fly. There’s genuine tactics needed to progress, and synergizing with teammates will really help you overcome challenging set ups. It’s in asking you to think, react and overcome that Victor Vran sets itself apart from the competition, and gives itself a flavour all its own.
The world is full of fun secrets often hidden away behind the games surprising verticality – in a complete shift from genre standards this title has a jump button, which was perhaps it’s biggest curve ball. Whilst I love the idea on paper, the games terrain isn’t very accomodating to Vran’s leaps and bounds, oftentimes refusing to let you clear an obstacle until you approach it just right (especially when wall jumps are involved). On top of this, every area has additional goals to chase – some of which are bloody difficult – which really helps its dungeoneering remain satisfying and engaging throughout its lengthy runtime. These missions are completely optional but push you to fully explore a map and discover its hidden areas, rewarding you with money, experience and sweet loot, and my partner and I would often restart an area to try and beat a particularly difficult challenge.
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