By Melody Klink
Hello hello! Spookytober is officially in FULL EFFECT!
*inset a million Halloween-esque emojis*
Yep, I celebrate all things Halloween for a month straight. I'm a big holiday person, and Halloween's MAH FAVE.
Like, my office is decorated entirely in Halloween decor that never comes down. It's a skull thing.
Anyway! Today, I'm bringing you a review of my first Spookytober game, Vampyr by DONTNOD, the developers of my near-and-dear Life is Strange, and my not-so-near-and-dear Remember Me... which the Blerd Without Fear, Ernie, can tell you all about my optimistic outlook on that game.
But we're not here for that! We're here to roam the gloomy streets of 1918 London as a man unfortunate enough to meet his maker, and live to tell the tale.
Vampyr takes place smack-dab in the middle of the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, a time when war-ravaged soldiers were returning home from World War I. Doctor Jonathan Reid, a military surgeon, is among them... but he isn't so lucky. Upon reaching the Southwark docks of London, he is attacked and left for dead.
If only he'd stayed dead.
He awakens in a pit of corpses, having to claw his way out as a bloody rage builds inside him. In a haze, he takes his first life, quelling his thirst for blood-- on his worried and unsuspecting sister.
The game's story spirals out from this moment, forcing Dr. Reid to choose his path: remain loyal to the Hippocratic Oath and harm no one, or give in to his new nature as a Vampire and give London something new to fear.
(And don't mistake this system for Mass Effect's: there is no "maxing out good/bad gauge," you are totally left up to your morals-- or lack thereof. You can change the entire course of the story by killing one citizen, as their quests and possibly related investigations will disappear!)
Being in the RPG vein, the Vampyr system relies on experience gains, questing and crafting, obviously with a twist. First, I'll tell you that feeding on folks would make the game so much easier. The structure for EXP is this: the blood quality and standing of an individual will give you a specific amount of EXP. If they're sick, you'll get less, which is where your profession comes into play; even if you intend to kill them, healing them of illnesses will net you more gains. Experience in Vampyr translates into buying abilities, improving your health, stamina, and the amount of blood you have to execute abilities with.
What did I do first? A playthrough where I didn't kill a single person.
A single person, you guys.
There's an achievement/trophy called Not Even Once that you can net for never embracing a single citizen... which didn't unlock for me and I was super grumbly about it.
But that's okay (I guess... BUT STILL)! Because from the onset of the game, I knew I wanted to do multiple playthroughs. My first one was purely Doctor Reid, medicine man; I healed every sick person every time, took care of each area and citizen, all while on my quest to find out who turned me into a bloodsucking monster. I ate so many rats.
I was the damned Pied Piper of London.
Since my first playthrough was goal-oriented, I decided my second one would be sheerly whatever decision I wanted to make; after all, being the "good/pure guy" netted me some garbage results at times.
You know what they say about good intentions!
But the desire for an immediate replay was there, which isn't something I normally spring up to do; I'm all about replay value, but I rarely play the same title back-to-back. (Shout out to Dragon Age: Inquisition, which I played through twice, back to back. Literally saw the credits, and started again. Dragon Age is life- Dragon Age is love.) A bonus to replays: Vampyr has four different endings, depending on your level of depravity and what actions you take.
As far as atmosphere goes, Vampyr's got it: everything is dark and gloomy, pestilence and death all around. The graphics are awesome, especially for a self-admitted "Double-A" title (DONTNOD said it, not me)-- citizens and environment are well-rendered and flow well. Every now and then you'll get a little hiccup with flowing/curved fabrics or something, but that's normal across the whole gaming spectrum. I LIVE FOR THE SPOOKY.
Combat-wise, dust off your Dark Souls skills, my friends, because we're gonna dodge like hell. Vampyr uses a fairly straightforward combat system, using attacks between a Main and Offhand weapon set, and then a set of abilities of your choosing, but when you're against the big bosses, dodging is your best friend. And while Dr. Reid doesn't roll, he does turn into darkness and reposition, which is cool. Ever seen this Dark Souls meme?
The same can be applied here. One extra attack can be the difference between life and death.
So many of the bosses hit like freight trains, so be wary!
Let's move on to the voice acting in Vampyr. Let me say that I love Dr. Reid's voice with a loving, fiery passion- it's so perfect for his character, and the voice actor does well with all sorts of emotions (which there are lots of.) He's voiced by Anthony Howell, who happens to know a few things about Vampires: he's performed in the Dracula TV series, and voiced Vincent in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2! (And does voices in Dragon Age: Inquisition BUT STOP MEL WE AREN'T TALKING ABOUT THAT.) That said, sometimes the other citizens' voices are a little cringe-worthy, especially at the beginning. They do improve as the game goes on, though!
Overall, I loved Vampyr. DONTNOD hits so many great notes with this title, which makes me thankful that they focused on making the system work the way it does, rather than worrying about AAA hype. I actually liked it way more than I thought I would; being a Castlevania kid, my love for vampires is big, and Vampyr refreshingly fit the bill. I mean, it's even got a television treatment in development already! It's definitely worth picking up-- come join me in spooky London, and let's drink to life.