The game Vampyr, is a mysterious tale of secret societies, disease ridden streets, class struggle and supernatural forces pulling strings from the shadows. It builds a wonderful atmosphere through music, lighting, good writing and line delivery. Everything comes together in a messy but well-meaned way.
Vampyr tries to do a few ambitious things. It’s trying to be an action RPG where you can make crucial decision to affect the world around you. Games have been trying to do this “make a decision and suffer consequences” thing for a very long time now and I am yet to see one pull it off perfectly.
The problem with Vampyr’s way of doing it is rooted in a basic binary system disguised as a multi-leveled health status for each district. As far as I can tell, nothing happens to the district until it becomes “Hostile”. So a district is either hostile or not hostile. But we have all these phases like sanitized, healthy, stable, critical etc.
The binary district health system goes hand in hand with the investigations you conduct of the occupants of the districts. Learning more about an occupant is only good for increasing the blood quality which gives you more XP if you choose to suck their blood. Certain people are more valuable to the district so their death will have a bigger impact. But nevertheless, it’s just a simple alive/dead system. Conveniently, anyone connected to the person you suck the blood of either doesn’t react to their death or goes inexplicably “Missing”, never to be heard from ever again.
The game doesn’t suffer because of the relative simplicity of these systems, it suffers because it creates a short lived illusion of complexity. It just ends up disappointing you.
The game is basically two things: Talking and fighting.
Talking to people is a very big thing you do in the game. Most of your time is spent talking to people yet the people you talk to are so bland. Dialogue wheel system makes you feel like a poller in the street than having actual conversation with people. The boring camera angle doesn’t help either when you have to sit and watch some poorly animated face talk about boring stuff you hardly care.
The moral question of the game is do you suck the people of the district for their XP or suffer being weak for the safety of others.
The problem here of course is you need to care about these people. You need to care about the district. Also you need to be wanting to get stronger as a vampire. I wanted to get stronger and I had a hard time believing most of the character’s well beings were an actual concern I needed to care about. I think this is due to mostly how samey everything feels. Every time you go somewhere, the person you are looking for is doing the exact same pattern of walk or standing behind a bar. This even extends to the fights in-between districts. The same enemy types spawn in the same places over and over again. This situation hardly creates a world that feels alive. It just reminds you you’re playing a videogame. I can see both caring about the people and wanting to get strong necessary for the enjoyment of the game as designed by the developers fail for certain players.
The way I played it was, I killed everyone except for most of the pillars and doctors/nurses in the Pembroke Hospital. The ending of the game was actually somewhat satisfying and poetic, like the rest of the story bits but the moral dilemma the game wanted me to experience was never fully realised.
A fix for the boring characters issue would be to make the sidequests more accessible and interesting. Most of the game you sit down in front of the screen and read. You read/listen the dialogue and read notes and lore. Especially to find out more about these characters. Some of them require you to go to a place and fight some enemies, some of them require you to tediously find a single piece of evidence randomly hidden somewhere in the game world. They just put a wall you need to grind through to figure out the stories of the characters. I understand it shouldn’t be as easy as 1–2–3 but the way they handled it is not fun.
A lot of these side stories feel neglected and half realised, too. After working hard to find a little piece of paper in a bin somewhere, you want a nice, satisfying side story. But it’s usually not.
Yet there is so much dialogue. An unnecessary amount of dialogue. You can’t just read it from the subtitles either because as soon as you skip, it doesn’t skip the dialogue on screen, it skips to the next person’s line. So you miss a bunch of information.
Talking about the dialogue, when it’s not exhausting, it’s confusing. Especially the choices they give you. Sometimes you choose between 3 choices and it can result in a fail, blocking the path to uncover the boring story of a particular character you’re only grinding through to get more XP when you kill them. These segments often feel unfair because the choice you made and what your guy says couldn’t be further from each other and the 3 choices are often too similar to each other. In some cases, none of the choices make any sense.
Separating the dialogue to “Personal questions” and “Your life in London” is quite unnecessary too and it contributes to the feeling of polling a person. Rather than a natural conversation.
The main characters of the game, I found, are quite good. Jonathan Reid, the vampire doctor you play as is realised quite beautifully. The way he delivers the lines adds so much to the atmosphere the game creates so effortlessly.
A rare occurrence for me was to actually care about the love interest this game provided: Lady Ashbury. An exquisite performance, truly.
Finally, the thorned creature, from a design, writing and performance point of view was an always alluring, menacing presence. Very impressive.
From there on, it’s gets less interesting. Although a particular character, the Sad Saint of the Docks area showed potential. Although his story didn’t go anywhere in my own playthrough. Although it might be the weak writing, because sometimes I noticed the game feels a particular side story is complete but I am left with a feeling of unsatisfaction.
The game is certainly not short of characters, unfortunately it’s quantity over quality with this one.
I am not the sort of player who is too interested in gameplay mechanics because what keeps me playing is the story and the characters. Even though gameplay probably the whole point of playing a game, with Vampyr, I felt it was adequate enough to keep me going. I always had fun throughout whenever a fight happened. Even though most people say it’s not great, for a play like me it was fun and engaging. It does stop being a challenge fairly early on if you decide to suck everyone’s blood like I did.
The main story is somewhat a cliche but being a part of this world is so addictive, I found myself drawn to playing it quite a lot often than most of the other games I played.
The music feels raw, right from the heart, honest. Just like most of the game does. With it’s little flaws here and there, it becomes charming.
I would love to see an improved sequel with completely different characters. Vampyr, is an impressive little gem.
«Can’t stop playing»