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May 2, 2016

Vampyr - Preview

It’s still pronounced ‘vampire’
Hardship prevails in Vampyr’s vision of London, Britain struggling to find the resources required
to maintain the city following the end of World War One.

For a studio that has released only two games, Dontnod’s reputation is unusually high. Last year’s  Life Is Strange proved that the Parisian team has the talent to create intrigue through a reliance on writing over action and built on the obvious potential demonstrated through its debut Remember Me.  With great reputation, comes great responsibility, however. Let down your fans and you’ll eventually have none. Its latest project, Vampyr, is the first in which lofty standards are expected rather than hoped for.
London, 1918. The city struggles to maintain its health and sanity following the end of World War One. Those that can’t, try to look after themselves, not least the families of soldiers returning or dead, live in desperate poverty and cling only to hope to get by. In this environment the vampire flourishes, feeding on those that the authorities can’t protect.

You play Jonathan Reid, a military veteran that has been forcibly turned into a vampire through events that are at this point unknown. A morally steadfast man (while human), Reid is torn between leading a just life and satisfying his biological need for human blood. How he acts is down to you, with your decisions – we’re promised – working to influence the fate of London as a whole. The more blood you consume the more powers you can unlock and use, although you pay for it by sending the boroughs you feed from into prisons of fear and dismay. Kill too many people in the Whitechapel district, for instance, and those there might even begin to murder one another out of a fresh suspicion that warps their view of how to protect themselves and their families. Don’t kill and peace is easier to introduce, but your strength will suffer and your combat ability will weaken.

Admittedly, we’ve seen only a small slice of what looks to be a significant world. However, at this point, combat is without question the weakest element. A thirdperson system asks you to rely on a mixture of combos and special powers to dispatch of vigilante vampire hunters and groups of
what Dontnod is calling ‘lesser vampires’. Given the intrigue generated through the decisions and moral ambiguities that you must personally wrangle with as a vampire with a conscience, the existence of such a predictable and derivative approach to action is disappointing.

We’ve seen this kind of combat in third-person games before, too often, and Vampyr looks as though it’s doing nothing to progress our knowledge or appreciation of it. If Dontnod is going to retain its hard earned reputation then all areas of all future releases are going to have to impress.

Format: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Origin: France
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Dontnod
Release: 2017
Players: 1


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