I’ve had to the pleasure to check out Dontnod’s progress on its upcoming action-RPG Vampyr at consecutive E3 shows, and this year the developers showed off a new alpha build demo in a hands-off presentation. Based on what was shown I feel like solid progress has been made on the title since its E3 showing in 2016, so I have full confidence it’ll be ready to go this November for PC, Xbox One, and PS4.
If you’re unfamiliar with Vampyr it’s an action-RPG set in 1918 London just after WWI. The Spanish Flu epidemic is in full swing as you take control of a doctor named Jonathan, who also happens to be a newly turned vampire. It’s up to you as the player to go about exploring the game world as Jonathan and either embracing his lust for blood, or trying to curb it with less violent approaches to the NPCs he meets during his investigations. Dialogue choices play key roles in how you shape Jonathan and his otherworldly powers, so conversations are much more impactful than in other RPGs, even with just random characters who you wouldn’t bat an eye at in other titles. Of course combat and exploration also play key roles in Vampyr with the former featuring the use of X-Men-like powers and melee based attacks, while the latter offers open approaches to each mission and Jonathan’s own progression.
In the E3 demo I saw this year we got to see a full mission play out that was given to Jonathan from Dr. Swansea, who works at a safe house type of hospital that doesn’t allow any sort of shenanigans to take place on its grounds. The reason for this is that the Doc knows Jonathan is a vampire, but he also works with a group who specializes in hunting down vampires, so things get tense depending on who is in the good Doctor’s office at any point in time. Anyway, Jonathan was tasked with tracking down a missing patient who more than likely is a vampire, or was taken by one, so the demo moved on to show off the game’s combat and exploration options.
In regards to exploration in Vampyr each mission will have multiple paths you can take to complete them. This plays into the game’s heavy reliance on the importance of every choice you make. Being a vampire, Jonathan has to consume blood, but also being a former Doctor, he has qualms with just killing someone without fully understanding who they are, and the type of XP gain they can yield based on their blood quality. While killing through combat can earn you XP, taking citizens for a meal yield much more, so you’re constantly balancing becoming a full on monster, or maintaining some level of humanity.
In our example Jonathan ultimately had to decide on killing a murderer, or his mother, which he came to after many branching paths of the quest were completed. On one hand killing a murderer doesn’t sound like such a bad thing, but this shady character had a low blood quality, so the choice wasn’t clear cut. Upon further investigations it was revealed that the murderer’s mother had a high blood quality, but her only crime was not reporting her son’s thirst for killing. You as the player must decide what is more important — killing the innocent mother for more XP, or killing the murderer for less — but at a reduced cost of your own humanity. This little social experiment makes up a large part of Vampyr’s gameplay, so I was compelled to see how much freedom players will have when it comes to powering up Jonathan and completing missions.
We also got to see plenty of combat take place, which looked very deliberate and strategic versus random button mashing. Jonathan has melee attacks, which play out like most third-person action titles, but he also has various vampire abilities you can equip to ramp up the action and devastation. I saw him pull off a multiple hit attack using a quick teleportation skill that resembled the abilities of Marvel’s Nightcrawler. Jonathan can also shadow dodge during combat, and of course use more vampire abilities like swarming an enemy with a sphere of deadly blood.
When it comes down to it the combat gameplay in Vampyr will require a solid mix of skill, and alternating between melee and ability-based attacks, so it’s much more strategic than chaotic. We got to see a mini-boss battle play out (main boss battles will exist too), and the dev playing the demo used a mix of powers and melee to take him out, so I don’t want to say that Vampyr will have a Souls-ish approach to brutal gameplay, but at least for its bosses players will have to employ patience and strategy over button mashing and praying.
Vampyr is set to ship this November for PC, PS4, and Xbox One, and after two years of experiencing E3 demos for it, I’m excited for its launch. If you’re into historical games, vampires, choices with meaning, branching path gameplay, and strategic combat, then this is a title I recommend you keep an eye on as it moves into its final phases for launch.
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