Vampyr Hands-off Preview: Dontnod Brings Morality to Bloodsuckers
Vampires have been haunting the minds of humans for years thanks to the plethora of pop culture works and historical fiction that has been created for them in our various cultures. They, like werewolves and zombies are the Kings of monsters, so anyone on this Earth will be able to tell you about their bloodsucking habits. Dontnod, the development studio behind Life is Strange, hopes to change how vampires are portrayed–in gaming at least–with its latest title, Vampyr. While at E3 this past June I had the pleasure of sitting in on a hands-off demo of the game, and after watching a mission play out I can say that fans of vampires and monsters should be pleased with the title Dontnod is producing.
Vampyr is a third person action-RPG set in post WWI London that features a main character who once was a doctor, but has now been transformed into a vampire thanks to his medical work on the battlefield. Unfortunately for this doctor, who is named Jonathan, his new life requires him to constantly feed on the blood of living things, so he’s under a great amount of stress to balance his former self with his new abilities and the dark desires they have instilled in him. It’s up to the player to choose how far Jonathan will allow himself to succumb to his blood lust needs, because his powers will grow the more he kills, but he’ll also become more of a monster by chipping away at his humanity.
It’s an interesting dynamic for a vampire, and one that is somewhat reminiscent of Brad Pitt’s character in Interview with a Vampire. Also, due to him being a doctor, Jonathan is constantly approaching his infection from a scientific standpoint, which fuels the choices players can choose from when he’s presented with moral-based dialogue decisions. I got to see the whole morality side of the game play out in the demo, and the decisions are pretty black and white when it comes to how they’ll impact him, but digging them out of a conversation with a character isn’t always a simple task.
For example, being a vampire he needs to feed on blood, there is no substitute, so he scanned a NPC (all NPCs will have unique identities in the game) to find out his blood quality and his character. After the scan it was revealed that his blood was satisfactory, but he was a bad person, so as the player you can then choose to suck him dry, or probe him for more information using some sort Jedi-style vampire mind trick. Upon mesmerizing him it’s revealed that his son is in bad shape and that he’s had some issues trying to help him, because after all London is experiencing a major outbreak of the Spanish Flu, so the decision gets a bit more grey after you learn about his family and past. The player decided to leave him be after gaining information relevant to his quest in finding a cure for his vampirism, because after all he is a man of science and believes his condition can be cured, so he shied away from murder in this case.
The whole vampire cure plot thread directly plays into the game’s morality system through scenarios like above, which could have gone in a different direction if Jonathan killed the man to gain power, but then he would have lost out on some knowledge for his main goal of curing his affliction. In addition to seeking a cure Jonathan must also protect himself from a secret society of vampire hunters, who are seeking out his kind and a mutated form of the disease, which he believes to be the missing link for his fix. Luckily he has a variety of melee based attacks, gun attacks, and of course a few supernatural abilities such as being able to dash from one area to the next like Nightcrawler to help him battle these foes. Now if you want to beef up Jonathan’s powers you’ll have to live on the edge and embrace the dark side since they’re all dependent on his feedings and gaining more power from them, so again everything about Vampyr’s gameplay revolves around morality.
Based on what I saw of Vampyr at E3 I can say that I’m intrigued to learn more about its main character and world, plus I want some hands-on time with it. I found its morality system and dialogue choices to be pretty deep and fleshed out, and they will make you think and potentially feel a bit uncomfortable. The mystery surrounding the vampire disease and how Jonathan was infected, as well as the secret society of vampire hunters and the mutated vampires potentially holding the key to his cure definitely sucked me in, so I also have high hopes for its narrative. Gameplay wise it looked very similar to other third person action-RPGs, but appeared to be very fluid and a bit strategic in its combat. The game also looks beautiful, even in a pre-alpha state, so it’ll definitely be even more polished once the game releases sometime in 2017 for the Xbox One, PC, and PS4. Either way this is definitely a dark video game worth following, so stay tuned for more updates on Vampyr as they’re released.
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