Victor Vran’s identity is a mystery in more ways than one. The titular character masks his past with a calm, collected sheen, but don’t be fooled. He’s got his demons like everyone else, both in-game and out.
There’s one demon that immediately makes itself apparent: Victor Vran is voiced by Doug Cockle. If the name sounds familiar, it’s probably because he’s the voice behind Geralt from The Witcher series. This is far from a bad thing, but even the dialogue carries the same atmosphere and tone as The Witcher 3. Geralt’s words pour from Victor’s mouth at every turn. While this doesn’t negatively impact the immediate game experience, it does remove an opportunity for Victor to better distinguish himself (and his world) from its parallels to other games.
Victor is a demon hunter searching for a friend while defending humanity from a demonic onslaught. It’s not the most original foundation, but Victor Vran twists the conventions set by other games cut from the same isometric cloth. You have full control over the camera, which adds another layer to the game’s perspective. This allows you to fully explore around would-be visual obstructions, and spotting the environmental secrets hidden within each map is as time-consuming as it is rewarding.
Victor Vran is quick to introduce the ability to wall jump, allowing you to jump off a vertical surface twice before falling back down. If you find a nice spot and line it up just right, you can platform your way upwards to find various rooftop areas, secret chests, rare enemies–who knows what lies await up there.
Looking down at the streets from where you came is a humbling sight. Not only does the design offer a new perspective, it provides a grander sense of scale. But depth is not what Victor Vran will be remembered for.
In fact, in the realm of customization, Victor Vran sacrifices a lot of its depth in order to support its reliably responsive combat. Changeable outfits replace the typical slot-based equipment system. Demon powers—abilities Victor possesses for unknown reasons—can be used together to create some devastating and unique combinations. Destiny Cards grant the biggest opportunity for customization, allowing you to adjust weapon-based damage, defenses, or even adding new, mostly passive effects to the abilities you’re using. Weapon choice, however, has the biggest impact on tailoring gameplay to your liking.
You can only have two weapons equipped, but each weapon type comes with a unique set of three abilities. Two-handed hammers, mortars, rapiers, scythes, swords, shotguns, magic tomes—shit, even guitars—they’re all here. Because each weapon constitutes half of your available abilities, experimenting with different combinations becomes pretty engaging. Using a mortar to jump into the fray to cause a firey splash of damage is cool and all, but switching to your rapier immediately afterward to dash through enemies to get back to safety is what makes it feel like a satisfying tactic. The game is at its best when you’re in the thick of battle.
Most fights become (almost too) frenetic within a matter of seconds, and, while incredibly powerful, Victor’s visually lackluster demon powers further smothers each battle scenario with a blur of death. The game’s narrative presentation doesn’t help matters, either. A large amount of story and character development happens during combat thanks to the mysterious Voice who narrates everything “Vicky” does. Voice’s pseudonym alone is cheeky, but his pet name for Victor reveals a lighthearted side of Victor Vran otherwise left untouched. If you can successfully process dialogue while dodging exploding spiders, skeleton snipers, and charging wraiths—then murdering them all—you’ll find Victor Vran doesn’t take itself as seriously as it lets on.
Fortunately, most important story beats can be reread in the main menu’s Codex. Unfortunately, this is also the case for pretty much every detail about how this game operates. Want to know what a weapon does? Go to the Codex. What does this status ailment icon mean? To the Codex. What’s the deal with all these fucking spiders? Read about their history in the Codex.
Some of these details are a recreational dive into Victor Vran‘s world. But a lot of information is pretty important to know, and the game does little to nothing to ensure you know it. It’s not a big deal at first, but things get overwhelming once you unlock the Transmutation feature. Whether it’s gambling destiny cards, demon powers, or weapons you’ve collected in hopes of receiving one of better quality, or combining items of a certain type or rarity to make a specific item stronger, it’s a lot to take in. It’s not overcomplicated, but the amount of text is overwhelming enough to consider ignoring the feature—especially since you’ll do just fine without it.
Victor isn’t a weak man. With the right combination that suits your playstyle, none of the evil standing before you stands a chance. Looking for more of a challenge? Turn to the hexes. Victor Vran has five individual hexes that, when activated, grant benefits (like increased experience gain) for playing on a higher, customizable difficulty. One hex causes Victor to periodically lose health. Another grants enemies increased armor and health regeneration. These do well enough on their own to provide an adjustable challenge, but none of them are completely game changing. The game presents five challenges for each map you stumble upon, though, and many of them require certain hexes to be active in order to reap the reward.
It’s not that Victor Vran lacks identity—the game brings a few refreshing ideas to the table—but the first impression is lasting. Features like wall jumping and destiny cards keep it out of the realm of banality, but it all feels built on a timeworn foundation of established franchises. If the game’s combat doesn’t capture your attention, you may have a hard time remembering Vicky’s journey.
Oh, and one more thing: Victor Vran‘s inventory management is unnecessarily complicated. Directional buttons move items from one slot to another, while the analog stick is what allows you to highlight different items. It all makes sense in a weird way once you get used to it, but it’s troublesome. Little UI quirks like this are everywhere. I tried to avoid managing my inventory by gambling away everything I wasn’t using with Transmutation, but doing so only served to take time away from what this game does best: slaying demons.
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