Vampyr is an action rpg that plays with the concepts of vampirism and its morphology, and brings about an entire mythos with it. Throughout the game, you’re trying to come to grips with becoming a vampire, while trying to maintain a cover, and help save the city of London from a new epidemic as a doctor. The irony hits you right from the beginning: the greatest blood transfusion specialist in London, if not the world, now requires blood to remain sated. The entire game revolves around this concept, with one key word and pillar of the plot being blood.
Blood has been the common sustenance of vampires in the fictional plains for centuries, all the way down to the first vampire ever conceived: Dracula. But what if blood was more than a mere food for the vampire?
Vampyr takes this concept and runs away with it, giving birth to a slew of new combat abilities, vampire races, and even an experience (exp) system. The first thing the game shows you is Autophagy, which is your main ability for healing. Think of it as a healing pot, it consumes your Blood Meter and fills a small portion of your hp, and a slight regeneration factor for a second or so. This is just the first skill that you unlock in the game.
The gameplay also gives you a melee and stun option, as well as ranged weapons, the first being a revolver. The combat itself is rather repetitive and average, but it gets the job done. Where it really shines is the spectacular vampiric abilities that I mentioned before.
Throughout the game, as you level up, you’ll acquire new vampire abilities. Some are close range and primal, while others give a rather intimidating spectacle as you manipulate blood and the shadows around people with devastating effects.
This together with certain weapon modifiers gives you the feeling of being absolutely powerful, even if you’re fighting enemies that are several levels higher than you, which if you play the game the way I did, you will. A lot. But the game gives you a euphoric feeling of accomplishment in almost every encounter that you have, human or otherwise.
There are a total of five bosses, each having their own distinct styles and unique abilities. The first is your first common enemy that is larger than your typical vampire or human, which lets out a roar to let you know it’s coming in for a bite to eat. It looks more akin to a werewolf than a vampire, however the narrative alludes to that not being the case.
The storytelling and plot of this game is phenomenal, and in my opinion rivals games such as The Last of Us or God of War’s soft reboot, which of course can be debated.
The game opens up with Dr. Reid crawling out of a mass grave, dazed and confused as to where he is, blinded by pure starvation to the point where he can’t even recognize his first victim, of which he drains completely of blood within seconds. The mere mortal didn’t even look human in his blind hunger, only an amalgamation of the cardiovascular system, illuminated bright red (For those who don’t know, cardiovascular refers to the heart and major veins that run through the body).
Upon returning to normal from his blood frenzy, he discovers that none other than his sister was his first meal. This immediately causes grief within Jonathan, and denies that she is dying, attempting to save her life to no avail.
The game right out the gate hammers the concept of grim dark and melancholy, and provides tension in the very next instance by having vampire hunters chase him down. This is the area that you begin to learn the gameplay. Yes, this is just the beginning of the game!
The game provides mystery and melancholy throughout the entire play-through, with bits of combat as injections of tension. You also uncover many different things about vampirism, such as just how immortal you are as one, barring gameplay.
There are numerous collectibles throughout the game that detail the morphology of up to three (as far as I’m aware, not counting Ichors because there are only two) different vampire races: The Ekon, your standard undead leech that feeds on blood to sustain themselves, of which even feeding is not necessary, just craved; the Skal, a feral orphan that only goes off their base instincts and feeds on flesh as well as blood; and the Vulkod, which can either be the vampiric equivalent to the Hulk, or the werewolf of the universe, depending on where you fight them.
But this is a role-playing game, right? Where’s the friendlies? Well, there are five total districts, including the cemetery (which does not have a rating level, apparently), and each house at least eight civilians in each. Every civilian you come across is incredibly varied, between the kindhearted souls, to the traumatised war veterans, healthy or otherwise, to downright nasty individuals who you would be more than glad to relieve of their life. There are even some wishing to not live, which displays the current situation in a light that already was grim even worse.
What’s even more commendable about the game is you can control who lives, and who dies in these districts. In fact, the game encourages you to take innocent lives, as it’s the fastest way to level up in the game and can net you thousands of exp. I put this here in the story/plot area because it ties so well thematically to the conflict of being a vampire, do you refuse to take a soul even if they are heartless bastards, or do you embrace your heritage, and use your cattle to your advantage? Take heed, for every district has a certain level of stability. Once you cross a certain threshold, there is no fixing it, and it will no longer be a safe hub for you to mingle with society.
Alright, so I saved this for last to show that the game has great potential, in fact it more than impressed me in multiple different places. But, every game has their flaws, and this one has some near game-breaking ones.
For starters, the game’s stability… It’s garbage. I’ve had three hard crashes total, and the game has frozen on me numerous times for an inordinate amount of time, causing me to think it was about to crash. This could possibly been due to my PlayStation having multiple games and other media on it already, but the point stands that the game has obviously been poorly optimized for how big it is.
There is also some glaring issues with the combat system and responsiveness. There were multiple occasions where I would attempt to switch my target, and nothing would happen, or I would dodge and still get hit or take damage (as in, my character would do the animation to dodge, and the effect would start, but the character just…. doesn’t move. Just sits there for no reason). This wouldn’t be a massive problem if the game didn’t like to pit you against multiple enemies more times than not, forcing you to take it slower than what the game encourages, which saps the fun out of the experience sometimes.
Also, if you were to strip away all the powers and such, the combat would be extremely lackluster. There were times where I could just spam an enemy in a corner until it died, tanking damage. Of course, it’s also inconsistent in this regard, as there are some enemies that can give you a run for your money. But one of the biggest glaring flaws of the game has to be by far the level balancing.
There was a time where I had fought enemies ten levels higher than me, making it impossible to go against them because they could three-shot me, and it took a hundred hits just to kill them. It’s not to the level of Assassin’s Creed Origins, where just three levels higher than you can be a major, daunting task, but in a game where your decisions can sometimes lead you to be underpowered to a degree, especially if you don’t kill anyone (I killed two or three people total, half because they were cruel and disgusting people, and half because I had no choice in the late game, it was either that or fight a level 35 Ekon as a level 25 and risk dying in three hits), this kind of balancing issue should not happen.
Also, if you feel like running past all the enemies (which maybe even in early game, you might start doing just to get to the quest you need to do), you will run into a lot of loading screens. Seriously. There were times where I would run past a group of enemies, hit a loading screen, then continue on maybe fifty feet before hitting another loading screen. The game does not load the surrounding areas fast enough for it to keep up with you, so you will run into these loading screens a lot more than you will encounter places to actually enter in the game. It is downright infuriating at times. It breaks the immersion, the pacing of the game, and overall, the experience is lowered because of it.
Overall, the game was incredibly fun, I had a blast exploring the different nooks and crannies throughout the different areas and segments, just to see what I could find, and the narrative hooked me in from the moment I hit New Game. And, you can play detective yourself and possibly even find out how the epidemic started before the game even gives the big reveal! I don’t use the number scale generally, so I’ll go ahead and say it is a definite buy in my book, as long as you can get passed the glaring issues that the game has, you’ll love every second of it.