Review: Vampyr

So many vampire jokes. It would be easy to riddle this review with them, but I shall try and rise above it. Just take a breath. One-ah ah ah, two- ah ah ah…

Anyway. Vampyr is both spelled weird and a vampire game. You play a combat medic in 1918 London who was made into a vampire whilst trying to visit your sick mother. Upon waking up in a mass grave, you see your sister, and eat her.

Horrified, it becomes your mission to find who did this to you, and extract revenge on them. Bad news for you though is that the citizens of London are currently in conflict between a society of vampires who want to increase their power, and a band of vampire hunters. You don’t really want to be a vampire, but also don’t want to be hunted, so you’re in a quandary.

You’d think from the makers of Life is Strange, that this would be a heavily story-driven fare. It is, but there’s also a large combat element. Sadly, the combat is bad. But before we get to that, let’s address the good. There’s a semi-open world which you explore through chapters, and earn XP for levelling up by eating quality people. By that, I mean the more you find out about them, the better quality their blood is, so you get a better reward for drinking their blood. The challenge here is the more you find out about them, the more you’ll get to know them and spend time in dialogue with them – thus, it’s harder to eat them.

This complex system really becomes apparent as you have to make a call between levelling up and leaving people alone. You also need to decide if you kill people who you think may deserve it, but could impact the story progression (and in turn, one of several endings). Several themes are played out over the game – how do you adhere to your hippocratic oath as a doctor, yet take lives as a vampire? Whether you kill anybody, or everybody plays out in the story.

Getting to that point is time consuming. There is a lot of dialogue. A lot. Which for a story game isn’t too bad a thing – the voice acting is mostly decent. Teasing out information from people is simply selecting the right questions from the multiple dialogues. There is no upgrade tree here for conversational skills, instead the upgrade tree is reserved for the fighting.

There is quite a bit of fighting. And it’s not good. Basic lock on, dodging and attacking are about it, but variety comes in the form of vampire powers or hitting people with stakes (which is a bit weird given you’re the vampire but whatever). It feels janky and basic, you can pretty much button bash your way through it. Baddies have weaknesses to a certain type of attack (be it man punches, vampire claw strikes or stake stabs) which you can see with your vampire vision.

The upgrade tree increases these various elements. You can empower your bite which gets your more blood to allow you to use more vampire powers for example. It’s quite detailed too, which is a shame since it’s the most customisation you can do in the game, and it’s the worst part. Sadly, given the prominence of combat in the game, it gives you an overall feeling of a budgety vibe, and a desire to play a third-person action game that has better combat.

Let’s not end on a low – the music is fantastic. Not even just really good, it’s utterly brilliant. It sets the scene well, it feels high quality and if I were so bold, I’d suggest a larger part of the budget was spent on this which took away from other parts.

Nonetheless, there aren’t many vampire games. Vampyr tries to do something different, and if you can look past the combat there’s a decent story and player interaction mechanic here. It’s just a shame the combat is so, well, it’s just a shame.

Reviewed on PS4

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