A compelling story and premise bogged down by some bad design decisions
We were really hoping Vampyr would be a spiritual successor to Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, the bloodthirsty Deus Ex with a lot of freedom in gameplay and actions. Instead it’s actually closer to earlier Vampire: The Masquerade game Redemption, which had a fun story but didn’t give you much freedom with regards to combat.
Vampyr is an action-RPG with some freedom in how you upgrade, but it’s also very focused on its Dark Souls-like combat. Don’t expect to be able to talk down a boss, or even just other vampires - if you prefer RPGs where you can choose not to fight, look elsewhere.
Set in 1918, during the height of World War One as London is ravaged by the Spanish Flu epidemic, Dr Jonathan Reid emerges from a pit of bodies as a new vampire. He has to come to terms with his new situation, evade the vampire hunters of the Guards of Priwen, and trying to stop the epidemic sweeping London.
The story is actually incredibly fun. Reid manages to be both compassionate and menacing, and you feel for his plight even when he’s ripping out throats. The other characters around him have their own agendas, and Dontnod have clearly worked hard to give every non-combat NPC in the game a backstory with their own wants and needs.
It’s just a shame that you don’t really have any freedom regarding the storytelling. Events happen with little intervention from the player, you can’t decline main missions or make them go another way. Which makes it all the more shocking when you suddenly do get a choice, such as to spare a major character or turn them into a vampire. Dialogue options are good too, and there are a number of side missions. To be honest, if Dontnod had made Vampyr as a Life Is Strange-style adventure we probably would’ve been a lot happier, and they could’ve focused on branching the story out more.
Instead we’re stuck with a game where you have loads of interesting conversations that don’t really go anywhere, and then you’re forced out into the London streets to have a Souls-y combat encounter every few minutes, with the same few enemies popping up time and time again. Once you’ve got used to it and have a selection of entertaining vampire powers to play with then the combat isn’t too bad, but it often gets in the way and certainly isn’t as rewarding as it should be - either in fun or XP. All you can do with XP is buy better combat powers, there’s no option to upgrade Charisma or do lockpicking or anything. Vampyr is an action game, deal with it.
The streets of London look gorgeous, but sadly they’re pretty badly designed. They’re maze-like, have plenty of dead-ends or areas with nothing of interest, and honestly aren’t that fun to explore. There a very few actual locations to visit, and no reason to explore other than to ‘Use’ every single glowing cabinet or bin for pointless crafting resources. There’s no Fast Travel or minimap either, which makes things even more frustrating. Sometimes you’ll meet a citizen in distress you can save (and give you no reward whatsoever) or some interesting piece of lore, but in honesty London is a very dull and annoying place - and it is in Vampyr too.
Performance & Graphics
OS: Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (64-bit versions only)
Our system is an AMD FX-8300 Six-Core Processor, 16 Gb RAM, Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti 4Gb, and Windows 10 64-Bit, and we could run Vampyr at full settings with all effects turned on - and it looks gorgeous. Whatever complaints we have about London’s design falls away when you see the wonderful fog effects, the wet streets, the detail everywhere. The only exception are the character models, which are weirdly doll-like and lacking in detail, and there’s no dismemberment in combat either which is an odd thing not to have.
The worst thing about Vampyr though is, by far, the menus. They’re awful and nearly impossible to keep track of. The character menu has multiple tabs, and some of those have tabs within tabs. Quests and Inventory are scattered over multiple pages, and you can’t equip items from your main inventory page. And despite all these pages, there is no Powers menu. The only time you can see the Powers menu is when you’re upgrading them at hideouts.
Worse, if you’re playing on gamepad you’re forced to use a mouse pointer to select things - but if you play on mouse/keyboard combat is more cumbersome. The menus are ridiculous, utterly uninitiative, and way too complicated. They need to be thrown out and completely reworked, starting with having ‘Equip’ and ‘Inventory’ on the same page.
Vampyr is an action RPG which probably would’ve done better if the ‘action’ part was left out. The story is fun, the characters all feel like real people, and the decisions on which innocent to devour are perfectly weighty. Unfortunately the player doesn’t have enough say in where that story goes to make it truly satisfying. The world itself is gorgeous and dripping with atmosphere, but its design is maze-like and is both boring and frustrating to explore. There’s far too much focus on combat, which is Dark Souls-like but isn’t as fun.
Vampyr is by no means a bad game. We never gave up on it, and the compelling story and characters drove us on, and nothing about it is truly awful - apart from the menus. It’s simply not as good as it could have been, which is a real shame considering how good some of its ideas are. You may well enjoy it, but we suspect you’ll be left hungry for more satisfying fare.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Luring your first innocent victim to their demise, and then immediately regretting it.
Characters all feel believable and you always want to know more about them.
Story is a lot of fun with a number of neat ideas.
London is gorgeous, and very atmospheric.
Too much of the game is focused around the combat, which isn’t that fun.
The level design is confusing and full of dead-ends, with a terrible map. Not at all fun to explore.