The days of vampires dominating mainstream media are long gone (remember Twilight?), but Dontnod Entertainment is dragging the bloodthirsty creatures of the night back into the light with action-adventure game Vampyr.
Set in grey and gloomy 1917 Edwardian England, the country has been brought to its knees by the conclusion of the First world war and Spanish flu epidemic. Jonathan Reid, a doctor-turned-war medic, finds himself resurrected as a vampire in a mass grave.
Reid is forced to adapt to his new identity as and must decide where his loyalties lie - to uphold the Hipp oath as a physician to heal and never do harm on to humans - or to give in to his newfound bestial desires and transform the streets of London into his hunting grounds. Meanwhile, he must also contend with hostile vampiric factions and a secret society of vampire hunters.
The game teases you with the prize of spectacular unlockable abilities such as blood-kinesis, teleportation, and beast form - at the heavy price of lives. But a peaceful path to beating the game is also possible as Reid can also gain EXP by killing non-human enemies and completing missions. However, the ease of simply slaying an unsuspecting citizen is a siren’s song to an impatient player.
The crux of the matter is that to maximise EXP gains, Reid must build friendships and learn about the lives and backstories of each citizen, but this makes deciding to devour your friends even more heart-wrenching.
This is Vampyr’s high point- every unique character in the game is named, with voices, backstories, dialogue trees, and friend/enemy relationships and interactions with other characters. Your actions toward one character will ripple through other characters’ dialogue, actions, and the district’s infrastructure. For example, consuming a character may cause said character’s friends to become vampire hunters and increase their presence within their district.
While the concept and NPC interaction is fantastic, everything else falls short. The game starts off extremely strong, almost immediately kicking into high-energy fights with fantastic supernatural powers, but the combat quickly grows tedious because of the repetitive bullet-sponge enemies and locations.
The graphics are somewhat outdated but not horrendous. The user interface and subtitles of the game are clunky, and it is extremely easy to click a wrong button or accidentally skip dialogue due to the way UI elements overlap between scenes. The story starts with intrigue of London’s vampire plague, but later put too much focus on boring characters rather than London’s compelling supernatural societies and mythological celestial beings.
Overall, Vampyr boasts fantastic lore concepts and great gameplay ideas, but never realises its full potential. Hopefully, a sequel can explore the more interesting aspects of the world in the near future.