Vampyr Reviews

Official Site Review

By Ethan Anderson, 1 year ago
These days, it is not often that you are able to play through a game as a vampire. It's even less common for you to be able to pick and choose who you feed on. These facts alone may cause DONTNOD’s action-RPG Vampyr to pique the interest of many. If simply becoming a vampire doesn’t interest you, the game’s world just might. The setting is 1918 London, and the city is currently being ravaged by the Spanish Flu while dangerous supernatural creatures roam the streets at night. Vampyr succeeds in taking this setting and creating a grim world full of intriguing storylines. There are a few annoyances that can cause frustration in terms of both gameplay and plot, but they aren't flagrant enough to severely detract from the game's positives.


In Vampyr, you assume the role of a doctor named Jonathan Reid who has just returned home from serving as a field medic in World War I. He returns to a London that is very different from how he remembers it because of the Spanish Flu. The epidemic has created the need for quarantine zones, and law enforcement has completely abandoned certain sections of the city, leaving citizens to fend for themselves as the death toll rises. This dark atmosphere is presented in a believable way that makes it feel as though London truly is on the brink of collapse.

The prologue begins with Reid waking in a mass grave and stumbling towards his first kill as a vampire. This kill drives the story for a time, as Reid aims to find out what exactly he has become and who is responsible for his sudden transformation. The player knows about just as much as Reid does regarding his situation, which works in the game’s favour. As someone who does not initially believe in the supernatural, he will often ask sensible questions or say things that the player may already be thinking. As you progress, you will learn more and more about this version of London and the vampire lore that it hosts.

Speaking to the various citizens located throughout the city is not only the best way to learn more about what is happening in the four districts, but also the most fascinating. Many of the conversations with NPCs are completely optional, but the gathering of information from their storylines and side quests can lead to some of the best content in the game. Interacting with the citizens of London is actually beneficial on top of being interesting because these interactions play into a compelling gameplay mechanic.

Vampyr’s side stories and minor characters form somewhat of a puzzle in each district, and it is a pleasure to put the pieces together as you find links between citizens that you could have never guessed. The main plot is also a puzzle to some extent, and it stays interesting right up until a certain point. The mystery surrounding Reid’s “Maker” and the nature of the epidemic are engaging plot points, but sadly, the narrative suffers greatly in its final moments by becoming far too convoluted. Many of the main narrative threads end up being resolved through ridiculous amounts of exposition that come all at once, instead of being placed at various points throughout the story. It's all tell, no show, after many hours of much better storytelling.


As a vampire, you are at your strongest when you feed on the blood of those around you, and Vampyr gives you the choice to do just that. You are able to feed on almost every single one of the named NPCs, of which there are plenty. Feeding on them gives you an experience boost, allowing you to level up quickly. You are granted more experience for feeding on the people that know best, and you can learn more about them through eavesdropping, spying, finding hints, and choosing the right dialogue options in conversations. The Londoners will often speak freely about one another, especially if they are in the same social circles. Choose your words carefully though, because some hints and dialogue trees can become permanently lost depending on what you choose to say in certain conversations.

Feeding on the innocent can make the game much easier, but your actions come with tangible consequences. Each district has a health meter that ranges from “hostile” to “sanitised.” Districts will become more and more hostile with each life you take, which can result in side quests being lost, citizens disappearing, and more enemies spawning. Conversely, merchant prices go down and far fewer enemies spawn in sanitised areas. These ramifications make choices feel like they actually matter, as the loss of even one life will affect others in the same social circle and district of the deceased. This is doubly true for the four most important citizens, or “pillars,” of each area who are well known by almost every other person in their respective districts.

Even though Reid is a newly-created vampire, he is still, first and foremost, a doctor. Throughout the game, Reid will be actively trying to understand and eliminate the epidemic. Whether you choose to feed on human blood or not, you will also need to check up on the civilians, and administer medicine to the populace if you want to keep the districts healthy. Drinking the blood of a sick person will provide fewer experience points, and worse still, the sick can die if left untreated over the course of several nights. Every time that you spend your points to upgrade Reid’s abilities, a night will pass. This is when you will see the consequences of your actions of the previous night, as the district health meters raise or lower, sickness spreads among civilians, and the results of major plot choices become apparent. This gameplay mechanic involving the health of the districts as a whole is well thought out. It made me feel even more invested in the characters and fear for their safety.


While the game’s NPC storylines and district management are high points, Vampyr does not come without a few lows. One of the weaker aspects of the game is its combat. It doesn't stand out, but it isn’t so bad either. Reid has access to a number of vampiric abilities along with numerous close-range weapons and firearms. Physical attacks cost stamina while vampire abilities cost blood. Despite a good selection of moves that you can choose from, it is not necessary to select more than just a handful of them. The late-game enemy variety is appreciated, though, as you may run into several types of vampire hunters as well as other kinds of hostile vampires. Unfortunately, in my case, the combat boiled down to using the same strategy on almost every enemy that I encountered. By the end of the game, I was attempting to avoid any and all fights wherever possible because of the repetitive nature of the combat.

Even without the monotonous fights, running from place to place becomes a chore once you have access to the full map. This is due to the lack of a mini-map, seemingly random loading screens, and the complete absence of a fast travel system. The open world isn’t massive, but it is large enough to warrant a mini-map to enable easier navigation. When you are finally able to memorise which paths to take, the game will stop you frequently with loading screens that pop up should you run through an area too quickly. While those screens occur in random locations and don’t last too long, the ones that are used as “main” loading screens last far longer. These long loads occur after every death, and just before entering certain locations. With that being said, the loading screens would be easily forgiven if fast travel were available. There are safe houses littered throughout the map, so it comes as a surprise that the feature was left out completely.


Vampyr contains a total of 28 achievements that shouldn’t be too difficult to unlock. Many of them are obtained through story progression, while the most time-consuming ones are rewarded for collecting all of the weapons and collectibles in the game. Some achievements can be missed completely if the wrong choices are made, so a second playthrough may be necessary for some.

Check out our Best Xbox One RPGs Available in 2019 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

Vampyr turns you into a supernatural being and gives you all of the potential influence and impact that you would expect to come with such a transformation. Reid is a blood-sucking vampire among humans, and you often feel in control of the fates of those around you. You are given the freedom to choose who lives and who dies, and the game is able to make choices feel as though they have significant consequences. The gameplay inconveniences are easier to overlook than the rush of endgame exposition, but both of these issues are slightly outweighed by the narrative hits, which come along more frequently than the game’s misses.
3.5 / 5
Vampyr
Positives
  • Narrative is compelling overall, but even more so when following individual NPC storylines
  • Choices have real, tangible consequences
  • Managing district health is an engaging mechanic
  • Plague-ridden London makes for a fascinating setting
Negatives
  • Main plot virtually falls apart at the very end as storytelling worsens
  • Combat becomes more of a chore as the game progresses
  • Navigation is hindered by constant loading screens and lack of a mini map
Ethics Statement
This reviewer spent about 50 hours attempting to cure all of the diseased in London. 22 out of 28 achievements were obtained while resisting the temptation of human blood. A download code was provided for the purpose of this review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
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