In Dontnod Entertainment’s third outing as a video game developer, they have created Vampyr. An action RPG that has the combat of Remember Me and the deep narrative of Life Is Strange all rolled into a historical fiction London that is infested with vampires. I mostly enjoyed my time with Vampyr and I can clearly see myself playing it again to do some things differently but there are some design issues that make me hesitant to begin another playthrough.
In Vampyr you play as Jonathan Reid, a renowned doctor, who was a soldier and now specializes in blood transfusions. He has recently been turned into a vampire in London that is facing a Spanish Flu epidemic. Initially, the main objective for Dr. Reid is to find out how he turned into a vampire, and most importantly who turned him. Yet, he ends up tangled in a hidden world that is full of unique characters, humans and vampires alike, who have their own goals and ambitions. This is honestly where Vampyr shines since throughout the game you meet different NPCs that constantly evolve throughout the game based on your actions.
Once you’ve gotten through the tutorial and first mini-boss, you are taken to the Pembroke Hospital. The hospital is one of four districts in Vampyr each containing surrounding areas that Dr. Reid can explore and up to 16 citizens that he can either help or kill.
The citizens in each district have multiple functions for Dr. Reid and they flesh out Vampyr as a whole. As a doctor, Dr. Reid can check up on patients by giving them medicine which he concocts. This helps you and the district as a whole as it grants you XP to level up and raises the sanitation level of an area which can have ramifications in the future. Dr. Reid can also help citizens in tasks called investigations, which can range from finding a trinket to finding a murderer. Doing these investigations open up more dialogue options for the NPC and of course grants XP. Finally, as a vampire, Dr. Reid can also feed on the citizens in the district. To do this, your mesmerize level must be higher than the citizen’s and this grants a huge amount of XP. I never actually fed on any of the citizens since I was going for a morally good playthrough but the fact that Dontnod allows players to do so and also doesn’t punish players for not doing so is the kind of freedom you don’t see often in games.
The citizens really add an extra layer of depth to Vampyr’s narrative it’s just unfortunate that some are hard to find due to the map design and citizen locations. For example, I’m about 30 hours into the game and I still haven’t found all of the citizens in 3 districts. Also, for a game where you spend a lot of time talking to NPCs, I feel that Dontnod could have done a better job with lip syncing. Every time I talked to a character, it was a bit jarring to notice some of the words didn’t match with the lip movements and in some certain tense situations, people still remained expressionless in their facial features. Yet, the fact that I am still able to remember characters like Lady Ashbury or Clay Cox and what their aspirations are is a fantastic feature that you don’t see in many games. Most RPGs have their NPCs for quests and story but in Vampyr the NPCs are actually important and leaving the welfare of them into the hands of the players is almost like Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis system.
The other major aspect of Vampyr is its combat and while it isn’t revolutionary, it does look visually appealing. Dr. Reid was a soldier and is a vampire and you can see that in the way he fights. Players have three bars to monitor during fights. Their health, which showcases how many hits they can take, Their stamina which depletes everytime you swing a weapon and their blood which can be used for vampiric powers. Of course, if your health falls below zero you die but if your stamina and blood are too low you can leave yourself open to attack and meet death faster.
Dr. Reid can use a variety of weapons. Sharp ones like swords and axes to blunt ones like bats and stakes. He can also use different firearms like shotguns and pistols which can be dual wielded with a one-handed melee weapon. There aren’t any combo multipliers since Vampyr’s combat is all about timing. Knowing when to attack or to stay back is paramount as each enemy has a different move that requires some learning time. The main spectacle of Vampyr’s combat is Dr. Reid’s vampiric powers. There are many to chose from in the skill tree when you level up but I found myself always leaning towards the Blood Spear, which can send out up to three blood spears to a target damaging them and Abyss and ultimate ability that sends shadows that drag your enemies into the air and impales them through the heart for massive damage. I do have to mention that even though Dr. Reid has some defensive powers the lack of the ability to block makes no sense and is a bit annoying.
Enemies themselves also vary and even though I had seen them all after some hours with the game, I still like that no matter what district I went to they were different types which caused me to plan out my attack before jumping into combat. I also appreciate Dontnod’s ability to weave the enemies and their different types into the main story and the game world. Learning about the different vampires skals, ekons, vulkods and ichors in the story and then just seeing them as I was free roaming the London districts was a nice touch. Even facing off the human vampire hunters with each having different skills and specialties made the combat interesting throughout the game.
Overall, Vampyr is a solid game with some design issues. For example, not having a quick travel makes walking across the fairly big map tedious and annoying. Also without a mini-map navigation through the dense districts is also annoying. Not to mention some doors to get through the different are always locked and can only be opened from a certain side. I also encountered some bugs that made some side quest unable to be completed and I even had some moments where my game crashed. Luckily my save file wasn’t corrupted.