Vampyr is the latest choice-driven adventure from the team behind Life is Strange, making it an RPG experience many have been waiting for. Transporting players back into 18th century London, stepping into the shoes of Dr. Jonathan Reid proves to be a tumultuous journey of consequence, nature, and the fate of everything that we know. Unfortunately for this RPG, the stunning narrative and vitality of those choices is drug down by sloppy mechanics and convoluted progression.
The biggest differentiation of Vampyr from other games in DONTNOD's repertoire comes from the incredibly dark nature of the narrative. Mechanics aside, every part of the journey, even the lulls, felt weighted by possible consequence. The tragedy the player experiences over and over again feels heavy often times overrode those slower moments. For those that played Life is Strange, those slower moments in progression are nothing new and it's important for those interested in this title to know that going in. It's not a dive right in action game, it's very slow to start and slow to get to the "grittier" parts. Where many see that as a flaw, I saw it as an investment in story.
The crawling pace at the beginning of the tale made the ultimate endgame of being the Savior or the Damnation that much more stark, more real - and honestly, harrowing. For the purpose of the review, I choose to go the "damning" route and after completion, my heart felt ... empty. I almost felt sick to my stomach as if I made those choices in real life. To me, as someone that genuinely favors a story above all else, that was meaningful. That being said, some gamers just want the action straight up and I can understand and Vampyr - to a degree - does satiate that, but it's not an instant gratification title. You want that rewarding experience, you're going to have to work for it.
As far as the story itself goes, DONTNOD did a fantastic job of setting up the entire backdrop for the game. Set in a gritty and desolate London during the Spanish Flu outbreak, the isolation felt in the very streets of London provided the perfect juxtaposition for the isolation Jonathan Reid felt during his transition, during his metamorphosis into something that went against his very nature. Though the first leg of this journey was pretty linear, it did eventually open up for exploration making that gritty nature become more real, more dangerous.
Taking to the hidden alleyways to see who to help, who to hunt - it was daunting. DONTNOD did a wonderful job at instilling this passive paranoia that every single face you meet is someone wanting you dead. For the most part, that statement is true - everyone really is out to get you, but that snaking feeling was felt in every interaction, with every dialogue selection feeling the weight of choice - even if it ended up being something seemingly insignificant.
The way the game is set up allows players to play how they want. Tackle every side quest, or follow a more linear path. It's important to note though that this is a choice-driven game and and the lack of choice is in itself a choice, which could ultimately result in the "bad ending." Of course in that same vein (heh), that quests at time felt very monotonous and it was difficult to distinguish which ones would have the most impact on the story. Some of the NPCs had incredible depths and interactions with Reid, where others felt stiff and almost hastily thrown together. On the other side of that, however, through those quest lines there is a knowledge gained about the Ekon underworld, the Vampyrs, making his untimely change even more significant.
As far as the actual mechanics of the game goes, it was definitely choppy. Getting used to the movement mechanics was rough and at times I found myself frustrated with feeling out of control with the controls themselves. Vampyr didn't have a AAA budget, and one isn't necessary to make a great game. However, the lack of budget definitely hindered the potential of this game quite a bit with its disappointing facial animations and wonky movements.
One aspect of the game I thorough enjoyed however, despite the mechanical issue, was the game's combat. It's not a simple button press like many saw with Life is Strange, there's a strategy that goes into picking those active and passive skills. Players can choose what part of Reid's nature they feed and each choice affects how he interacts with friends and foes alike. It's easy to pick the Vampyr route - drain blood, get money (or ... life), but the true test is patience and whether or not the player can master the more dedicated skillset in an effort at retaining Reid's core personality over his basic needs.
Going into a fight isn't filled with basic QTEs, there is a crafted fighting mechanic with those skill trees that must be weighed with each advancement. Additionally, if a player doesn't pay close attention to their stamina or how much blood they have in their "tank," a fight can go downhill quickly and much to the player's chagrin. This made combat incredibly challenging - but in a good way. For me, it kept me engaged, kept me glued into the game to see it through. With the inconsistent mechanics and progression system, that was a smart move on the developer's part to create player investment.
Our take: This is a narrative-driven game and it does what it was meant to, at the end of the day, well. It was meant to tell a story, a story that had meaning and drawn out consequence and that's exactly what it did. Unfortunately, not every player is patient enough to see that potential come to fruition. Between it's slow to start story line and low-grade mechanics, Vampyr will be a turn off for many. However, if you are looking for a stunning storyline that ends on a high note, this is the game for you.
WWG Score: 3/5