IMPALING SINCE 1452
Prince of Wallachia, also known as Vlad III, was a revered hero in Europe for his protection of the Romanian people in the 1400s. In the same breath, his reputation was known as an excessively gory killer; regularly impaling his enemies, which gave him the name Vlad the Impaler. But how does Vlad the Impaler play into Vlad the Impaler?
The developer, Section Studios, is a fairly new studio which likes to emphasize their detail to the game while also emphasizing that they created “everything from story to artwork”. Vlad the Impaler is Section Studios’s only game on Steam.
The story begins in 1452 with Vlad sending you to Istanbul to investigate the “darkness that has fallen the city”. You are assigned to investigate various locations within Istanbul to figure out what is happening, who is behind it, and how to restore everything to its proper order. The story is told in terms of Chapters, like a novel or graphic-novel, where the player can choose where they investigate and how to progress the storyline. Some of the areas within Istanbul include the port, the square, the palace, the catacombs. Without giving any of the narrative away, the story points cast a wide net with subjects ranging from cannibals, to prostitutes, to even a few stories that uplift your heart. There are fifty story points in the game, and two choices within each story point, making each experience wonderfully unique. The choices are often ambiguous enough that either option could be a plausible response to continue the storyline. An example would be the two choices of “follow the boy” or “confront the boy”.
One aspect of the game I fell in love with was the music. Though it wasn’t anything that we haven’t heard before, the ominous and medieval style really heightens the experience. Something that I also noticed was that the music kept looping but, unless you were paying careful attention, you would not notice it happening. I can’t tell you how many games I’ve played where the music is going, abruptly stops, and starts again – it’s a small thing, but a minute item that I appreciated.
The layout of the game is visually simple, but creatively on point. There are no cinematic scenes or motion actions, but beautifully done illustrations that convey the story on its own. The drawings are done in black and white, which further emphasize the eerie tone of the game. The only other colors that are used are red and green, which portray an increase or decrease of certain skills. At first, I was a little annoyed by this, but within five minutes it grew on me and made me rethink the design choice entirely.
The actual gameplay begins with the player having to chose between three character classes: explorer, soldier, and mage. To no surprise, each of the classes have unique attributes and heightened skills. These skills are broken into seven categories: magic, intelligence, dexterity, strength, agility, confidence and charm. Depending on which story points you chose, coupled with the choices you make will determine which attributes are altered. Furthermore, your character can alter their class based on the actions you choose; another layer of the transformative nature of this game.
Since the game is literally a story being told, there is a LOT of reading. I quickly rolled my eyes with all the reading in the first chapter, but once I got used to it and was actually invested in reading the story line it became something I enjoyed doing instead of being forced to do. You could quickly click through the storyline and just decide the actions, but how much of the game would you really get out of that?
The game runs about forty-five minutes. As such, I can’t really go into more detail on the storyline without inherently spoiling some part of it. The runtime of the game in-and-of itself is a problem when trying to explain the storyline to someone.
Since the game’s play through is very quick, I was able to play it four times in about three hours (I quickened the pace after the first go-around): once as an explorer, once as a soldier, and twice as a mage. In terms of the choices and story points, I did not notice any difference among the character choices. Furthermore, the main storyline does not change either. This kinda bummed me out because it seems that the character classes are just for vanity purposes.
Verdict: 6.0 out of 10
Vlad the Impaler offers a nice story with maybe 1-2 more replays since it takes less than an hour to complete. However, with so much reading and similar story points, I’m hard pressed to see someone play this as many times as necessary to unlock all the steam achievements or each plot line. Overall, it’s a good game with a nice concept. I played the game four times, liked it the first two times, and just button smashed through the other two in hopes of finding a more layered storyline. Though you do find little bits and pieces to the backstory and what’s happening in Istanbul, I wouldn’t recommend venturing past two play throughs. So having Steam offer this game at $9.99 for maybe 3 hours of gameplay seems a bit overpriced.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.