A Spoonful of Blood Helps The Medicine Go Down
In a refreshing sense of the times, Vampyr is an intriguing new interpretation of the vampire mythos. While struggling to keep a plaguing London afloat (or not), the choice is yours to make all the while deciding the fates of your fellow denizens of the city. Though there are some technical problems throughout the game, Vampyr presents captivating RPG-mechanics and alluring storylines that many can sink their teeth into.
Protagonist, Dr. Jonathan Reid explores first-hand what it means to be a newly turned vampire. Dr. Reid struggles to define what he is – a man of science who is utterly befuddled by the notion (and physical proof) of a mysticism unknown to him. The drive to discover what it means to be a vampire goes towards the theme of personal struggle through identity throughout Vampyr.
The reluctant Dr. Reid begins his story as h eases himself into the world of the vampires. Stakes start off small and the story progresses accordingly, allowing players and Dr. Reid to gradually understand the inner workings of London’s human and vampire worlds. The atmosphere is oddly chilling with constant tension while also demonstrating some drastic and overthetop moments.
The overarching theme of identity is also seen through all the characters with the struggles of racism, elitism, and sexism. Each citizen offers a unique story, and if you feel up to it, can be fully flushed. Similarly to many TellTale Games games, these conversations have several branching paths. Those pathways can open new quests, aide other characters, or cause strife between them. Luckily, these stories were distinct – blending the supernatural, medical, and low-life worlds of London and never got too mundane. Being a sucker for hearing all these stories, I quickly found myself sinking time and resources towards them. Vampyr also rewards players who choose to learn more about the characters. Each interaction has the possibility of increasing experience points if you ever choose to consume (kill) those citizens. Though not all were stellar, it was fun to literally play with my food before I choose to partake in a snack.
Outside the citizens, the city of London is its own character. With four distinct areas, each offers a variety of experiences and opportunities for customization. The gloom following the Great War, paired with the Spanish Flu epidemic, is the perfect scene for this dark and morally ambiguous story. Though this is ideal for the story, all the cobblestone courtyards and alleyways look so indistinguishable, I ended up focusing on the map more than the actual environment. The quality of the characters also seems a bit inconsistent, with several of the lower-tiered citizens looking graphically different than many of the more consistent and presentable denizens.
The shining game mechanic leans into this notion that each of the four districts are their own entities. This citizen system connects a percentage number based on the health and survivability of the residents of the area. If a character becomes ill, it’s up to the doctor (you) whether or not you treat them. A healthy citizen and district can present more quests for experience and better options for items to purchase. A district that has numerous ill or dead citizens can plunge into chaos where dangerous creatures roam. I found delightful pleasure in toying with my eventual food, getting to know certain characters to raise the potential experience gain once I consumed them. However, more often than not, I chose to sparingly devour. Dr. Reid was so opposed to killing, still fighting the walking contradiction of vampire and doctor, that I felt almost obligated not to have him fully abandon his humanity. Whichever side you fall on the topic, the game of life and death in Vampyr presents some deliberate moments that can impact your world.
The inevitable choices throughout London will eventually impact the battling and RPG-mechanics. As a burgeoning young vampire, there are numerous abilities and upgrade possibilities available to create the Dr. Reid that best works for each player. These are indelibly tied to experience points, noting that you’re able to get large chunks after consuming citizens. The variety of each ability is varied and can really create the character with the skills and offensive attacks that work for each player. Unfortunately, once I found my favorite attacks and abilities to boost, there was no need to experiment further. With this, battles began to feel more and more similar, presenting less incentive to fight random grunts for minimum experience. Managing your health, stamina, and blood levels gives another layer of complexity, but lost its appeal once you found a loop that works. The boss-like battles did offer a bit more challenge, but ultimately quickly came to similar ends.
Frustratingly, the largest obstacles aren’t other vampires, deceptive humans, or even garlic, but the technical inconsistencies throughout Vampyr. While playing in the beginning hours, a few sporadic loading screens would occur while traversing through London. I thought nothing of it, until the problem persisted and increased in frequency towards the latter half of the game. This, along with a handful of forced resets of the game on my standard PlayStation 4, began to irk me. Though none of these issues were disastrous, my blood began to boil each time it occurs.
The Verdict: 7.7 out of 10
Despite some technical troubles, Vampyr is an engaging 25-hour story through the lens of a newly formed vampire in a dark and dreary London. The beguiling characters and branching dialogues present some genuine troubling choices that have drastic effects in the world. Though the battle system dried up after some time, the world building reinforces the allure and temptation for Vampyr.
This game was reviewed on PlayStation 4 with a code supplied by the publisher. For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.