by Preston Dozsa
previewed on PC
The Apex Predator
Unlike most monsters, vampires are unique in that they retain their sanity after they become one of the fabled creatures of the night. They are not zombies who have lost their minds or werewolves who transform into a beast every full moon, but beings that retain their personality, morals and memories of the human that they once were. Vampires know perfectly well what they are doing each time they sink their teeth into flesh and gorge on blood. Which is why the prospect of playing one in Dontnod Entertainment’s Vampyr is so intriguing.
Vampyr places you in the shoes of Jonathan, a young doctor who has just returned from the battlefields of the First World War to a London gripped in the deadly Spanish Flu epidemic. He was also recently, and unwillingly, turned into a vampire. Treating it as a disease, Reid seeks to find the origins of vampirism in London in the hopes of curing it and preventing the city from falling to chaos. Of course, Reid also has to feed - and that’s where the terrible choices that come with being a vampire manifest.
Blood On Your Hands
As a vampire, Reid progresses, heals and develops new skills from feeding on London’s various citizens. As a doctor, Reid is obliged to save those infected with disease throughout the city. You will need to drink blood to survive, but how far Reid will go in the pursuit of survival and strength is left entirely up to the player. Bear in mind that the NPC’s who inhabit each district of the city have their own personal stories and side quests that can be explored, so feeding upon one will change the stories of any characters connected to the unfortunate soul.
In the presentation at E3, this was starkly demonstrated with a poor man named Joe. Joe had just finished extorting money from a merchant when Reid approached him. In talking with others, Vampyr uses a dialogue wheel to choose responses, which affect how others will perceive you and can, as the presentation would go on to demonstrate, cut off sources of information entirely. Reid gave Joe a box that belonged to him, resulting in an unpleasant reaction from Joe that immediately soured our relations with him. Poor Joe had a sick son that Reid hoped to visit, but the conman wasn’t having any of that. So Reid, with some liberal application of his vampiric mind control powers, lured Joe to a quiet location and enjoyed a nice meal.
Reid could have easily gone after the aforementioned merchant and feasted on him, or, if he was better at persuading, visited Joe’s son and attempted to cure the poor boy. Instead, the merchant who Joe extorted would go on to see an increase in profits, while his son would be an orphan, altering their storylines permanently. It is an interesting narrative choice, but the ramifications of eating citizens extends beyond individual stories and effects London itself. In play, this is represented as a health meter for the city’s multitude of boroughs. Feeding upon a citizen in one area lowers the overall quality of health in the area, same as if you were to ignore someone who is clearly sick with influenza. If an area’s health meter decreases enough, the borough will become littered with burning buildings, corpses of the infected, and monsters tainted by both vampirism and the plague.
You're Going To Need More Stakes
Just as curing the sick is an option, so is combat, which is bloody and brutal as befitting a vampire. Against a crowd of vampire hunters, Reid used a combination of melee and ranged weapons alongside his vampiric powers to cut down his enemies. Combat was fast paced and required careful positioning and timing for best results. A grab move allowed Reid to suck the blood from a hunter in the middle of the fight, though developers cautioned that the hunters have methods of defending against it. Sucking blood fills up a blood meter, which Reid can use to activate powerful vampiric magic that absolutely annihilates enemies. In the case of the demo, one poor soul was impaled by a fountain of blood.
Vampyr looks extremely promising, using its early 20th century London setting to full effect to create a game that feels original. The duality of the main character is interesting, though I would like to play the game before rendering judgement as to whether it not it works. Regardless, Vampyr is set to be another unique title from Dontnod, and one I intend to keep a close eye on before it releases in 2017.