by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
It’s not often a video game developer will completely change the genre it’s working on from one game to the next. Dontnod Entertainment started out developing action adventure game Remember Me in 2013. Its next game was last year’s episodic graphic adventure Life is Strange. Next up for the French studio is Vampyr, a fully-fledged action RPG set in London in 1918.
Following World War I, London was beset by an outbreak of Spanish Influenza, one of the most deadly influenza pandemics in history. In Vampyr, you play as Doctor Jonathan Reid, back from the war, and now tasked with saving people’s lives at home instead of abroad. The only problem is he has a dark secret. Reid is a vampire, and will have to come to terms with his undead affliction as he progresses through the story. As the doctor, you must save lives. As the vampire, you must kill to survive, and Vampyr is a game about balancing these two sides of your persona as you uncover mysteries across London.
A new dangerous, primitive species of vampire has appeared in the city, and the mutations found on them seem to be related to the outbreak of the flu virus. At the start of the game, the Vampire Hunters, a secret organisation going back hundreds of years, are taking back the streets. They are currently the only humans to know about vampires, and it is their job to keep it that way. However not only are they hunting down this new breed of vampire, they are also after you.
Vampyr takes place exclusively at night. When you have completed your work for one day, you will rest, and the time will progress through to the beginning of the next night. As such, the game is dark, both literally and metaphorically, however even in the early build of the game shown off at Gamescom, the lighting effects looked top notch. Shadows lurk around every corner, but you will be using this to your advantage.
London is split up into districts, and each has its own “Condition” meter, showing you the average health of people in that region. If someone dies, the Condition of the district goes down, and if it goes down too far, it is possible you will lose that part of London forever, as it becomes overrun with illness and various creatures. So, it behoves you to keep the health level of each district up. However, killing is your main way to gain more power, and you get way more powerful killing innocent civilians than you do by defending yourself from vampire hunters.
Civilians will have certain clues associated with them, and you can uncover these by talking to them and performing other actions. The more you find out about someone, the easier it will be to take them down. It is not quite as simple as climbing in their window at night and feasting on their neck, because as any vampire expert knows, a vampire can’t enter a house without being specifically invited. Killing will grant access to new and more powerful abilities, but you can only use these if you have enough blood in you. So killing is not only about increasing in power, it’s also about being able to actually use that power.
In combat you will have melee attacks, a gun, and special abilities. As you level up, you will be able to put points into skill trees to improve your skills. A couple of vampiric abilities shown off during the demo included a kind of blink, where you quickly teleport across a distance to perform a melee attack against a target. A particularly powerful skill is to summon forth darkness from the ground to hold up an enemy and rip them apart. Vampire hunters are trained professionals though, so combat won’t always be easy.
Outside of combat, you will be searching for clues, and engaging in conversations with the people of the city to progress the story. Dialogue options will dictate what you will and won’t have access to, and you will have the option to mesmerise civilians if they won’t give you what you want. If you’ve got a greater mental fortitude than your target, you will be able to take over their mind, lead them somewhere private, and murder them. Killing civilians will have an effect on the city, as they might leave a family behind, or it might make someone else’s life easier.
Killing innocents gives you points in “Damnation,” and there will be multiple endings depending on how far down this route you will go. In Vampyr you get to pick and choose who you kill, but you probably will have to in order to survive. We were told that no matter which route you go down, this is a vampire story, and the ending will be tragic. To find out more though, we will have to wait for Vampyr’s release in 2017.