by Robert Thomas
reviewed on PC
When I previewed Victor Vran a few months ago, there were some things that I really hoped to see come to fruition. After some time away from the game, I get to give Victor Vran a full review and I'm glad to see the game has progressed into the shape it is today, but it does not quite hit all the marks.
A Crumbling, but Not Empty City
A short opening cinematic, narrated by protagonist Victor Vran, sets the stage for the narrative; a once proud city, Zagoravia, has been set upon by demons, monsters, and all manner of beasts. In hopes of saving the city, a call was sent out to the hunters of the world, those who slay demons and other creatures. Victor Vran is a particularly skilled hunter, but is half way across the world when the calls is made and is unable to reach the endangered city. A year later, Zagoravia is all but lost, with almost all the hunters having died in the fight alongside most of the residents. It's only then that Vran receives a message from his friend, Adrian, calling him to the city once again.
Vran explores the crumbling city in search of Adrian, but he is not alone. Giant spiders, ghosts, demons, and even resurrected hunters stand in between him and his long lost friend. It's not all enemies, as there is some good left; the Queen of Zagrovia has refused to leave the city, along with a few advisors and soldiers, in hopes that someday her once great home will be saved.
Vran himself is a very dreary, pessimistic man, seeing the city as hopeless. Though he starts off the game monologuing to himself, he quickly finds an audience in a strange disembodied voice who follows him on his journey. The voice, unlike Vran, has a very dry, sarcastic wit, in stark contrast to the serious tone of the Hunter. The back and forth between these two adds some great flavor to the narrative, allowing the player to become more attached to both Vran and the voice.
As far as the action goes, it's fairly standard for the genre. Vran has a selection of three weapons; hammer, sword, and shotgun, which you right-click to use. All three weapons offer a few special hot-keyed moves that have a cool down timer that limits their use. Vran also has demon powers, which are incredibly useful special moves that can be found throughout the stages.
The hollowing city of Zagoravia has dozens of levels, ranging from linear hallways to wide open courtyards, filled with all sorts of vile creatures that can only be slain by Vran. Each of these levels feature extra challenges such as killing a certain number of enemies or fight a hidden boss, before you move on to the next level. The challenges were both spirited and fun, keeping any boredom at bay.
While you are out battling through monstrous foes, Vran will gain experience to level up. Once he does, you're given a choice between three cards with different passive abilities that increase health, add damage to critical attacks, and more. These cards become the main focus of your character load-out. Being a bit different from most Action-RPGs, where the focus is on armor and potions, Victor Vran puts your attention on these cards, weapons, and the demon powers.
Building a Torn-Down World
Wondering around the ruined Zagoravia, I couldn't help but think about how the city must've once been a beautiful place. It has the strange ability to make you almost miss something you never knew. It almost seems as if the developers designed a truly beautiful world, only to destroy it to match their vision of a lost city. You can catch glimpses of the beauty in the Queen's castle, a place safe from the demonic destruction. The visuals go past dark and brooding, to a decayed world that was once prosperous. Now the formerly vibrant land is dark, grimy, and long past the point of salvation. Wondering the fallen land, you'll hear haunting melodies whispering the despair and hopelessness, with the occasional faint echo of an eerie vocal crescendo.
One of the points I emphasized in my preview of Victor Vran was the lack of voice acting, which would give the protagonist some much needed characterization. Now that it's here, I'd say it’s very substantial. Vran is your typical grizzled veteran, with a voice akin to Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid or Geralt from the Witcher, without either of their wit. The disembodied Voice that follows Vran sounds far different from how I imagined him; I had originally thought 'he' was a' she', before I heard the voice. The Voice is dry and witty, complimenting Vran's expression well.
Not a Game Changer
The Action-RPG genre is filled to the brim with a wide array of selections, so every game needs something to distinguish itself. Unfortunately, Victor Vran seems to lack that much needed 'x' factor that gets people to check out a game. The design follows the typical conventions for the genre; a demon fighter, disembodied voice, generic enemies, a dying city. There isn’t a lot that differentiates it from others and except its bizarre name, you'll have seen it before.
That said, Victor Vran does use all of its parts very well. It has a strong atmosphere, familiar controls, and some interesting moments. It might not be a standout, but it's definitely a solid game.
Excellent atmosphere. Familiar controls. Easy to get into.
No stand-out features, a very typical Action RPG.