YAKIMA, Wash. -- Upon its release on June 5, Dontnod Entertainment’s third-person horror role-playing video game “Vampyr” has proved itself worthy of its tremendous hype.
In this incredibly intuitive and atmospheric game, we see hints of telltale influences, a skill tree, low-yield crafting, semi-open world exploration, and attention-grabbing cutscenes.
“Vampyr” takes place in early 20th century London, amid the outbreak of the Spanish Influenza. Jonathan Reid, the playable character, is an esteemed doctor and war veteran who has been infected with an alternative sickness. Jonathan wakes up with such a thirst for blood that he’s urged to kill and devour the first person he sees. Unfortunately, that person was Jonathan’s own sister. In the subsequent plot developments, Jonathan searches for the vampire who infected him, all the while attempting to save citizens from the debilitating and fluctuating disease.
Over 50 nonplayable characters dot the world and districts, all of which can become potential food for Jonathan Reid. The player is given the choice to either feast upon the district’s inhabitants, or maintain Jonathan’s status as the esteemed doctor he once was. There are pros and cons for peaceful gameplay or evil gameplay.
All of the nonplayable characters have a backstories and share relationships that vary in importance to the plot and health of a particular district. Killing too many of one district’s inhabitants could throw a district into chaos, letting it become overrun with vampires and thugs. On the other hand, killing any one of those nonplayable characters gifts the player a large sum of experience, which gets harder to gather as the game progresses. The player uses the experience to evolve and unlock new powers, which ultimately makes the game easier. The more important a character is, and the more Jonathan knows about them, the more experience they offer for the player.
Initially, this may seem unimportant in the grand scheme of things. But as the plot unfolds, all kinds of new threats appear. There are generic human enemies, like thugs and prowlers, who are probably the easiest to fight because they typically aren’t resistant to common attacks. However, other vampires are surprisingly an even more prevalent enemy, and they span several kinds of breeds. Skals, for example, are simple and mildly aggressive enemies who branch off into a few different subspecies. There’s also another breed of vampire that suspiciously resembles werewolves. Fighting them seems tedious and is very painstaking, but not difficult.
As far as gameplay goes, the combat system in “Vampyr” seems to be a hit or miss with players. I happen to enjoy the system, and though it takes some getting used to, it can be very entertaining and rewarding. Some players may believe the game’s setup is too choppy and appears too much like any other button-smasher but, on the contrary, there is a certain routine you have to master with the skills available rather than just spamming the X-button. Trust me, that’s what I did for the first half of the game and it did not work out well.
While character models may be rather lackluster, cinematic animation and environmental art makes up for it. The game immediately immerses you into the cool grays and bright crimson that a vampire-infested 1918 London had to offer.
Essentially, I’ve found this game to be equal parts addicting, terrifying and gorgeous. From an artist’s perspective, I found this RPG to be aesthetically and visually pleasing, in spite of the bland character concept art. All of the choices available to players make “Vampyr” versatile and unique to everyone, so I will be recommending this game until the day I die. A single-player journey such as this has been sought out by players like myself for years, and “Vampyr” is no disappointment.
“Vampyr” is available for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Haley Mallula is a 2018 graduate of Selah High School.