Vampyr (Playstation 4 Review-In progress)
Vampires rarely see the light of day and for a long time it felt it almost felt like Vampyr was following suit. Lurking in the shadows, we would hear the aspirations of Vampyr’s pale inhabitants and how the underlying choices they’d make, away from prying eyes, would change their world forever. But much like the fanged ne’er-do-wells Vampyr has gone up in a puff of smoke on the dawn of its release.
Over the course of the past two weeks I’ve struggled through less than stellar frame rates, questionable texture popping, and numerous crashes. Over the weekend the aforementioned glitches culminated in an outright impassable glitch, one in which there is no recovery. So, at the time of writing this, my save is corrupt and the game incomplete. I can’t go any further, as much as I wish I could. Yet, in spite of all the glitches, I can’t quite turn away from the mesmerising allure of Vampyr.
With a crooked finger outstretched, Vampyr beckons all those with a thirst for blood with a truly immersive tale of London’s 1918 pandemic and its effects on both the seen and unseen inhabitants of its various boroughs. As Jonathan Reid is awakened to the underworld society of vampires and their hierarchy, he is forced to confront on the hypocrisy of his Oath and need to survive. The branches of Vampyr’s story start to diverge as you decide what kind of person our protagonist is. Every choice is tangled in moral ambiguity as you play judge jury, and executioner. Deciding who lives and who dies will have a lasting impact on the microcosm of its origin and behind every decision is a deep rooted moral dilemma.
It’s not just the survival of innocent humans that’s at risk; your own life is on the line throughout every decision made. Abstinence from drinking blood means that your overall experience is diminished. As simple as it sounds, Vampyr makes an excellent case for you to break your oath and sink your teeth deep into the throbbing neck of a pedestrian. At first these rich characters appear as black and white pictures of morality and dubiety, but you’re encouraged to learn more about them and their circumstances – increasing their experience value. Characters slowly but surely transition from the black and whites portrayed and you’ll start to convince yourself that maybe, just maybe, the world is better off without them. Temptation runs at an all time high as the enemies throughout Vampyr gain traction and everyone starts to look like a snack. It’s wonderful, engaging, and really challenges you to think about your own limits.
No matter how much experience you’ve earned, there’s always something to spend it on. Vampyr offers a vast array of different abilities, ranging from pools of shadowy essence that emerge from the ground to bona fide bloodspears to a razor sharp flurry of attacks. Every ability has a main source of damage: Melee, Ranged, Blood, and Shadow, and it’s important to find the right skills for the right enemy types. On top of these abilities you also have a range of fire arms, weapons, stakes, and holy crosses to fend off monsters. Mixing and matching these items while ensuring that you upgrade them to keep up with ever increasing enemy abilities is challenging and rewarding all the same. While the combat is not the pinnacle of the genre, there’s enough choice and differing abilities that you’ll be able to carve your own path through Vampyr’s campaign, it’s just a shame that it’s the only option to deal with the denizens of London.
When you’re not fighting on the streets, you’ll often spend your time foraging for clues and making the most of your vampire senses. By toggling your vision mode you’ll be able to see that current physical health of those around you and track pools of blood towards various clues and side quests. While the opening hours were engrossing, many of these quests followed a very familiar pattern. Several quests are formed of finding an item and then deciding on the morality of who to give the item too upon completion. It was all very shallow and traversing the city could prove quite tiresome if you did not bunch these quests together, even if you did engross yourself in the conversations and outcomes of the quest giver.
Even if the side quests lack the fulfilment of other similar titles, they do encourage you to forage around the rubble of a city recovering from its first major war. There’s a history to be explored with a very distinct post Victorian vibe that’s wonderfully executed, even if it’s hard to see through the dissipating fog. It’s staggering to think that it’s been a century since Vampyr’s setting and how much the world has changed. From the fashion to the city’s structure, the game has its own feel. It’s only downside is that exploring the world often feels constrained and many of the buildings lack the depth of detailed expected from a modern game, often appearing baron and similar in look.
Vampyr is an odd beast. It simultaneously presents one of the most well thought out Trolley Dilemmas in games while proving that it’s nothing more than a car crash when it comes to performance. Unanswered questions linger and every decision is agonised over to a point that it will keep you up at night. You want to invest in every decision possible, but the shoddy frame rates and often stuttering combat holds you at arm’s length. I’ve reached an impenetrable barrier that I’d love to surpass. I want to see how it all end, in spite of how Vampyr trying its utmost to prevent me from progressing.
Editor’s note: We’ve chosen not to score Vampyr at this point in time. We are unable to speak about the extent your choices impact the end game and have yet to explore one full area of the map. What we can say is that the performance leaves a lot to be desired and would advised against purchasing Vampyr until a further patch addresses the game’s stability issues as well as regular crashes. Further testing will be done on an Xbox One version of Vampyr.