As someone who has almost never found the allure and appeal of vampire tales in any form of media, the CGI trailers we’ve seen so far of Vampyr had not grabbed me at all. Following DONTNOD Entertainment’s E3 2017 presentation, however, I was fully on-board. Now the upcoming action role-playing game is on my list of must-buy titles in 2017.
As is becoming a more widespread trend in gaming over the past few years, one major point in Vampyr is how the decisions you make during the game can change things going forward. It isn’t the same as episodic titles like Telltale Games’ library or DONTNOD’s previous hit, Life is Strange, where you make dialogue choices on the fly to choose how to approach a situation and hope it doesn’t totally screw you over later. Instead, Vampyr leans more on specific character interactions.
You play Dr. Jonathan Reid who, at the game’s outset, has just become a vampire. It takes place in 1918 London, and the alpha-build demo they showed off happens during the first act. Without going too in-depth into the details of the opening plot, Reid is looking for a man in town who he suspects of committing murder. He doesn’t want to lock the man up; he just wants to ask a few questions and get the full story from the horse’s mouth.
While looking for the suspected murderer, you can wander around town to your heart’s content and get to know the townspeople as you please. Every NPC you encounter has a name, a backstory, and a subplot you can learn about through conversation, as well as relationships to other townspeople. Additionally, each and every one of them is also a potential victim for you to feed on, should you so wish.
Being a vampire, obviously you need blood to survive. There are your standard “bad guys” who will attack you now and then, and by taking them down you can regain some blood and claim a paltry amount of EXP. Potentially, you could go through the entire game without killing any NPC, instead just grinding these battles over and over and over like you’re playing Final Fantasy and about to take on the last boss. The much faster way to gain EXP is finding NPCs, getting to know them, and chowing down on their necks.
You don’t just want to go sacrificing people all willy-nilly though. When you approach an NPC you can views their profile, which shows who they have close relationships with, how much EXP you would gain from killing them and sucking their blood, information you have learned about them, and so on. As you talk to them or those they are close to, the number of dialogue options there are with them and the amount of EXP gained by sacrificing them raises. Not all dialogue options are unlocked just through conversation though, as often you will have to take on side-quests for them in order to gain their trust, letting them feel more comfortable opening up to you. Alternatively, if you’ve got enough influence over a person you may mesmerise them and force them to tell you the truth about whatever you want to know.
Should you reach a point where you’re happy with the amount of EXP a person will give you, you may sacrifice them to power yourself up, but their story doesn’t just end there. Those close to your victim will take note of their death and react in different ways, depending on the kind of relationship they had. In the demo I saw, the victim was an old woman who had taken in an orphan boy, but had a strained relationship with her actual son, a grown man with a penchant for killing as a stress-reliever. The man felt resentful toward both his mother for seemingly caring more about the boy than himself, and the boy for taking his mother away from him. The day after Reid killed her, her son had moved into her house with little-to-no remorse for the dead woman, while the boy could be seen in a courtyard outdoors crying to himself, an orphan once more. As the player you can choose to talk to them more and hear what they have to say, or you can ignore them altogether going forward, and get back to the mission at hand.
It is tough to say what kind of repercussions certain deaths may have on the story later on, but the developers assured me that parts of the story will differ depending on how you play the game and who you choose to kill, and who you let live. As they told me, “There are no good or bad choices; only options.”
They showed off several other mechanics during the gameplay demo as well, such as teleporting short distances to avoid enemy attacks or bypass bridges quickly, and a special vision mode that that highlights nearby blood, be in pumping in an NPC’s heart or splattered on the ground from a corpse. There’s also a nice touch in that traditionally, vampires are not allowed inside someone’s house without a formal invitation, so you can’t just barge in to talk to someone. You must knock and wait for their answer, and get them to invite you in through the right string of dialogue options. If this proves too much of a hassle, vampires can also eavesdrop on conversations through walls, so you may be able to overhear some juicy gossip that helps you unlock more EXP bonuses and dialogue choices with certain characters using this ability.
On top of all that, DONTNOD said the story will last between 15 and 30 hours, depending on how involved you want to get in peoples’ lives, so there will be plenty of bang for your buck, even if it is a fully-priced $60 (a price for Vampyr has not yet been revealed).
If you told me going into E3 that Vampyr would be one of my top three games of the show, I would have rolled my eyes so hard that my pupils wouldn’t be visible for days, then laughed in your face. As it turns out, DONTNOD and Focus Home Interactive have got an excellent game in Vampyr with deep mechanics and a great play-how-you-want style that even has someone as apathetic toward vampires as me hyped up and looking forward to it. To them I say, bravo. I can’t wait to get my hands on Vampyr when it launches this November for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.