Victor Vran. Let that name linger on the end of your tongue for a second.
Certainly, the name sounds like something a Romanian vampire might say if you were to ask him his name during happy hour at the Drunken Fang. Thankfully, the truth of it is that Victor Vran is actually one of the finest dungeon crawlers you can get right now on PS4; a dizzying marriage of polish, genre fundamentals and sheer entertainment that hasn’t been witnessed since Diablo III rocked up to our doorsteps nearly three years ago.
As the titular demon hunter Victor Vran, players are charged with locating the whereabouts of fellow hunter Adrian in what looks to be a twisted, alternate version of 19th century Eastern Europe plagued by all kinds of supernatural monstrosities. So far so generic then, though Victor Vran does try and liven things up with a consistent volley of pop culture digs and jokes, with many falling almost as flat as the main narrative itself. Really though, the embarrassment of riches that Victor Vran possesses aren’t located in the confines of its flimsy narrative nor in the writing behind its occasionally flat jokes, but rather in the resoundingly solid combat and progression systems that keep you ensnared from beginning to end.
One of the most polished dungeon crawlers around
An isometric action RPG very much in the mould of Blizzard’s Diablo III, the combat in Victor Vran just feels phenomenally satisfying in a way that recent dungeon crawlers haven’t been able to entirely replicate. For a start, the weapons, be they axes, swords, shotguns, mortars and even guitars (we’ll get to that later), all boast some superb sounds that in turn enhance the feeling of satisfaction you get when you thwack your monstrous enemies into the next world. Essentially, if you were a fan of Diablo III’s over the top monster death physics, you can definitely expect to see more of that in Victor Vran.
Another big reason why the combat feels as blissful as it does is because the game trundles along at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second in all but the most absolutely chaotic of scenes, a substantial feat that some other like minded titles have arguably struggled with. As such, the increased frame rate essentially results in combat feeling much more responsive and fluid; two things that any title in the dungeon crawler genre really can’t have enough of.
Bolstering the combat yet further are the monsters themselves. A varied bunch that take in all manner of beastly archetypes such as giant spiders, undead warriors, furious elementals and vampires to name just a few, the enemies that you’ll tangle with in Victor Vran not only tend to look very different from one another, but the way they attack also differs too. Undead riflemen, for example, will do their best to keep you at range, running away and finding a new vantage point to strike from afar should you get too close. Equally, the hard-as-nails Wraith enemy will unleash a mixture of charging melee attacks together with a particularly nasty sort of ranged attack to keep you guessing. Clearly, the developers have put a lot of thought into the foes you’ll come across in Victor Vran, and the calibre of such design clearly carries through to the player since you’re less likely to just charge in blindly as other dungeon crawlers might normally encourage you to do.
Of course, this being an action RPG that is very much in the vein of Diablo, Victor Vran has no shortage of gear, experience points and other shiny currency for the player to hoover up on their murdering travels. Starting with the gear side of things, Victor Vran follows the established status quo for the most part, allowing players to loot and equip all manner of weapons and trinkets to help them along in their quest. There are a few departures from the norm however which serve to separate Victor Vran from its immediate peers.
The first is that rather than picking up bits of armour as you would do in similar fare such as Marvel Heroes Omega, you instead collect whole outfits that each boast different buffs, including such benefits as higher health, improved special ability regeneration and other improvements of a similar ilk. Likewise, Victor Vran’s Destiny Card system lets you customise your demon hunter even further, with different cards offering a range of stat increases and new abilities; though you can only equip a certain number of them at any one time, thus gently encouraging you to embrace one style of play over another.
One of the most intriguing and worthwhile wrinkles that Victor Vran brings to the decades old hack and slash formula though, is the optional challenge system. Before entering each area, the UI clocks the forthcoming baddie stuffed playground with a star rating, with each star representing a separate challenge that must be completed. Requiring one or a number of prerequisites to be met, these special objectives not only reward the player with varying degrees of loot and experience, but they also stand as a really compelling reason to go back and revisit previously conquered areas. Going forward, if there is a feature that future dungeon crawler titles should be “inspired by” it really ought to be this one.
These optional challenges actually tie in neatly to Victor Vran’s other neat trick; the Hex system. If the game isn’t difficult enough for you, special Hex cards can be activated that buff the enemy in various ways, such as granting them extra health or damage. The reward for such seemingly masochistic acts are that the amount of experience and loot that you gain from killing these hardier foes is increased, and better yet, you can actually stack the cards which introduces a nice bit of extra risk/reward consideration to the proceedings.
Three massive campaigns
Sat atop Victor Vran’s almost rudely accomplished set of systems are the three campaigns which when taken in tandem, offer up playtime that easily drifts into triple digits. Able to be tackled either in solo, local multiplayer or online multiplayer, each campaign boasts a huge amount of monsters to carve/shoot/blow up and an equally substantial number of quests to complete. Of the three, the Fractured Worlds is especially intriguing from a design standpoint. A whole new narrative adventure that has our titular hero attempting to piece together memories of his past, the dungeons within Fractured Worlds shift and change on a daily basis, thus always ensuring a fresh challenge long after the other two campaigns have been conquered.
By far though, the obvious highlight is the Motorhead themed expansion campaign, which quite frankly is just excellent. Featuring such locations as the Monument of Rock and the Pub at the End of Time, the heavy metal slaughter unfurls against the thrumming and furious beat of officially licensed Motorhead music as Victor shoots, stabs and guitar solos his way across a battlefield hellscape held in the iron grip of a demonic Nazi regime.
Representing not only great fan service for the followers of Motorhead, the Through the Ages expansion also stands on its own two feet quite nicely too, with a huge array of brand new monsters to do away with, fresh loot to scoop up and journal entries written by Lemmy himself dotted around the map to be found. In a way, this campaign feels like a version of Tim Schafer’s Brutal Legend that we never got. An especially brilliant concession also, is that should you find yourself getting bored with a particular campaign, you can just switch from one campaign to the other and not lose any progress; a great little feature.
Bursting with slick hack and slash beats and enough content to keep even the most grizzled dungeon crawling veteran happy, Victor Vran has found a perfect home on PS4.
The very definition of a pleasant surprise in a year stuffed with high budget heavy hitters, Victor Vran might not make any massive strides to truly break the genre mould, but it does more than enough to ensure that it matches the calibre of its distinguished stablemates.