Imagine what it’d be like to be a vampire. No more trips to the beach unless you’re wearing suntan lotion SPF factor 10 trillion, you’re probably going to inadvertently bite your bottom lip constantly with those new fangs and those damn Goth kids from down the road are going to be pestering you constantly with their terrible poetry and Anne Rice novels.
Perhaps the worst problem to deal with, would be supper. Specifically, a quick neck to nip as you wash down your steak with some fresh Type-A Positive blood. Getting your hands on a victim shouldn’t be a problem, but actually living with the consequences and eventual investigation from having all of your neighbours disappear.
Maybe that’s the real tragedy behind the idea of being a vampire: Not the horrific action of how you kill your victim, but rather who you kill. It’s the driving factor behind developer DontNod’s latest game, Vampyr. As doctor Jonathan Reed, it’s up to you to balance upholding your Hippocratic oath as a doctor during the height of the Spanish Flu outbreak with your unquenchable thirst for human blood.
Recently turned, Reed finds himself stuck between helping his fellow man and ending the lives of those people whose absence truly won’t be missed or even noticed. If only life was that simple. At E3 this year, DontNod gave us a lengthy tour of the game as Reed stalked the streets in search of prey. We got given a first-hand look at the mechanics behind Reed’s motives, how actions would have consequences for the districts he found himself hunting in.
While Dontnod said that players could feed on more aggressive humans who busy incinerating lesser vampires known as Skals, the benefits would quite often outweigh the risk of engaging with them. The real experience points money-shot could be found in the dozens of NPCs scattered across Vampyr, men and women whose lives were connected to one another and whose disappearance would have a knock-on effect that would render their specific district more dangerous to explore should you become attracted to their jugular vein.
In one instance, we were shown Reed interacting with a local ruffian and unrepentant murderer on the streets, while also gauging the quality of his blood to that of his dear old mum as Reed was in need of an experience points boost so that he could tackle a more lethal district. The actual process for choosing your victim is fascinating. You’re given the chance to question them in detail, learn who they are and if their actual blood is tainted with Spanish Flu that knocks off a few extra experience points along the way.
So who were we going to kill? Mass murderer Seymour, or his doting mother who had recently taken in a young street urchin as a surrogate son? We were bastards, so we decided to chomp down on mother and take the extra boost in experience. Delicious. The consequences of that act? Seymour moved into her home and wrecked the place, the urchin lost a mother figure and the district now had an influx of new enemies.
Reed was hardly ill-equipped to deal with said enemies however. With enough blood in his system, he could fight back with a mixture of guns, blood magic and melee attacks that made good use of his medical cutting tools. There’s an unmistakable hint of Bloodborne in Vampyr’s DNA, as Reed’s actions were dependent on his skills, health and blood bar between recharges.
Reed’s world feels like an interesting character of cobblestones and ash, that’s just begging to be explored. A hospital serves as neutral ground between Reed’s kind and vampire hunters, while a later slice of the story ended with Reed confronting a manic priest whose recent turn to vampirism had him believing that his curse was a burden to bear to prove his faith as he dined on the flesh of the dead. “This is my sacrament,” the creepy padre announced.
The end result of this lengthy demo? A game that was soaked in atmosphere and morality. DontNod’s attempt to make players question who they kill before they pull the trigger looks fantastic so far, a sleeper hit of E3 that I wasn’t expecting to see as the day drew to a close. Considering how the end of this year is crowded with the usual blockbuster releases that lean heavily on action, Vampyr’s more methodical and deep approach to mystery and violence is going to feel like a breath of fresh air when it releases on PC, PS4 and Xbox One in November.
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Last Updated: June 19, 2017