Living as a Vampire Amongst the Spanish Flu in 2020

Avatar image for nodima
Nodima

3012

Forum Posts

24

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 13

User Lists: 0

I am finding this game to be a very interesting experience so far and I can't help but want to share some thoughts about this game before it drops from Sony's Instant Game Collection after this week. I'm not super far into it - about 4-6 hours give or take, in Chapter 3 of 7 though the game still calls this Act I and ar ough scan of some guides implies this is the meatiest section of the game so my impression could change mightily over the course of this chapter. But right now I'm finding myself squarely in the headspace Patrick Klepek found himself in back when the game came out and he was deep in his "bad games teach good lessons" schtick.

With regards to the game itself, it has this super weird basic construction to it that implies the game could have gone myriad different directions and settled on, perhaps, the safest amalgamation of all of them? On the one hand this is a relationship simulator, on the other a pandemic controller (more on that in a moment), on yet another a character action RPG and on yet another a sort of visual novel. To be sure, the most interesting parts of this game are the conversations thanks to a truly wild in 2020 setting as well as some mostly ace voice acting and a perspective that seems keen on slowly unraveling mystery and characters who are struggling between their own self-interests and the good of the people - sound familiar? So you keep pining for that, but sometimes you're controlling an Arthur Morgan-like tank without the peerless animations to back the wooden traversal up, or you're hoping you drilled into the tech tree intelligently like a slightly railroaded Geralt. Pretty early on you start wondering how fruitful fighting the randomly generated enemies on the city streets is really going to be, especially when entire districts develop fatigue and pneumonia after just a couple of nights while the game offers zero fast travel, a mostly pointless map and yet - and yet - a sprawling artificial London to memorize.

Sometimes, in fact, Vampyr seems so desperate to remind players of Bloodborne that it almost feels like an abject failure on those demerits alone. This is a Victorian village stricken with the Spanish Flu and thus on - mostly, though not nearly as consequentially - a lockdown similar to Bloodborne's Yharnam, and early on you're introduced to this idea that perhaps your blood - your increasingly Old Blood... may be the key to whatever is happening to this city. Dontnod are clever to insinuate this Spanish Flu has mutated from its presentation on the continental European land, though this opens its own can of worms...

Because if you struggled at all with the pandemic imagery of The Last of Us Part II earlier this summer, Vampyr gains new relevancy through being the most prescient, in-the-know game of the many games released between 2013 and 2020 that centered themselves on autocracy, mass illness and public skepticism. The first time I rounded a corner to find a corpse slumped against a brick wall, mask on yet spirit exhumed, I was a little stunned. I'd already seen the posters and the flyers advocating masks, stay at home orders and reporting sicknesses to the appropriate authorities by that point, and in 2018 this would have just read as some standard game world building. Here are the worries - here are the consequences! But now? Duders, I don't even know...

But again, at some point you remember you are playing this game, and it's..."fun", perhaps? Sometimes that fun is derived from a 15 minute conversation tree about your conversion to being a vampire that ends with "Am I...a vampire?" and sometimes that fun is derived from realizing you're simply trying to bulldoze this game to progress and not engaging with it fully, so like Vinny in the Quick Look you realize you're accepting the combat is simple but not taking advantage of your ability to trivialize it. I've spent a decent chunk of this game at least four or five "levels" weaker than my enemies, but once I focused on what works it turns out that's not entirely relevant. On paper the game can look like a true role playing experience, but in practice it feels like it is very possible to min/max the right skills and cruise through encounters that initially seem tough until you really consider the scenario.

Lastly, for now, Olivier Deriviere did an awesome job with the composition. The soundtrack is engrossing at all times and really settles you into this dark, reserved to failure sort of vibe and is porbably some of the more memorable score work I've heard this year despite being from 2018. The game is really capable of setting specific moods with his score even if the action or conversation tends to belie its budget constraints. In particular the game's apparent main theme that plays back at your homebase is a perfect mixture of hope and hopelessness that just nails the tone and can convince you to keep drilling into the clues and sub-stories of the various NPCs you meet. If it feels a little silly that your superhero/villain doctor guy spends most of his time as more of a Sherlock Holmes, the music grounds you in that core loop in a way the character himself sometimes can't.

TL;DR, I'd really recommend anyone who skipped Vampyr mostly out of budgetary concerns like I did at least click the Add to Library button on their PSN account if they have the choice because, especially in 2020, this is a really bizarre fantasy to wander around in and really feels like, in many odd ways, the most now game of this enduringly specific Year of Our Lord.

Avatar image for ulfhedinn
Ulfhedinn

166

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Got it on PS+, yet to find time to play.
I like what you wrote and probably will give it a go this weekend, I just hope I'll like all the imperfections as much as you did.

Avatar image for humanity
Humanity

20673

Forum Posts

5738

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 40

User Lists: 15

#3  Edited By Humanity

I played this at time of release so I didn't see parallels to todays epidemic, obviously, so what I was left with was a mess of ideas that never get the love they deserved. I'm a big Remember Me apologist and recommend that game to anyone simply to see it's beautiful rendition of neo-Paris as well as some of the more interesting moral implications of altering peoples memories for your own gain. So I'm willing to put up with some half baked ideas and jank in the name of the greater vision.

Vampyr starts out really interesting but by the end I was thoroughly exhausted by the conversational gameplay loop. In fact it's one of the few games in recent years that I did not finish simply because I lost interest at some point and my attention wandered over to other games long enough where coming back to Vampyr became impossible. After nearly 30 hours of going to person A to learn a tidbit of information just so I can go back to person B and cross-reference this for another small tidbit in another conversation became tiresome. The combat was what it was - the difficulty spikes were awkward at times - but it's the core that ultimately failed to keep me engaged even when the bigger and more interesting plot points finally started rolling around. The similarities to Bloodborne are a bit of stretch in my opinion but I can see the parallels. In todays time it is probably an interesting experience although with the piled up bodies, locked away residents and field hospitals an altogether too real one.

Both Remember Me and Vampyr are great examples that DONTNOD are capable of some truly innovative game design and they have talented artists to back those visions up where the gameplay might stumble a bit. I've said it before and I'll repeat myself here - I'm glad they found a niche in Life is Strange that brings them attention and success where their past efforts didn't, but I also think they had so much potential in the action genre that it's a bit of a shame to see them laser focus onto their adventure games. I can't fault them for it, you gotta pay your talented team somehow, but I do secretly wish they give the action another shot someday.

Avatar image for nodima
Nodima

3012

Forum Posts

24

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 13

User Lists: 0

I'm definitely prepared for that, I've actually already taken to turning the subtitles on and glancing at articles/forums during the conversation bits. There's a kind of rote "do all the left side conversations then all the right side conversations" that feels pretty mechanical, the kind of thing that makes you wonder if they focused more on this part of the game if maybe it'd feel more like a conversation string than a series of topics. I also wonder if they'd gone more of an L.A. Noire-ish route and required you to actually remember some of the things these people are saying if I'd be more engaged, since as it stands once you have the answer that's that. I know you can lock yourself out of certain personal questions as you interact with others, but for a game that implies all these strings tied together it doesn't totally feel that way.

@humanity said:

After nearly 30 hours of going to person A to learn a tidbit of information just so I can go back to person B and cross-reference this for another small tidbit in another conversation became tiresome. The combat was what it was - the difficulty spikes were awkward at times - but it's the core that ultimately failed to keep me engaged even when the bigger and more interesting plot points finally started rolling around.

Avatar image for alexw00d
AlexW00d

7590

Forum Posts

3686

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 5

I also recently played through this, thanks Humble, and I really enjoyed my time with it. It deffo isnt a deep action game, nor a deep rpg, nor a deep anything. You are right that it is a weird amalgamation of 4 or 5 genre, none of which are particularly well done. But the tone and atmosphere were what did it for me, along with the fact that I kept on being like "fuck this isn't much different to nowadays, AND STILL we clearly learned nothing".

Although 1 thing, it's not a Victorian village dude, it's late (maybe just after) WW1 era London. Vicky had popped her clogs 17 years before this game is set.

Avatar image for humanity
Humanity

20673

Forum Posts

5738

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 40

User Lists: 15

@nodima: You can definitely miss out on a ton of story and options if you don't exhaustively investigate all leads. I foolishly pursued a conversation branch prematurely in the beginning of the game and then that NPC was "spent" so to speak. Even when I learned more info I could no longer speak to him about it. This then led to me combing every new area for all clues and speaking to everyone, about everything, and then double checking. I suppose I didn't HAVE to do all that and just wing it at some point but I'm a bit of a completionist about this sort of stuff and if I see I have yet unlocked conversation options I have a hard time letting go.

Avatar image for efesell
Efesell

5543

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

@humanity: One of the issues I had was that even if you are exhaustively thorough there are a lot of things that ended up just being like.. well I know this now I guess.

I remember a moment where I pulled info from different NPCs that created a scenario where.. it felt like I should be able to intervene in what was happening. Like there should have been a quest unlocked.

Instead the NPCs were kinda just Finished and.. bye I guess?

Avatar image for nodima
Nodima

3012

Forum Posts

24

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 13

User Lists: 0

Yeah, I'm definitely running into that down in the docks today. There are some pretty interesting moral dilemmas established here, but it seems like the true end to all of these scenarios is whether you want to suck their throats at the end of it or not. Then of course there's a bit of fallout from that after you rest/evolve and advance time but it's not quite the Nemesis-like system it initially comes across as. These instances also aren't always fully dynamic as is - I decided to kill Dorothea Crane's co-conspirator after I failed the surgery and she got infected because he didn't seem to have much of a purpose in the town anymore (and I was level 12 running into level 24 monsters so I needed to choose someone) - only for his final thought to be worrying over who would help her continue her work if not him which we'd literally just finished talking about.

That's not super common, though, and I think the combat has still been pretty fun even if I'm in a pretty simple loop of mash square, occasionally mash triangle, and liberally use my blood absorbing ultimate and claws. The characters and stories are engaging until they end and I suppose I can count that as reward enough given this being a PS+ experience for me, but I am finding the lack of any sort of fast travel more and more punishing. This is where its Bloodborne influences aren't merely embarrassing but actively angering because I'm constantly running into gates that are locked from the other side but I got so turned around that it seemed the only path to where I wanted to be was to go all the way around the perimeter of the map, back to the hospital and then remember what weird route I'd taken before I got lost in the first place. The level design is believable and lived in but it lacks the overall readability of a From Soft or Naughty Dog game that makes it natural to navigate without a minimap or some kind of guidance system besides the compass that's somewhat pointless considering the map's bisected, gated nature.

Avatar image for humanity
Humanity

20673

Forum Posts

5738

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 40

User Lists: 15

@nodima: the lack of fast travel gets worse and worse as the game goes on and the streets start being populated by harder enemies. A weird design choice on their end that I thought they would have eventually patched in.

Avatar image for navster15
navster15

350

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Vampyr to me remains one of the most “my shit” games this gen, simply because it feels very much like a throwback to how BioWare used to make game in the Xbox and 360 days. Gimme hours of dialogue trees and interpersonal relationships and I’ll slurp that shit right up. And the aesthetic? I’ll just hand the mic over to Rob Zacny:

“ First, you need to know that I’m not objective about this. You give me foggy London streets between 1820-1920, crimes to solve or crimes to commit, and I’m all the way in. There is a level of scrutiny and consideration that you expect me to bring to these things and I’m going to admit upfront that I’m probably not capable of it. Not when there are rainy streets to prowl in a long wool coat, and grisly scenes to uncover in Whitechapel. Oh, my character served on the Western Front in World War I? I’m going to begin from the assumption that this is GOTY material.”

God, I really need to play this game again.

Avatar image for nodima
Nodima

3012

Forum Posts

24

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 13

User Lists: 0

@navster15: You know, via this game and Bloodborne, I think I've also realized I have an extremely "my shit" sort of game and this is definitely it!

Just as I was starting to hit a wall with this game, a few different things happened: I decided to go ahead and kill Joe, the Whitechapel bully, at which point I felt a little bad for his mega-depressed son so I chomped on him too. I'd also botched a surgery with Nurse Crane and she'd been turned so I reasoned her smuggle buddy didn't have much value to the community anymore and nabbed him, made some other slightly fuzzier choices and before I knew it I was carrying this huge stick, had a near infinite loop of stamina/bite/claw going and really got into the combat. I actually wound up not minding the enemies strewn about town at all.

That said, the bosses are quite bad and really expose how badly this game wants to be Bloodborne while handling a character less agile and ability-flexible than Geralt. But I do enjoy it's weird inversion of what that story is, where you're kind of mingling with a form of greater beings certain characters aspire to and others are repulsed by all while everyone can't stop talking about blood and specifically old blood while guys slowly hunch-walk up to you with torches and scythes. That all felt like home the entire time.

I also definitely double down on the lack of fast travel being a poor decision primarily because this version of London is not nearly as smartly designed as Yharnam but it likes to think it is. Whereas in that game you could do a single run through an area and feel like you already had it memorized, even something as abstract as the Nightmare in the DLC, I spent 25+ hours here and still barely had my bearings by the end of it. I'd be so confident I was on my way to one location only to pull up the map and be entirely on the other side of it, or coming up to the one door I still hadn't unlocked from the other side.

So I went back and re-listened to the Waypoint pod where Rob starts getting into the game and Patrick says something that's so spot on in that this is definitely a game where every hour or so you find yourself thinking, "why does it have to be this way?!" and yet...you're charmed by it? I think the story gets a little less interesting as it goes along - for starters, the sister Mary was probably my favorite character in the entire game and would have made for a far more interesting antagonist, especially considering the overall tone of the game and its unique interest in dichotomies, than the more existential threat you wind up contending with.

Normally I'd have probably let this thread die especially since it didn't get much of a varied response, but in a year in which I played Last of Us II, Tsushima, Spiritfarer, FFVII Remake and Yakuza Kiwami...this might've left as strong an impact on me as any of them??? So I was going to make one last push for PS+ users to give it a shot (this game has one of the worst percentage rates for trophies I've seen in a long time, dropping from 50% to 30% to 10% super rapidly along the timeline of play which I guess implies plenty of people tried it?) but I just realized today wasn't the last day it's available it's the first day it's not, so oh well. I'll pour out a pint of blood for my guy Johnathan Reid and his weirdly charming, quirky little game full of flaws and love.

I think Dontnod could knock a sequel out of the park if they put their minds to it.

Avatar image for leopold
Leopold

11

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Enjoyed this game so much, I did four playthroughs and grabbed the platinum. Basically played it for all of October.

Avatar image for astrozombie
astrozombie

265

Forum Posts

16

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Great post and awesome game. I really enjoyed my time with it, despite it's flaws. That may be in part because I feel like vampire games such as this and Bloodlines present really fun ideas and stories and such games are VERY rare.

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.