The flawed underworld.

Vampyr is one of the most interesting games I have reviewed in 2018. I adore Dontnod’s ambition in all of their titles. Remember Me still sticks in my brain, and while I am not a fan of Life is Strange, I appreciate what they accomplished with that series. Vampyr feels like one of their titles, from the interesting ideas to the glaring issues that surface while playing. Even with its issues though, I can easily see Vampyr being a game people refer back to from this generation for all the good it delivers.

The world of Vampyr sets players smack dab in the middle of London during the first World War, assuming the role of Dr. Jonathan Reid, who has been turned into a creature of the night. After a lengthy intro filled with a chase and some light combat, players get access to the hospital, which becomes the hub where all missions derive from.

MSRP: $59.99
Platforms: XB1 (reviewed), PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $49.99

The world is a playground and decisions must be made. What makes Vampyr so interesting is the way it allows players to shape and mold the world. There is a big notice when starting the game that killing people and feeding on them will make things easier, but also warns of the consequences. This is the hook. Players can opt to make Dr. Reid more powerful, but at the expense of missing out on side missions and story content. While this doesn’t sound bad to some players, the world of Vampyr is so rich and interesting I quickly found myself in a moral dilemma.

Do I feed my hunger and gain experience points for wicked new abilities, or do I investigate the world and unweave the intricacies Dontnod has created? This is the crux of the entire game. Some games attempt to pull it off, but Vampyr succeeds. I often saw characters that were easy prey, but partaking in the night snack would eventually cut off ties to other characters. There is a massive web of people that are connected. Talking to them opens up hints to discuss with other characters. If they are dead, then those plotlines are closed off permanently. It made me think about every decision I was making.

All of these things make Vampyr a game worth playing, but it comes with caveats. From the minute I dove into this world something felt off. There are performance issues and weird animations. Then comes the combat. While entirely serviceable there is a lot left to be desired when it comes to taking on foes. There is a lock-on mechanic and plenty of moves at my disposal, but it all feels loose at times. There are awkward camera angles and it just feels like it wants to be more complex than it actually is.

There is a blood meter that fills up when performing special moves such as bite. This meter controls all the special attacks. Until I found a weapon that would give me some meter with each attack, it was a toss-up. Finding the right moment to strike with bite is fickle at best. It just never feels great. I found myself sighing whenever combat arose. I wanted to spend more time exploring and interacting with people. It also sucks that this is how the game opens up with arguably the weakest aspects of its mechanics. This leaves a sour first impression.

The upgrade tree in Vampyr is fascinating. I love the idea that I can respec at any point in the game, but again without partaking in nightly feasts, XP is hard to come by. I can also only upgrade when I find a hideout or rest. There are some wicked cool moves to be found within though, and experimentation is championed as I was able to go back and change at my leisure. I liked being able to test one build over another with little consequence.

Visually the game looks good. As I mentioned there are some iffy animations and the overall presentation is a little foggy, but the drab world of London is represented well. The world feels bleak and worn down. The frame rate holds up OK, but even on Xbox One X it feels under optimized. The budget for this game is apparent in a lot of its technical prowess. The voice acting and music on the other hand are stellar. The voice work is some of the best the team has produced, and the soundtrack is moody and dark, just as it should be.

Vampyr is a game I feel a lot of people will be discussing in a few years. It will be remembered fondly with its interesting ideas and brilliant storytelling. I wish the hindrances were not so apparent though. I feel like a lot of people will be turned off by the poorly paced intro and combat. Still if you are like me and can look past those blemishes, Vampyr is an amazing ride well worth the journey.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

  • World building and characters
  • Exploring the world
  • Voice acting
  • Combat can be rough
  • Technical issues
Written by
Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.