Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is a broken mess. It’s buggy, ugly, and badly voice acted. It’s a complete mess of a game, but has a heart, and depicts vampires in a very unique light. It’s a dark depressing world, where your actions affect how people see you. It never gives you a morality compass, it just creates consequences for your actions — even if you do something ‘good’ you might still end up losing out.
Vampyr is the same as this, just without being broken, having bad voice acting, and being badly written.
In fact, Vampyr’s main character Jonathan Reid is really well written and well acted.
However, there are many issues with Vampyr in the combat, levelling system, and some menus.
The Combat Has Good Ideas But Lacks Impact
Combat in Vampyr is done with two buttons for attack. You can set one of these as a stun weapon or ranged, the other as the main attack. You can also use 2-handed weapons, which are slower. Switching is done with either the left or right button on the d-pad between the 2 different types of weapon. It’s all very fluid and allows you to change up your strategies quickly.
However, the combat is mostly mashing one button and dodging. You dodge bullets, slashes, or axe swings the same way, you hit everything in the same way, you don’t really need to dodge into different places or hit from the back. You can stun, and then bite people, but often that takes more time and leaves you open for attack, meaning strategy is needed for when to bite.
There are also vampiric powers you possess, but I never felt these were useful. To compound all of this, your attacks don’t feel like they have any real impact. They feel like they just float through enemies while blood falls out, and a health bar drops.
There are valid strategies to employ around combat, but doing them just doesn’t feel satisfying.
This is not the only issue I have
Vampyr being an RPG means there is an XP system to level up skills, and a loot system to craft weapon upgrades or potions. Crafting is your standard affair, collect enough of ‘the things’ and you can create ‘a thing’ — these things can be potions to heal up, or upgrading your weapons.
This system works well and isn’t overly complicated. However, when it comes to working out how many items you have, or how many you need, it isn’t too easy to work out as the text is rather small. It also takes some time to understand if the top or bottom number is how many of that item you have, or how many you need.
This system may work fine, however, the XP system is another story. You gain XP mainly based off killing people, but, by killing random NPCs you can lose parts of the story.
It is supposed to be the point, the conundrum between furthering your skills by killing people and losing parts of the story. Not killing people to protect your own morality meter (the players own) but then not really getting much XP. However, not killing also makes the game harder to the point where some combat scenarios are almost impossible. There are always some people you must kill for story reasons, and some which don’t really matter if you do (if your personal morals allow), but it feels like the game is almost forcing you to kill.
In a game where choice is supposed to be a big draw, it feels rather limiting.
I think that a system which gives you cool options for both combat, and non-combat play styles (or even non-lethal) would give the player more incentive to not kill anyone, while making the game harder is a good system I think that having some proper stealth powers or non-lethal combat options would alleviate these issues — non-lethal would also be harder to do than lethal combat to keep the sense that killing will make you more powerful quicker.
The issues don’t stop here, the actual interface makes the ‘cursor’ act like a mouse even when using a controller. You have to use the joystick of a controller like a mouse, then when selecting something to upgrade or craft you have to hold the button down for an exorbitant amount of time. It feels like it takes a good three seconds to do anything, and it gets rather tedious fast.
There Is A Lot To Like With Vampyr Though
Going back to the analogy comparing Vampyr to Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, it also has a great atmosphere and dark gothic vibe (even if this isn’t the focus). Vampyr is set in 1918 London during the night — you are a vampire after all. The city is shrouded in mist, filled with oddball characters, and has a slightly claustrophobic feel. Everything in Vampyr drips with atmosphere, from the music, to the graphics, to the characters, and everything in between. I want to talk about the story and characters, but this would only spoil the game. The one thing I will mention is how much of an information dump is put at the beginning. The game doesn’t show anything to start, it just monologues at you for too long. But after this, the story starts to grab you and sinks its teeth in. (I finally made a vampire pun, woo!)
Vampyr is made by one of my favourite developers, Dontnod (Remember Me, Life is Strange) and really shows what the team is best at. Characters, atmosphere, writing, story, and world building. In these aspects, it’s the best Dontnod have ever been. With a few changes to allow for the feeling of true freedom of choice, it could have been their best game yet.
Note: This game was provided by the publisher for the purposes this review.