Diablo III is coming to Switch this December. We all know this. You could spend the next few months gawping into space, imagining how great it'll be to play Blizzard's seminal ARPG on the go. Or, you could snap out of your stupor and get warming up those looting muscles with a highly creditable alternative. Victor Vran: Overkill Edition is just such a game. It isn't as slick, polished, or downright accomplished as Diablo III, but then few games of this sort are. But it does have an energetic spirit all of its own, as well as a few unique advantages that might better serve a broader, Nintendo-loving crowd.
Let's back up a little. Victor Vran: Overkill Edition is an action role-playing game, which means that it eschews complex turn-based battle systems in favour of instant hack-and-slash action. Hoovering up a near-constant stream of loot and experience points is the key driver behind the game. Waves and waves of supernatural enemies wade towards you as you roam through the open hubs and instanced dungeons of Zagoravia - a gothic city besieged by otherworldly forces. Each defeated enemy yields experience points and, often, shiny loot. That loot comes in the form of coins, ability-modifying cards, difficulty-altering hexes and completely new weapons.
Ah, the weapons. Victor Vran has a brilliant combat system, anchored by its clear and concise focus on weapon types rather than distinct character classes. There are scythes, rapiers, swords, hammers, shotguns and more. Each weapon class handles completely uniquely, and each has its use depending on the type and number of enemies that you're facing. The rapier, for example, can issue lighting-quick attacks and is particularly useful at getting through singular armoured foes. It's not much good against mobs of the regenerating undead, however, where a slow but wide-ranging and hard-hitting hammer might be of more use.
These weapons are even more specialised thanks to the fact that they are tied to special attacks. Where other ARPGs might give you completely separate magical moves that can be chopped and changed individually, here they're mostly tied to each weapon type. You do get one-off demon powers that work in a more traditional way, but for the most part, it's all about the hardware. It all feeds into Victor Vran: Overkill Edition's distinctly hands-on combat. Most ARPGs tend to be designed with a mouse and keyboard in mind, deploying a semi-automated form of clicky combat that doesn't always translate too well to a control pad.
Victor Vran: Overkill Edition is different. Here you have direct control of the titular demon hunter's movement and attacks via the left Joy-Con and fascia buttons respectively. There's a dodge-roll on the L button for nipping out of immediate danger. You even have a jump button (complete with a Mario-esque wall-bounce) for getting out of trouble and accessing hidden areas. As a result, Victor Vran: Overkill Edition feels like a half-way point between a traditional ARPG and a mainstream action-adventure game. It's uniquely appealing to a console crowd brought up on more direct fare.
This accessibility is mostly aided by the tone of the game. It might look grim and downbeat from the screenshots, but there's a strong line of cheeky humour running through everything - most clearly seen with the jokey disembodied narrator, who throws a constant stream of quips and insults your way. It's a shame Victor himself is such a humourless stiff by contrast, and the jokey stuff often grates up against the portentous tone of the overarching plot. But it makes the game lighter and more palatable to an audience less versed in this sort of thing, at least.
Less palatable will be the game's many rough edges. The menus here are downright clunky, overstuffed as they are with tiny text and unclear icons. Navigating them with the Joy-Con stick is a bit of a chore, to say the least, and simply looking to see how a new weapon compares to your current one - a core part of the gameplay, remember - feels way harder work than it needs to be. While this world certainly has some personality, the graphics are just a little ropey. There's some brutally basic texture work on display, and large chunks of the world frequently pop into view as your view shifts a little. It's clearly a result of this being a 3D world with a zoomed-out view, but console audiences are used to such things being handled far more smoothly.
Switch owners are also used to flexible multiplayer options, and here they're better served. Victor Vran: Overkill Edition features both online and local co-op, which really lends itself well to this kind of ARPG experience. Playing through the story with a buddy by your side is bound to increase the loot-grabbing fun. Rough edges aside, Victor Vran: Overkill Edition is a highly entertaining action RPG with an uncommonly tactile combat system. It'll keep you hacking and looting until Diablo III arrives, at the very least. Some of you might even prefer it, we dare say.
A surprisingly immediate, console-centric ARPG with a gleefully tactile combat system, Victor Vran: Overkill Edition has its fair share of rough edges and a slightly discordant tone, but is nevertheless a highly entertaining way for Diablo fans to while away the hours until the real deal arrives on Nintendo's console.