Vampyr, despite its title, isn’t really about vampires. Okay, it is to a large extent (obviously), but what it really explores is the power of temptation – for the main character, most of the people he meets (or eats), and for the player themselves.
The game puts you in the pasty skin of Dr Jonathan Reid, a famous surgeon specialising in blood transfusions who wakes up one night as a vampire (irony, see?). As if that weren’t bad enough, his first meal turns out to be someone important to him, and he ends up getting pursued by vampire hunters to a quarantined area of 1918 London.
Players guide the doctor as he comes to terms with his newfound state of undead-ness – along with the strength and abilities that come with it – and tries to solve a series of mysteries; primarily, what’s the connection between a city-wide epidemic of Spanish flu and the surprising number of vampires in the vicinity, and who the heck sunk their teeth into the doctor’s neck in the first place?
While the narrative is naturally front and centre – what else would you expect from Dontnod Entertainment, the studio behind acclaimed narrative series Life Is Strange? – this is very much an RPG, with an unorthodox use of XP to upgrade the good (or bad) doctor. Experience can be gathered by defeating enemies and completing quests, but there are even more points available for those who give in to their vampiric appetite and start sucking the blood of the innocent.
Herein lies the temptation: it is possible to progress without taking a single innocent life, but the game becomes much easier if you take a more brutal approach – a fact you’re regularly reminded of during loading screens after you die. Some characters can offer thousands of points, and that increases as you unlock their secrets and craft medicines to bring them to peak health.
There’s a moral dilemma, naturally; little to none of the NPCs in the game are faceless avatars. They all have names, backstories, personalities and relationships to one another. Suck the blood out of a mental patient who thinks she’s a vampire, and her closest friend will flee the hospital they share, have a run-in with actual vampires and end up a boss-level beastie. Your kills have wider repercussions, too; the more lives you take, the more dangerous and chaotic the local district becomes. It’s also possible to cut off potential quests and lose merchants that sell valuable items.
All good reasons to deter your inner Dracula, but Dontnod ramps up the pressure to utilise your fangs with regular difficulty spikes. Blitz through the main quest and you’ll soon find yourself up against difficult boss and mini-boss fights, woefully underpowered to take them on. Of course, you can just step away and invest more time into the 'Investigations' side quests, but there’s all that juicy XP just waiting around, pumping around the veins of people happy to chat to Dr Reid, all of whom are a short walk from a dark and secluded corner. The temptation is very real.
The difficulty spikes are also amplified by the levelling system. You can only upgrade your vampire powers by resting at one of the hideouts littered across London. If you spend too much time delving through dialogue trees and completing investigations without cashing in that XP, it can be a struggle to battle your way through the streets in order to level up. The jarring lack of fast travel or manual saves is almost certainly a conscious move by Dontnod, requiring players to think ahead. But then every time you rest and evolve, time passes until the following night, potentially locking off side quests and other opportunities – another dilemma for Vampyr players.
By the second half of the game, high-level battles become more frequent so players need to have mastered the combat system in order to survive. While it lacks finesse, there is an element of strategy to it; you can’t just spam the attack button as your stamina bar will rapidly deplete and Dr Reid will be left standing gormlessly in the middle of a fight. Good thing he’s a vampire, though – knocking out the enemy’s stamina allows you to bite them (yes, even bosses) restoring your health, stamina and the blood you need to pull off special vampire abilities.
Combat, however, isn’t the main focus of the game, which is perhaps why it’s so easy to find yourself unprepared for the next fight. Dontnod once again shows off its storytelling chops with an overarching plot that’s well-paced and laden with some interesting twists. There’s even more narrative goodness to be had in conversation with the various citizens of London, and it’s clear the studio spent as much time thinking about the politics of vampire society as it did the blood-powered super attacks.
As the Switch port of a game initially built for higher-end machines, the visuals have been noticeably downgraded; framerate can get a little sketchy, the resolution drop makes things look very muddy when compared to other versions and there are a few blemishes that hopefully will get patched out (such as brief loading screens if you try to run through the world too quickly). But, like the undead doctor himself, what Vampyr has lost in its looks it retains in its character and depth.
Vampyr is a brilliant take on the vampire fantasy, focusing more on drama, relationships and inner conflicts than on sucking blood. The temptation at its core can lead to frustration, as the challenging boss fights feel designed to urge you towards killing more innocent NPCs. Anyone attempting a no-kill playthrough may struggle unless they’re willing to invest the time, but if you’re enjoying the story and characters, it’s time well spent.
Looking forward to this.
I am excited to finally give this one a go now that I can play it on the go!
Held off on the PS4 version. Will snag this when it is on sale.
Got it off my PC Game Pass account. Ended up playing other stuff, but liked what little I did play. Nice addition to the switch library.
Another Switch port developed by Saber Interactive, the same folks behind The Witcher III port. Will be buying a physical copy eventually.
@Magician They're also the people that did Call of Cthulu and Ghostbusters.
I'm just pleased to see another good Vampire game in existence. Everyone seems to say Vampires have been done to death, both in Films and Games, but it's really not true of games in particular, and even in film good ones are few and far between. (unlike Zombie flix/games).
Personally I'd like to see developers making very good games using all Universal/Classic Monsters more. It's the one fantasy-based area in gaming were devs can still stand out – because the number of very good Vampire/Werewolf based games over the decades can be counted on 2 hands if we are being generous.
I'll check this one out – and we have that Vampire: The Masquerade Coteries of New York in December that looks promising too. Keep em coming devs!
I just cannot be silent anymore. Vampyre, The Witcher III, or Wolfensteins, they just suck on Switch. Swithch isnt just good enough for such big games.
@BlackenedHalo "I just cannot be silent anymore." 🤣
Do you feel better having farted that vapid little comment out?
@luke88 Isn't what I said true?
@BlackenedHalo Part of it is not true, part of it is your opinion. It's all rather amusing.
You: “STOP HAVING FUN!”
@BlackenedHalo I'll grant you I don't love the blurry visuals – but that's the compromise if you want those titles on a portable. Vampyr etc. on a Switch Lite in particular is still quite something to behold.
Even without those titles though the Switch offers a lot with amazing first party 'big game' exclusives, some third party exclusives to be proud of, and a catalog of some of the finest Indies and retro classics.
But if you want to play those particular games most, and at best quality, then sure, the Switch isn't really the right choice for that.
Will pick this up eventually, too many other games to prioritize on Switch right now. Looks like a solid port of a solid game though.
people saying switch isn't powerful enough? come on, the developers are just to lazy to optimise or port a game. If you can play playstation 2, Sega dreamcast games ported on a iPhone (that was years ago), among others. Or fit RE2 on n64 cartridge, or most actual Nintendo games that have surprisingly small file sizes compared to other big games ported to switch. I don't think there is any reason any game cant be successfully ported from one console to any other, when so many games are anyway. Not bringing RE2 remake to switch? no reason. or Steep the open mountain snowboarding wing suit game that was supposed to be ported to switch, the one reason I actually got one, but then the port was cancelled. the lack of Tony hawks or snowboarding games on switch is painful........ with that kind of nonviolent crazy awesome multiplayer fun.
@BlackenedHalo That's why I cancelled my Witcher III pre-order for Switch and bought it for my PS4.
Not a real vampire, there is a Y! Please spread awareness of this horrible act of impersonation by donating to the vampire association today
@BlackenedHalo your right. I have my switch for Nintendo games. Triple A games generally suck on Nintendo consoles. That’s what my PS4 is for.
@JohnE you bought it for cheaper as well, with trophies and better visuals
I love when console elitists pretend PC doesn’t exist and act as if the console they bought is the most powerful console of all time.
This game looks ok. Like, good, but not exceptional. But not bad. Know what I mean? It looks... decent.
I’ll grab the cartridge copy but, it’ll have to get backlogged.
I’m sorry, but I just can’t keep silent anymore (since we’re randomly declaring unrelated opinions now). Witcher 3, DOOM, Vampyr, these games suck anywhere but Switch.
Imagine using a landline telephone for all your calls after cell phones have been around for years. Is the voice quality higher? Sure. Is it cheaper than cell phones? Of course. Is it worth the antiquated tethering to one spot in a mobile world? Not a chance.
That goes doubly so for games that offer gyro on Switch. The 1995 control schemes for games requiring dual stick aiming needed to go away like yesterday. Playing a game in only one spot, and with an outdated control scheme... that’s a double whammy. Not only using a landline, but a rotary dialer at that.
Your insecurity from seeing these kinds of games coming to Switch is more than evident, hence me answering in kind. I’ve been selling off my PS4 Pro and Xbox One X games every time one comes to Switch. They are relics of a past gaming era that no longer suit modern needs in a mobile world. But what I don’t do is go onto fan sites for PlayStation and Xbox and tell everyone how their versions all suck because they’re stuck in the rotary landline era. That very well might be my opinion, but insecure gloating toward them to boost my own ego out of insecurity would be absurd. If you want to play games elsewhere... then go do it. You don’t need to tell us about it.
Omg i need my game with the best graphics. Oh my i need it to run 60fps and smooth. Good games don't need great graphics for the switch. We want portability. So, yeah, go buy this on your ps4 and have fun but when you start crying about not being able to take your game anywhere else, just come back here and we'll give you a hug.
I keep forgetting about vampire bloodlines 2,
while its due for release in March.
It's March before we know it ( or like it to be )
Nope it's just you opinion.
It's only true for you, not for others.
Looking forward to playing this on my Switch after I'm done with Res Evil 5 and Luigis Mansion.
Forgot how much fun RE5 is when playing co-op.
@brunojenso "Personally I'd like to see developers making very good games using all Universal/Classic Monsters more. It's the one fantasy-based area in gaming were devs can still stand out – because the number of very good Vampire/Werewolf based games over the decades can be counted on 2 hands if we are being generous."
I totally agree. Those Universal characters are real gems and they'll never get old as long as people put some work into it. There's potential public for this kind of game and just emphasizing what you said: good quality vampire games (as well as werewolves and other monsters) are very few. There's a lot of trash around involving vampires. If someone develops a really good game on this theme, it will sell a lot, I think
But to be honest I think even Universal doesn't really care about them anymore. I went to Los Angeles Universal Studios Park some months ago and although their souvenir main shop is huge, they had practically nothing about the monsters. Some very silly things but nothing as nice as any other product line they had there, which is sad. I couldn't find a nice Dracula or Frankenstein's monster t-shirt in the Universal official wrote. And that's ridiculous. Maybe it'll be easier to have a series of games involving the Minions...
This sounds like a cool game. I’d like to try it eventually but may work on some of the games I already have first.
@Agramonte Oh shoot. It's on gamepass? Well crap. Thanks for saving me some cash. Will still get it on switch, as I never finish RPGs at my desk anymore, but now I can mess around for a bit, demo it, and then wait for it to hit $20. It's a focus game, so it wont be too long.
If you like to suck, get Luigi's Mansion 3. Luigi sucks better than this buck tooth monster.
@KitsuneNight Wasn't thinking of Bloodlines 2 (is that coming to Switch!?). There is another one - 'Vampire: The Masquerade Coteries of New York' by the same company – more of a visual novel (but looks very good), and it's due in December.
@John_Deacon Man, that's a shame about the souvenir shop. It's not like we want miracles - just some effort. I was one who even quite liked both the new Wolfman and Dracula Untold. Sure, they were not great films – but I still enjoyed them to a reasonable degree. Dracula Untold got paned for getting the main character completely wrong (which I partly agree with) – but they did get the main ingredient that is often missed – which is that Dracula's story is first and foremost, a tragedy.
In so far I know Bloodlines 2 is coming to the usual suspects.
But you may never know, a port may happen.
Coteries of New York sounds interesting.
Not sure yet what platform, I wil get it on though.
"A vampire game that doesn't suck:
Rated a 7
@BlackenedHalo Witcher 3 is perfectly fine on Switch and I'm really enjoying it. This game however has extreme framerate issues and is downright unplayable at times.
Got this in the spring sale and totally regretting it, the story is solid and I really want to like it. However the combat isn't too great and is further hindered by the poor frame rate. The game is blurry and runs badly on Switch. The unreal engine from the Wii U era would have been better for this port, less stupid effects and would have half decent textures and some clarity to the image, maybe the frame rate would have improved too. Got along with God eater 3, which is the opposite, terrible story but smooth clear gameplay.
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