It’s 1918. For four long years war has been causing destruction all across Europe until it has finally been stopped. You can now go back to London and continue your medical practice in peace. You weren’t directly involved in the war and you weren’t risking your life day after day like your countrymen soldiers did. But that’s not why you’ve managed to survive. Jonathan Reid, you’re a vampire, and that means that it’s extremely hard to kill you.
Vampyr is the new title from Dontnod Entertainment, a studio that got the attention of every fan of interactive movies thanks to Life is Strange. It would seem that such a success should be followed up by a sequel, but instead the developers decided to put their hands into something new – an action-oriented RPG. The result of their work is supposed to be the most ambitious project in their portfolio, and just like the story of the teenage Chloe, it’s aiming at showing other developers their place in the industry. Vampyr is not going to use graphics as the way to set itself apart, it’s not even going to compete for the title of the game with the biggest map within the genre of open-world titles. Instead it’s going to focus on the story and choices that you’ll have to make along with it. Choices that matter.
How many times have we heard that our decisions will shape the surrounding world, but in the end these were just empty words? Dontnod’s production is taking a step in the right direction – whenever we kill a citizen of London, the capital of Great Britain will slowly change, up until it becomes a complete ruin where drains are packed with dead bodies, and streets are full of creatures that attack the remaining people without any warning. At the same time, the game is going to keep telling us how big is the risk of doom for each and every district. When a certain indicator goes critical, we can expect changes from which there is no turning back. What’s interesting, this process can be accelerated through murders. If our protagonist will keep killing civilians within a certain area, the district will become Hell on Earth much faster.
And now we get to the most interesting part of this RPG – the developers said that character development is based on killing London’s citizens. This means that getting the experience points necessary for the next level can be gathered only through drinking the innocent people’s blood, so if you want to stay to true to the Hippocratic Oath instead of giving in to your vampiric bloodlust, you will get no XP. The developers who came to Los Angeles to show the game, highlighted that you can complete the game even with such drastic limitations, but it will be a true challenge.
Civilians in Vampyr won’t be just models wandering the streets of London with no real purpose. Every citizen has a unique personality and an extensive biography written in the journal. Moreover, these journal entries will be updated every time we manage to get new information regarding these people.
Dontnod leaves some space for spilling blood, as limitations regarding murders and experience points apply only to the innocent civilians. There will be no punishment for killing enemies – the vampire hunters. In the post-war London there is an old organization that found its purpose in eliminating bloodsuckers, both the “higher” ones that are no different from regular people, and the “lower” ones – imperfect vampires whose bodies were modified by mutations. In combat Reid will not only use his supernatural abilities, but he will also have a variety of weapons at his disposal, e.g. firearms. The game has an arcade combat system, and the player will have to work hard not to come out worse for wear on the other end of the skirmish. The French already highlight that the game will require you to get good at moving around the battle area and avoiding sophisticated tools that the vampire hunters can use to take a substantial amount of Jonathan’s energy. Of course you will also have to get proficient in engaging your opponents in melee fights or in ranged combat. It’s worth mentioning that the vampire will be able to regain some of the lost health by plunging his teeth deep into his opponent’s neck, but by doing so you will become an easy target for other enemies.
The game will put heavy emphasis on exploring the game world. By investigating the items you find during the exploration, you will unlock new dialogue options in conversations with NPCs. The dialogue system itself looks a lot like the one from Mass Effect, although Vampyr won’t give you the color-coded options leading to a positive or negative result of your actions. Remember to be careful with your words, because conversations that seem insignificant at first, may influence the following course of the story.
From what you could read above, it’s quite clear that the French studio is preparing a very complex game that will be unique in certain aspects. Even having to choose between murdering innocent civilians for experience and staying true to the Hippocratic Oath (remember that Reid is a trained doctor and he prefers to cure people, not kill them – at least in theory) sounds really cool, and then there’s also the world that actually changes in front of you based on the decisions you make. Additionally, Dontnod is really good at writing good plots, and that’s what we’re going to get in Vampyr as well. All of this adds up to one of the most intriguing titles of 2017.
During the presentation, the developers showed how removing one civilian changes the surrounding world. The vampire’s target was a guy named Joe, who regularly wanted money from another citizen of London – a merchant. When the bad guy was lured by Jonathan into a nice shady spot and killed, the life of the merchant changed for the better. Since he didn’t have to give up his money any longer, the guy got quite rich and expanded his influence, which resulted in having many more (and much better) items in stock.
Obviously the game is still in production and we can’t rule out that the developer’s ambitious plans will have to be toned down by reality, but for now we remain optimistic. Dontnod brought a very stable build of the game to E3, that had all the aformentioned features in it, and most of the mechanics were implemented into the gameplay, including the indicator responsible for showing the changes in the game world. There’s still a lot of time until the release of the game, so I think that Vampyr will easily undergo all the polishing it requires. I really hope it does, because what I saw during the short presentation in Los Angeles got me interested hook, line, and sinker. This is going to be a title that no RPG fan can ignore… at least that’s what I hope.
Kristian Smoszna | Gamepressure.com