The Sports Courier Gaming’s Fred Richani puts Vampyr on PlayStation 4 to the test. How does this vampire RPG fare?
Full Disclosure: The Sports Courier was provided with a free copy of this game from publisher Focus Home Interactive and Evolve PR for the purpose of this review.
Watch our Vampyr PS4 review video here or scroll to read our report:
Vampyr is a third person action role-playing game taking place in 1918 London during the Spanish Flu epidemic, lived and played through the eyes of main character Dr. Jonathan Reid, well known for his blood transfusion methods. Oh, by the way, he’s also a human who somehow came back to life as a vampire (Vampyr) and requires living, human blood in order to survive. The game is dark in content and setting, and the impressive art style certainly sets the tone.
In Vampyr, you have various goals much like any RPG. Solve crimes, conspiracies, and of course, the Spanish Flu epidemic — all while maintaining a balance of how much chaos you must unleash as a freakin’ vampire. You gain experience points by completing missions and acquiring key hints through the game’s robust dialogue system. This isn’t one of those games where you waste your time talking to useless non-playable characters. Each one of these NPCs serve a purpose, no matter how big or small, in progressing the story. As you gain hints from each conversation, you can chat again with characters and bring up subjects to get to the bottom of a particular mystery.
One major skill you can increase over time in regards to dialogue is mesmerize, which is the art of persuasion on steroids — allowing you to get into people’s houses unsolicited or take them somewhere secluded — in order to feast on their blood. Be careful who you mesmerize and kill though. The more you kill, the more the area sinks into a dire situation, leading to all hell breaking loose. Well, more hell than what’s already on the loose….
You should also be weary of whose blood you consume and what condition the character is in. As you kill enemies and explore London, you acquire various materials to craft cures for fatigue, the common cold, anemia, among other ailments. Not saying you should bite the neck of EVERYONE, but if you’re going to and they happen to be sick, make sure they’re nice and healthy first… before you bite them in the neck….
Here’s the really creepy aspect of Vampyr. Schillings aren’t the only currency — at least not to vampires. Blood rules above all else and the healthier and more prominent a character is, the more their blood will be worth to you and your growth. However, as mentioned before, it comes at the expense of the city’s physical and mental state.
Depending on who you kill and how much blood you consume, combat can get easier or much more challenging, should you choose to protect as many characters as possible. The combat in the game has been described as similar to Bloodborne and Dark Souls. Full disclosure, I haven’t played those games, so I’d best describe it as early Assassin’s Creed style with more strategy, particularly when it comes to stamina. Much like most AC games, the combat system gets a little repetitive once you get the hang of it. Left/Right buttons are used for specials and ultimates including being able to heal yourself with your own blood. Triangle to stun. Square for your main weapon. Circle to duck and dodge. and the directional pad to switch out weapons and take an antidote. Unlike AC, you can’t button mash your way through everything. Maintaining you stamina is key, unless you want to leave yourself prone to your enemies attack. Sometimes all it takes is one hit to kill your momentum — and yourself. You will definitely want to be mindful of your stamina during boss battles and stay patient.
Trust me, you’ll need even more patience if you do die because reload times are no joke. And here’s where Vampyr becomes extremely polarizing. For all the good things I can say about this game — the narrative structure, art style, voice acting, and variety of skills to level up — there are just as many complaints I could make about this game from a technical standpoint.
The long load times………. If you die, give Vampyr around two minutes to reload back to the checkpoint. In today’s gaming age, that’s two minutes too long. It’s not Just Cause 3 on PS4 bad, which had me waiting literally 20 minutes after a death, but it’s not great either. Depending on certain doors you open or people you talk to or even at random parts of combat, you will experience one to two minutes of what seems to be an obnoxiously unnecessary loading time for a major game. But the issues don’t stop there. At times when sprinting, I had the frame rate drop below 30 and early on when speaking to characters, the initial camera angles were just bizarre and at times, obstructed the characters’ faces. I also had issues early on with the directional pad responding when attempting to switch weapons or use an antidote DURING COMBAT.
Beyond these technical issues, I found two features lacking and this in no way is exclusive to Vampyr, but I believe they are worth mentioning. There is no quicksave option in the game, although there are enough autosave opportunities, mainly when you go to sleep at a hideout in order to level up. The other lacking feature is Fast Travel. I get that one of the keys to Vampyr is exploration and facing the unexpected, but last time I checked, many current generation RPGs had quicksave and fast travel options and those features didn’t seem to hurt the gaming experience whatsoever.
To sum up my issues with well, Vampyr’s issues, the game plays very much like a launch title on PS4 as opposed to a game taking full advantage of the Sony console’s capabilities after five years of being in existence. Believe it or not, if you can tolerate these issues and I use the word tolerate loosely, this game could be worth your while. Believe me, I wouldn’t say that about a lot of games that load, load, and load. So what’s the verdict?
Graphics, I give the game an 7.5. I really dig the art style, but I have to dock some points for the frame rate issues that are never fun to deal with.
Gameplay, I give Vampyr a 7.5. These are certainly not the best RPG controls I’ve ever had given the technical issues, but the combat can be quite fun once you get your timing and stamina management down on lock.
Content, I give Vampyr an 8. Despite all the technical issues I had with this game and the story taking some time to really hook me, I thoroughly enjoyed playing through a narrative that just screams different. In a gaming world where many copy one another in an oversaturated market, Vampyr does one hell of a job of standing out, for better or worse.
Overall: TSC gives Vampyr on PS4 a 7.6/10.
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