Playstation Plus put on an interesting free game this month in the form of Vampyr, an action-RPG game released back in 2018. This was a game that I had been interested in for a couple of years, unfortunately getting swept under the rug by whatever the hell I was playing back then. Now seemed like a time to right that wrong.
Set in London in 1918 during a brutal epidemic, the player controls the character of Dr Jonathan Reid who was been attacked by a vampire and left for dead. Springing back to life with undead vigour, Jonathan is flung into a difficult predicament, being a surgeon of some renown as well as a creature of the night with a thirst for blood.
There’s many mechanics at work in this game: part of Vampyr is a semi-open world which sees you speak to NPCs, take side jobs, trade and gain cash and experience; there’s also combat, where you fight fanatical vampire hunters and other beasties using Reid’s own vampiric powers, and another aspect of the game where you manage the health and well-being of the various districts and boroughs in a kind of ‘local doctor’ sim fashion. It all melds together into one game bizarrely well, and becomes extremely immersive once you get into your stride.
I enjoyed the combat the most, a mostly melee affair with some gunplay if you choose to use a revolver in your off-hand. In all, it flows in an almost Bloodborne/Assassin’s Creed-like manner, especially when using the lock-on feature. I found that once you start mixing your chose vampire abilities into the fights too, these scraps can take on a whole new form and really show what the game’s upgrade system has to offer.
Managing the health of the boroughs is done through healing NPCs of diseases that afflict them, such as sepsis, migraines, the cold etc, and also not harvesting them for their XP. The amount of XP carried by each NPC varies and can increase after you do some investigatory work by talking with them and other characters in their social circle. Choosing to ’embrace’ them nets you their blood XP which can be exchanged for vampiric upgrades, but weakens the overall health and stability of the district.
Killing NPCs may get you the blood XP but it also has negative effects on the district, such as seeing more patrols or beasties on the streets as a result. One merchant I encountered even stopped selling their wares out of depression, after their significant other was feasted on by some unscrupulous vampire that totally wasn’t me….
There are a couple of mildly annoying little niggles that bother me about Vampyr, however great it is on the surface. One of these is the stamina meter, which degrades when sprinting or dodging, but also with every swing of whatever weapon you have equipped. These are essentially “light” attacks you’re using, and to have these consume stamina seems very odd. I’m also at odds with myself for thinking this game should have a fast travel system too, as I have found myself exhaustively hoofing it across multiple boroughs to reach quest points or various characters, but I guess this is so you get to experience the surroundings that your decisions have helped to shape, both positive and negative.
On the whole, I found Vampyr to be a solid RPG with an addictive neighbourhood management sim at the heart of it. The setting and time period make it somewhat unique, and I found myself exploring every nook of the darkened London streets just soaking up the atmosphere. While it has some issues in combat and in performance in general, I’d easily recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good RPG game.