Developer: Saber Interactive
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Genre: Horror, Adventure, RPG, Action
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 18
Release Date: 29/10/19
Price: £44.99 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Vampires have fascinated me for years. One of the best books I wrote (shameless self-plug there) was a vampire novel. There is something about the mythos that just draws you in. Over the years there have been so many different takes on the genre. Different bits of lore being added, removed or combined to create new twists on old tales.
I have been eyeing Vampyr ever since it launched on the PS4, so when the chance came along to review it on the Nintendo Switch, I just jumped.
By how does this open-world RPG translate to the small screen? Does it make me want to live forever or leave me weeping and begging for a stake to the heart? Keep reading this rapid review to find out.
Journey into Early Twentieth-Century London
The first great war is over but there are no sighs of relief to be heard. Only the coughing and spluttering of the sick, as the Spanish flu ravages the nation.
The game takes you into the heart of old London and does a good job in capturing the look and feel of the time. I’m not saying I was blown away by the look of the game, and I can only assume there were some tweaks to the end product in order to get it on the switch because some elements are a little rudimentary, but all in all, it was a well-packaged final product.
It wasn’t so much the streets or the locations but rather some of the character animations. The mouth movements, in particular, felt a little old and tired. The classic graphical pitfall of hair was another sticking point for me. It was more noticeable on certain characters than others, but neither long hair nor facial hair looked anywhere near as realistic as I have seen it in other games. Nor did it match the rest of the game. Because the rest looked so strong this drop in quality only stood out even more. That being said, Vampyr is an open-world game that has a lot to offer visually and to be able to play it on the Switch remains impressive.
Strong Vocal Talent Gave Characters Life
There was a large range of characters to meet and interact with in the game. Each one had their own back story, some of which intertwined to varying degrees. This was the breadth of story that I found most appealing in the game.
The characters not only had their own backgrounds but distinct personalities that came to life as you talked to them. Some were sweet and charming, others lost and damaged, and the odd few were simply put, rotten to the core.
Given than part of the game revolved around your decisions on the direction these interactions took, and whether or not you decided to tear their throats out and leave their bodies cold and alone in the street, the different personalities certainly made the decisions harder and more interesting.
The voice acting was very well done with not just the dialogue for each character being unique but also their voices and accents, from regional dialects to eastern European. I felt something for each of the characters, and that is something not many games can manage so successfully.
A Supernatural RPG That Tests Your Morality
If I had to choose a playstyle, it would be the third person. Sure, first-person works for some games, but overall, the third person is my cup of team.
Vampyr starts with a cut scene that shows your untimely demise and throws you into the thick of things with gunfire raining down on you. You see, vampires are the scourge of London and fear has brought hunters to the streets in their droves. It’s a fun start and sets the scene for the game.
London is a torn city, with many districts in a bad way. You are a decorated doctor coming back from the war and despite being undead you are rescued by your employer at the only hospital in the city and given a safe haven.
This is where the dual morality system of the game starts to come into play. You have essentially two ways to play. I say two because while there is a middle ground option it doesn’t work that way in the long run.
You can either leave everybody alone, treat the patients in the hospital for the different ailments (providing you crafted enough of the different medicines), and talk to everybody you meet on the streets – in the friendly parts of town, or you can go on a bloodthirsty rampage and kill everybody.
Passive or Aggressive There is No Happy Medium
Because when you kill just a few people your actions will still result in the entire being wiped out, thus removing all of those characters from the game, any associated side quests and conversation possibilities with them and their associates. It also makes those streets far more dangerous with both supernatural beasts and vampire hunters roaming everywhere.
So, you might be wondering why kill at all? It’s in your nature, but not required to play the game. The choice is yours after all. Well, killing civilians is a huge boost in XP and leveling.
The game does a great job of getting you to rear your prey. Many are sick and by healing them you raise the quality of their blood for future feasts, and then, when you do kill them, the game gives you a guilt-laden monologue of that character as their soul leaves their body.
Never before has a game made me feel so guilty about taking the life of another character.
For the purpose of the review, I played the game in two phases. I played the way I would play it the first 75%, helping people, exploring the character options and conversations, but then to be able to give a fair review, went on a killing spree towards the end just to see what happened.
The overall storyline is consistent with you tracking down leads to find out who created you and why. There is a bigger purpose than just a vampire looking for a midnight snack. This runs through the different core characters you connect with and also ties back to the sub-plot giving a nice rounded ending.
Another thing I enjoyed about the game, and which made it stand out a little for me was that it didn’t end with the final boss fight – which was oddly easy – but rather with an entire chapter that was basically a walking simulator through eastern Europe, a simple puzzle and the actionless rounding off of the final piece of the storyline. It was an interesting choice and one I felt offered a greater feeling of resolution than the standard, the boss is dead, quick cut scene and then roll credits that many games seem to rely on.
You Are Rewarded for Exploration
The game gives you a linear path for following the main storyline, with only one possible ending, well, two if you count dying and not giving it another go. However, there is a lot of reward for general exploration as you move through the chapters.
There are collectibles in the form of documents and literature that talk about everything from the vampire species to the secret societies that hunt them and much more. This game introducing a large depth into vampire lore, and if you take the time to read what you find and talk to the locals you can get steeped in it even more.
Hideouts are another nice bonus find. They are littered all through the different boroughs and offer you a safe haven. Only visible on your map once you have found them they offer a place to rest and thus spend your XP points, and also to craft weapon upgrades and medicines.
I didn’t find all of the collectibles during my review run through the game which means there are still plenty of places for me to explore. I have a suspicion they are in the areas that got wiped out after my killing spree.
Different Ways to Play Encourage a Retry
There is a replayability factor in the game, and while I don’t see it become a game many people obsess about speedrunning it certainly has enough to pull you back in. To see if you can do a ‘pacifist run’ or experience the thrill of surrendering to the blood lust and just taking down everybody who crosses your path.
There are a lot of different boss fights in the game with bosses and mini-bosses standing in your way through each chapter and given the different weapons you can craft and arm yourself with there is an appeal to going back and finding the best combination for each boss. One I took down from distance with handguns and shotguns but once that fight was over, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I took the cheap route.
I found Vampyr to be a really engaging game. There was a lot of content that certainly pulled me into the story. I had me pausing to think about the questions I asked and the decisions I made. I developed strong feelings for different characters, both positive and negative. I do wonder how the Switch version compares to other consoles, however.
I played in equal measures both docked and handheld and while docked seemed to give better visibility, I was surprised that the controls were far smoother when playing handheld. There seemed to be just a shade of input lag in docked mode that made the game feel a little sluggish in places.
I’d definitely recommend the game to those with a switch and looking to try something new. I’ll definitely be getting the physical for my shelves.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Vampyr from the Nintendo eShop on the following link, https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch/VAMPYR-1644982.html
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.