Vampires are almost getting as bad as zombies; they’re virtually everywhere. From teen romance novels to comics to shows on FX, vampires are proliferating most modern forms of media, including video games. Which is why it’s easy to dismiss Vampyr, at first glance; oh look, another thing about vampires, and ZOMG! HE HAS THE FEELS, YO. Please. Haven’t we had enough of the vampire emo stories? Seeing that Dontnod has a hand in it, the same developer that brought on the king of emo teen stories, Life Is Strange, doesn’t assuage any fears, either.
However, Vampyr appears to be a completely different beast from Life Is Strange (and yes, that pun was intended). For one, it’s not about angsty teenagers, and two, it doesn’t appear to have a twisted love story. Instead, it’s about the dark decisions a doctor has to make as he tries to save Victorian London from the Spanish flu, all while knowing he has to kill innocent people in order to survive as a vampire.
Whom Do You Save?
In this alternate version of London, vampires have always stalked the land of the living, but humans are rather susceptible to being prey with the rampancy of the Spanish flu. As they are forced out of their homes, become poor, lose their families to illness, etc., the London residents are far too easy targets for the predators of the night. Dr. Jonathan Reid is one of these unfortunate souls, and he is tormented by his need to help the victims of the disease as well as his need to feed on others.
The player, as Dr. Reid, will have to choose how many people to save as a doctor and how many people to kill as a vampire in each district. These choices affect the balance of the district and therefore affect London’s stability. If Dr. Reid kills too many people, the balance will be tipped in chaos’ favor, and the same goes if he doesn’t save enough people from the flu.
Even if the player wants to kill everyone, which is certainly an option, a good portion of the game comes from solving the mystery behind the flu outbreak as well as a cure. You can’t properly feed on peoples consumed with sickness, now can you? It’s in your best interest to find a cure, regardless if everyone is no more than a fresh meal to you.
Whom Do You Kill?
It doesn’t matter if you do want to save everyone, because a vampire has got to eat eventually. As you find clues about the disease, Dr. Reid will undoubtedly stumble upon less than lovely folks. Some of these lovely folks are vampire hunters, who will try to kill you on sight. So hey, why not take one of them aside and kill them? Naturally, you should do that after you take care of the others in the mob, because if any are left standing, they aren’t apt to letting you finish your meal.
If you kill someone outside of a combat situation, you must mesmerize them to get them to move out of sight. Draining someone out in the open is the fastest way to receive a ‘Game Over’ screen. However, once you do mesmerize them, Dr. Reid is able to get into their heads, and he can see nearly everything about this person. You, the player, will be confronted with the fact that you may be killing a mother of children, another doctor, or perhaps a mass murderer.
E3 2016 - Vampyr Preview - The Dichotomous Doctor (PS4)
Who will you choose? And you must choose, because the more you embrace the vampire within, the more experience you will earn to learn new abilities on the massive skill tree. The more abilities you master, the easier it is to fight other vampires and vampire hunters. But of course, it’s a double-edged sword, because the stronger you become, it mean the more people you have killed and thus tipped the balance in the district. It also means you are losing more of your humanity.
Vampyr will release in 2017 for PlayStation 4, and this one can’t come soon enough. I’m not sure which disappoints me more: the fact that I didn’t get any hands-on time with this title or the fact that it won’t release until next year. I really wanted to play around with Dr. Reid’s vampire powers, check out how his detective skills rank up there with Batman’s, and get a feel for the combat available. Alas, I’ll have to wait until a PAX later down the road or until the game launches next year.
Stay tuned to our interview with Dontnod where we talk about everything Vampyr!