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Vampyr Hands-On Preview – Conflicting Decisions (PS4)

Vampyr has been rapidly approaching its release date of June 5, 2018. The game was in full force at publisher Focus Home Interactive’s recent Le What’s Next De Focus event in Paris. PlayStation LifeStyle was granted two full hours to play the beginning of this upcoming action RPG, and we have our initial impressions ready for you below.

Uncontrollable Thirst

This tale begins in quite a memorable location – Dr. Jonathan Reid “awakens” to find himself thrown onto a pile of bodies. Dazed, he slowly comes to, and shambles across a nearby deck. He can’t quite make out the shadowy figures around him, and in his confusion performs an action which will have countless ramifications. It’s a quick but powerful sequence (one which we are under NDA to not divulge the details of), and sets up the player’s motivation quite well.

Vampyr is being developed on Unreal Engine 4. As with many of the games shown at Focus Home Interactive’s event, we were playing on souped-up PCs, so the graphics were likely turned up a bit higher than will be seen on home consoles. But the Unreal Engine has a history of performing very well on consoles, and this will likely be the case when the final product is shipped on the PlayStation 4. The mood in Vampyr is constantly a dark one, with the streets of 1918 London dimly lit, and the pestilence of the area a reminder that the Spanish flu made conditions horrendous.

Gaining experience in most games is done by defeating enemies or completing quests. While those actions may earn Dr. Reid some experience, the amount pales in comparison to that gained by succumbing to the vampiric powers bestowed upon him. However, there are no random NPCs in Vampyr. Each and every single one has a history, a life, and unexpected links to other characters within London.

Decide Who Lives or Dies

My first chance to decide whether to let a citizen live or die came about pretty early on in my demo. I had found someone who had been stabbed in a fight with another. Since I was a doctor, I was able to gain this citizen’s trust fairly quickly. As a vampire, Dr. Reid is able to force someone to enter a trance, and thus be willed to walk to a secluded corner of the city, where he is able to feast on them. A tutorial kicked in to show me the way this occurred, and I decided to let the man walk away – he was only “worth” 500 XP, which wasn’t enticing enough to make my first kill on. As luck would have it, I found out later by questioning other citizens that this person was the leader of a gang, which may or may not be important later on in the story. So my refusal to suck the blood of this person simply because their blood wasn’t worthy enough may have left some options open to me that others might not see.

It’s this possibility of closing off paths that I felt Dontnod Entertainment really wanted to drive home. Dr. Reid is much more powerful than almost anyone he will encounter in the streets of London. But simply killing everyone he encounters is in direct opposition to the Hippocratic Oath taken when he became a doctor. Learning the ways of people around the city will also become increasingly difficult the more that kills are made.

People are important in Vampyr. As mentioned earlier, each NPC in London has their own life, and most are connected to at least one other citizen somehow. Dr. Reid is able to have lengthy, interesting conversations with every single one of them. He can uncover new details about them and others by asking the right question, or possessing the proper skills. As he learns more about a person, the value of their blood will go up in terms of XP payoff. This is a wonderfully devious move on the part of Dontnod, because it makes the action of killing that person a bit more enticing than it was before. The player will be forced to make the decision: do I kill this person and level up a bunch, or try to make it through this tough part of the game without doing unnecessary slaughtering?

Permanent Consequences

While I didn’t play long enough, nor in the manner required to see, each of London’s four districts will react to killings that are done as well. When a noticeable chunk of citizens have gone missing, the health of the district in which they live will go down. If a district’s health gets low enough, it can become lost entirely. A lost district is bad news. The area will be evacuated by regular people, and will only be inhabited by grisly creatures instead.

The first hour of my time with Vampyr featured a decent amount of combat. Dr. Reid was on the front lines of war, likely World War I, as a medic. So he knows how to handle a gun. Thus, combat consists of weaponry, combined with close-quarters combat and vampiric powers. Some powers are defensive, such as Dr. Reid dodging out of the way of an incoming attack by leaving behind a blast mist where he previously stood. Others involve slashing with a vicious set of claws that Wolverine would almost envy. But these vampiric powers require blood energy, in typical RPG fashion. While some vials can help to replenish that supply, stunning a human enemy and then sucking their blood mid-combat provides a much larger supply. This injects a bit more thinking into Vampyr’s combat, as draining an enemy of blood could expose Dr. Reid to attacks, but will result in more energy to take on stronger foes.

Vampyr has really come together to present a varied take on the traditional action RPG. The simple, assumed act of the genre of leveling up has now taken on an entirely new meaning, with consequences that are permanent and can be far-reaching. With a promised campaign length of 15 to 30 hours, there will be plenty of time to think about the actions that have been taken, and the consequences that have led to wherever it is Dr. Reid finds himself, or his final fate. If the game can remain as interesting as its first couple of hours throughout, then Vampyr is destined to be a success on multiple levels. Vampyr is currently scheduled for release on June 5, 2018.

PlayStation LifeStyle would like to thank Dontnod Entertainment and Focus Home Interactive for allowing us time to play Vampyr. Watch this space for more information on this and other games from the Le What’s Next De Focus, coming soon!