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Ever since Troika's Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, people wanted another great urban fantasy RPG and Dontnod Entertainment's upcoming action-RPG Vampyr looked like it could be that game. But now that we're just a few months away from Vampyr's June 5, 2018 launch, we can check out a number of hands-on previews of the game and they aren't exactly overflowing with positivity. And this, while not necessarily representative of the final product, is a shame, if you ask me.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun calls it a confused game:
Being a moody, handsome morgue-dodger isn’t all red wine and roses though. Reid was a doctor in life and he’s going to be a doctor in death. That’s the game’s central conceit – you are a healer but also, by necessity, a killer. A preserver of life whose own life is a grotesque parody, lived out in shadows and filth. And once you arrive at the hospital, which is the central hub for at least the early portion of the game, things start to get interesting, with social webs of potential victims forming, and decisions about who to spare and who to feast on distracting from the combat.
Oh, the combat. Perhaps I’d have more patience for it if I hadn’t been trying to cram as much interesting play-time as possible into my two hours with the game. The prologue seemed to last forever, taking up precious time before I even reached the hospital, and managing to be both an enthusiastic but ineffective exposition dump and a series of unhelpful combat tutorials. Everything happens at once, but very slowly.
You wake up, realise you’re a vampire, then within half an hour you’ve discovered a clan of monster hunters that apparently know all about your kind and are defending London from an infestation of vampires. They seem to own the streets and are, in fact, the only people you’ll see as you make your way across the city, searching for the creature that created you.
Reid shouts things like “don’t make me do this” as you sneak up behind them and chomp on their necks, slurping their arteries like cheese strings. They, in turn, call him a “parasite” and try to set him on fire.
PCGamesN thinks it's torn between its character and its combat:
Set in the wake of the First World War, Vampyr has you play soldier-turned-doctor Jonathan Reid. That career switch is only the first of Reid’s transformations, though, as just before the game begins he is turned from a human into a vampire. Confused by the new thirst for blood, you help Reid to understand what he has become and how the change took place.
Vampyr is unsatisfying from the start. For a game that has been pitched as one of choice and consequence, where you interact with a whole city of people, choosing who lives and dies to sate your thirst, it is disappointingly linear. You are hunted through dark, empty streets that may as well be enclosed corridors for the lack of opportunities for expression and interactivity they offer.
Granted, there are narrative reasons for the streets to be so empty - London is heavy with Spanish flu and there is a murderer on the loose who is draining his victims of blood - but that doesn’t make the hollowness of the capital city any less noticeable.
The only people you encounter in the smog-filled streets are characterless vampire hunters and blood-starved vampiric creatures who exist only to be killed by you. There is no talking to them or avoiding them. This wouldn’t be such an obvious blemish if it weren’t for the shallow combat.
And Daily Star thinks the game has potential but is not quite there yet:
Vampyr looks like it might be a great game.
We played a version that's still a few months out from release, and the core gameplay conceit (discover more about the people in the Districts) seems really well-realised and captures the tonic of a traditional gothic tale superbly well.
The main part of the game feels like Bram Stoker's Life if Strange (which is a very good thing indeed), but when you're taken away from the social interactions of some nicely written, believably acted characters and forced to fight other vampires in a morgue, then go kill some unnamed humans, there's a jarring contrast.
Vampyr feels like two different games fighting against each other for dominance - and that feels fantastically apt, mimicking Reid's own battle with his literal demons. We just hope that in the final game, DONTNOD establishes a good balance and leverages the amazing art team, narrative expertise and experience of the studio to deliver something as captivating as its main character's thrall.
And if you're looking for something slightly more positive, you can check out this Gameractor video interview with a couple of developers. An excerpt from the transcript:
In Vampyr you'll be going up against a mix of both supernatural enemies and human vampire hunters, and the decisions you make with regards to how you treat the people living around you will determine what sort of adversaries you come up against. Speaking about the deadly vampire hunters, Beauverger mentioned that "if you do not fight this kind of enemies, you will have to face supernatural creatures who for different reasons can also be very deadly to you."
"This is how the game will incite you to take a life, because you are a new vampire. You have been created as a vampire at the beginning of the game; you are not some very old vampire who has a lot of power, no, you will have to gain that power through the blood of the people you choose to kill. So this is how we reflect in the game the idea that a vampire is compelled to drink blood."
"So the game will not tell you that you have to take a life every night, that's not how it works. If you try to restrain yourself from killing innocents (or not so innocents) you have the right to do so, but it's so much easier to face dangerous situations when you have killed a few people before. That's how the game lures you into darkness."