‘Vampyr’ Review & Gameplay, Explained: What Makes ‘Vampyr’ Worth Playing?

Don’t Nod Studios gained popularity in 2015 with their incredible game “Life Is Strange.” A tale of two best friends, Max Caulfield and Chloe Price, in a town called Arcadia Bay in Oregon. As the title suggests, it is about how life is indeed strange and takes us on a time-traveling and emotional journey of toils and troubles and tons of choices. I won’t get into too much detail about that game, but I will say this much: play it and fall in love with its cringy dialogue, timeless charm, and one of the best stories I have seen in video games. Bring a box of tissues as you’ll surely need them. The game spawned multiple sequels and spin-offs later from Don’t Nod themselves and other studios, but that wasn’t enough for Don’t Nod, as they revealed a new IP they were working on. In 2018, they released a dark, gritty action RPG set in the Spanish-flu era of London called “Vampyr.” It was a different kind of game that Don’t Nod tackled as it wasn’t a linear choice-based story driven game but an action RPG with a semi open-world that still retained the choice-based story gameplay they gained recognition for but, at the same time, added layers on top of layers. I’ll immediately come out and say this: this game is “hella” (had to use it here!) underrated, and it straight up deserves more love and a sequel.

You play as Dr. Jonathan Reid in this game, who returns home to London after serving as a field doctor in the great war and wakes up in a mass grave with a lust for blood and learns that he has turned into a vampire. That’s all the plot details I’ll give here, and I won’t say a lick about the story anymore as it is something you should unravel on your own. It is seriously worth it. Don’t you think the plot itself is interesting, though? A doctor in the middle of the flu has turned into a vampire. What does he do? Follow the Hippocratic oath and save lives, or submit to his bloodlust and take the lives of the ones he swore to save? The choice here is fully in your hands. You’ll meet tons of characters across the story and make tons of choices yourself that will impact the outcomes and your gameplay experience as well, so without talking about the story, let’s jump right into the gameplay and see what makes “Vampyr” worth playing.


The Gameplay

“Vampyr” is a third-person action RPG that features combat that is melee-based for the most part, with some ranged elements to it and a semi-open world for you to explore divided into four boroughs. First, the combat. The game features melee combat, where you break enemies’ guards by landing hits and then do massive damage to their actual health bar. There are tons of weapons like saws, batons, and more that you’ll find or craft across the game, and each weapon deals more and more damage based on its level and type. There are also ranged weapons, including the likes of revolvers and pistols, that do decent damage but come with limited ammo you have to work with. Enemies themselves have their own sets of strengths and weaknesses, with some being weak to bladed attacks while others are weak to blunt attacks, and so on. There’s your typical dodging (a really cool animation) and parrying and all that good stuff, with you having to maintain a health bar, a stamina bar, and a blood bar. The health bar is obvious, the stamina bar drains every time you swing or dodge, and the blood bar, well, you are a vampire, and this is where combat gets interesting and fun.

You can learn and unlock vampiric abilities like having a blood shield that stops damage, spawning a blood spear to impale people with, the ability to mesmerize people, and so on. Then you can also unlock ultimate abilities like stopping someone’s heart or making it explode by pumping more and more blood, and so on. All of this stuff is crazy, can be used in combat, and drains your blood every time you use any of these abilities. Every time you stun an enemy in combat, you have the option to chomp on them and suck their blood (as you’re a vampire), which takes a chunk of their health and refills your blood bar. With a way to constantly replenish your blood bar in the middle of combat, the abilities themselves have cooldown timers on them to keep the combat fair and balanced, as these abilities are quite powerful. You also have passive abilities that use blood and aid you in combat. How do you unlock these abilities, you may be wondering? That’s where the game gets even more interesting.

The world of the game is divided into four boroughs (more on that later), with each area having a community of people and a leader. You can learn more about these people by finding clues or talking to them, and the more you learn about them, the more you enrich their blood. Once you have enriched their blood enough and built enough trust and rapport with them, you can mesmerize them and take them to a hidden corner to consume their blood and kill them. This will level you up, give you XP to spend on skills, and increase your health, stamina, and blood bar. There are tons of catches to this interesting system, though. For starters, the higher the citizen is on the hierarchy of the area, the more difficult it’ll be to get them, and you’ll need a higher level for your mesmerizing ability, which will only go up as you consume more and more people. So basically, you’ll have to start with people low on the ladder or weak-minded folks that won’t give you that much XP to slowly build up your levels and prepare to feast on people higher on the ladder. Here comes the second catch, however: the more people you kill, the more London falls into chaos and the harder the game gets. So, you’ll have access to cool and powerful moves, but the enemies you’ll face will be much harder and more challenging. It’s a double-edged sword. Then there’s the third catch; you are a doctor, so if you kill people, not only will you be breaking your oath, but you’ll also slowly move towards revealing that you are a vampire which will impact not only your own standing but also the ending you’ll get to the game. I know all of this sounds incredibly complicated, but this system of leveling up in combination with dialogue choices that literally affect your gameplay is plain genius and unlike anything I have ever seen in any game.

Another thing to note quickly is that you are not forced to kill a single person throughout the game and can beat it from beginning to end without consuming a single soul. Both ways will make the game challenging for you in their own way and give you different outcomes, which adds to the replayability of the game. The enemies will also differ based on how many people you have consumed; with more tougher units coming your way, the more is the chaos in London. You’ll also fight tons of crazy and badass boss fights, so be prepared for that.

There is a lot to this game, including a crafting system as well, so talking about all of that in full detail will take all day. Know this: you’ll be spending most of your time talking to the fine folk of London, fighting vampire hunters, werewolves, and failed vampires, and getting to the bottom of an interesting and very well-written story. “Vampyr” offers tons of choice, replayability, and content for an AA game, and while I am absolutely sure that I am missing a few key things here, but I think I have discussed enough for now. The game is incredibly fun to play and offers loads of choices that have lasting impacts on both the story and the gameplay.


The World

I won’t get into too much detail here as there’s no need for it, but the game features one singular map that is divided into boroughs of sorts with the hospital area, Whitechapel, the docks area, and the West End. Each area comes with its own aesthetic, vibe, and dangers to contend with. The hospital is the simplest of the bunch and acts somewhat like your base of operations. It’s a giant hospital with a ton of flu patients, people to talk to, and not a lot of danger lurking around in the surroundings. It can all change at a moment’s notice if you consume a lot of people and throw them into chaos, so always be wary of that.

The other three actual areas can be simply classified in an income-based system of sorts, with the docks being the low-income area with tons of bars and pubs and lots of flu patients alongside failed vampires running rampant. The docks are a place that can yield you a lot of information but is a dangerous spot to go to.

Whitechapel, on the other hand, can be classified as a middle-income area and features a lot of housing, shops, and some dangers alongside flu patients. People here are mostly friendly, which can once again change if you consume people here as well and throw this area into chaos.

The West End is a posh area with lavish houses and high-society people. The area as a whole is spotless, and you won’t realize you are in the middle of a flu outbreak if you visit West End.

I wish I could say a lot more about the world of “Vampyr,” but it’s really hard to explain this world. It’s gorgeous, very moody and atmospheric, and can change based on your actions, and once again, the world isn’t exactly how I described it with its boroughs and stuff; it’s just easier that way. There’s a lot more to this world that you must see with your own eyes to understand. It’s not a full-blown open world that I can write a world tour of, but I can try at some point. Just know this for now: it’s one hell of a place to run around, and I love how much attention to details and mood they packed with this one, and while I have tried my best to describe it a little, it’s not completely accurate this time.


The Technical Stuff

For a 2018 budget game, this game holds up quite well graphically. Before I talk about the graphics, let me tell you that the voice acting in this game is top-notch from beginning to end, and the music is just fantastic. I love how moody it is and how it does a tremendous job of establishing that grim, morbid, and hopeless vibe this game was going for. Visually, this is not the best-looking game out there, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t gorgeous. Keep in mind that it’s an AA game and not a AAA game, and what they accomplished here is stunning if you ask me. The main draw here is the grit, moodiness, and atmosphere, and all of that is delivered superbly. I have always loved the dark, gloomy Victorian London theme and aesthetics, and this game delivers that so well. The music and the visuals work in tandem, and the end result is truly special and worth seeing. Finally, Don’t Nod gave us an unexpected and surprise release of a free next-gen patch for this game that ups the visuals and framerate a bit, and the game now runs at 1440p/60fps on Xbox One X and PS5, so hey, more reason for you to play. When I played it, I encountered no game-breaking bugs or glitches; there was minor stuff here and there, but nothing that ruined my gameplay experience, so I’ll say this game is in good shape when it comes to the technical stuff.


The Verdict

“Vampyr” is an interesting, underrated, and fantastic game that I did a very poor job of explaining, and yet, I ask you to go play this game. There’s so much to see and experience here, with so much love, attention, and care put into it, that it’d be criminal to skip something like this. I wish I could do a better job of explaining this game, but as I said, it’s hard as there’s so much here. It’s a fantastic story that changes based on your choices and actions in a morbid yet gorgeous world and features fun and combat, as well as tons of memorable characters. This game deserves a lot more love than it got, and hopefully, a sequel at some point. Please play this game if you haven’t.


See more: ‘Alien: Isolation’ Review & Gameplay, Explained: What Makes ‘Alien: Isolation’ Worth Playing?


Kartik Sharma
Kartik Sharma
Kartik is sometimes a freelance content writer and an actor. He loves spending his time reading books, playing videogames, dabbling in music, exploring different cultures and languages, etc. loves everything that is art and loves to explore new horizons.

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