E3 2017: A Closer Look at a Vampyr Tending to His Flock

When it comes to video games that are promising the impossible, Vampyr is up there with Fable and Godus. Now while Fable managed to fall short and still be one of the most beloved ARPGs of our generation, Godus fared significantly less well. So even though I assumed that the open world, interconnected, “anyone can die” grey morality of Vampyr was mostly just for marketing, I was still excited to see how the bloodsucking adventure would turn out.

With Vampyr releasing in November, I finally got to see what shape all of this promise has taken. If you haven’t already checked out the 10 minute gameplay trailer recently released, go ahead and check it out here:

The demo here shows a good split between the combat and dialogue, but the private press demo focused much more heavily on the sidequests and people-feasting. Thirty minutes in total, what I saw was quite promising.

The live gameplay presentation I saw started the same as the demo above, with Dr. Reid tasked by Dr. Swansea to track down Sean Hampton, a local pastor and recently turned Skal. After the dialogue concludes, Dr. Reid hunts around a bit with his vampyric blood vision, searching the nearby hospital room for clues. Now this is the point the public demo cuts to Dr. Reid walking into Tom’s bar. What they cut out was a bit of combat and the introduction of the open world sidequests. Besieged by Skals behind a locked gate, a seemingly intoxicated man taunts the murderous beasts clawing at the gates. After quickly dispatching them with your vampire powers, you find the man unwilling to leave. As Vampyr is divided up between hostile and friendly territory, it’s up to you to convince him to make his way to safety. Once he does, he will join that area’s population, and become interconnected into that narrative web. Or you could just eat him. You are a vampire, after all.

Vampyr

From here the public and private demo match up again, as Dr. Reid enter Tom’s bar in search of Sean. After learning that he is likely hole up in his refuge for the poor beyond the docks, the demos once again split off as Dr. Reid hunts for food. This is where I got a much closer look at just how eating civilians will work in Vampyr. If you don’t already know, the goal with Vampyr was to create a system where most of the experience was gained through devouring the innocent denizens of London. You do gain a nominal amount of EXP through combat—maybe 80 an encounter—but you can gain anywhere from 800 to a few thousand through luring a civilian to their death. The amount that you get depends on their importance, blood quality, and how much you know about them.

Vampyr

What I saw in the private demo focused on three characters: a murderer, a mother, and an orphan (they all had proper names, but as I wasn’t allowed to record I’ll just refer to them as their roles). You’re first introduced to the murderer, who at first just seems like kind of a jerk. You learn that he has lost a locket he intended to give to his mother, which opens a side quest to find it. This side quest can be completed with the locket going to another recipient, a decision you’ll have to make that will lead to different outcomes and clues revealed. You find the locket nearby under a hidden pile of dead bodies, leading to the shocking conclusion that this angry bloke is far more dangerous than he first seemed. This new information not only unlocks new dialogue options with him and related characters, but increases his blood quality level.

Blood quality is the measurement of how much experience you will gain if you choose to end someone’s life. As a doctor, you can heal the sick with various remedies, improving their lives while also upping their blood quality. For the purposes of the private demo, the murderer Dr. Reid met had a cold, lowering his blood quality by 150 points. His elderly mother, on the other hand, was healthy and worth over 1000 points. You find out that the mother has also been taking care of an orphan boy, who I didn’t learn much about in the demo. Opening up her profile, you can see her close relationships and whatever clues you’ve learned about her, such as that she knows her son is a murderer and afraid to turn him in. As she provided the largest experience boost, the demo player decided she was the best meal, and ate the old lady. Harsh.

Vampyr

After consuming his prey, Dr. Reid has to rest to absorb the blood. The blood will give you all the memories of your victim, meaning the clues relating to their close relations will be unlocked. But their death will also impact the world. The health of the district will decrease, and I saw her house abandoned and adopted son left homeless. I got a brief chance to ask the dev team if this would always be the case, and they stated that they wanted there to be a large variance in how your actions effect the world. Some people will have far more of an impact when killed, but everyone will change the world in some way. It’s up to you to decide who lives and who dies, and if you’re willing to live with those consequences.

From here the demos largely meet up again, with the mini-boss fight and encountering Sean. What I saw in the private demo genuinely has me very excited for Vampyr. It’s a bold attempt at creating a real narrative ecosystem, and not just for show. The fact that clues and health effect the benefit of your meal makes the decision to kill all that much more personal and impacting. If I had to know the life story of my cheeseburger before eating it, I might decide on a salad instead.

The narrative complexity might not surprise you, as the developer Dontnod was behind the 2015 episodic adventure hit Life is Strange. With all the vampire narratives out there, the unique take that they are taking on this doctor/killer, shepherd/flock role is a promising one. The combat looks flashy too, I guess, though in all honestly is the last thing I really care about. As long as it all just works, I’m in this one for the story. Check out Vampyr when it drops in November on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. In the meantime, have another art gallery!

 

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Ted Hentschke

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