E3 2016: Vampyr Preview
After the critical success of Life is Strange Dontnod understandably has some large expectations on their shoulders with their next title, Vampyr. I’ve been interested to see more of their interpretation of the Vampire lore, as well as how the merge it with the inner struggle of a protagonist who is very much fighting against his new vampiric nature. At E3 I had the chance to see a hands off demo with the narrative director of the game, and see exactly how it is looking so far.
The demo opened with your character in a cemetery, attending the funeral of someone he was quite close to while he was still alive. It was interesting to listen to his inner-monologue as he began to wander through the cemetery, seemingly aimlessly. It was during this that I was able to see just how well Dontnod had crafted what is now considered the typical 1920’s London look. The sky was dark and heavy, with rain falling from the sky and only the lanterns throwing light onto your path. The jump to Unreal Engine 4 is easy to see in just how good Vampyr looks, especially considering what I was seeing was pre-alpha.
As we continued along our way, we came across some Vampires who had regressed from their human nature and become more akin to animals. It was here that I got my first real look at how combat works in Vampyr and I liked what I saw. Equipped with a surgical saw as a melee weapon and a gun, the character hacked his way through these rabid vampires. You have a dash ability to dodge enemy attacks, which results in you partially turning into shadows as you do. You also have a range of special abilities and attacks that you can unleash by using up the blood you have drained from both enemies and innocents. In the demo this was a large attack that cause the shadows to condense and hit multiple enemies at once.
This was where the blood drinking mechanic of Vampyr was introduced for the first time in the demo. Drinking blood is how you will level up your skills and abilities throughout the game and how much you drink is down to your skill in battle and your morality outside of it. You’re able to drink the blood of your foes in battle, however doing so will leave you vulnerable. While this may be manageable during smaller scale battles against rabid vampires, Vampire Hunters (who are your other main foe) have developed tactics to combat Vampires who do this. The best source of blood is innocent humans, however killing innocents for blood is against your character’s former Hippocratic oath and will also effect the district as a whole.
The example shown in the demo was when you came across a man who was harassing a shop keeper. You had found a diary belonging to him during the earlier scuffles, and use this as a reason to open conversation with him. Conversation has a wheel similar to game likes Mass Effect, however options are not clearly labelled in black and white which is good and which is bad. After the conversation turns for the worst, the decision is made to drain this man of lifeblood. By doing this, the shopkeeper is now free from the harassment and will have better stock and prices, however the man’s son has now been left to live on his own without any support from his now deceased father. Dontnod want the choices you make to be grey, which I personally think is an exciting position to take.
Vampyr looks to be shaping up fairly well, and it will be worth watching out for it when it releases for PS4, Xbox One and PC in 2017.