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Vampyr Is An RPG From Life Is Strange Studio Dontnod

I first encounted vampyr one night in Putney, two weeks after the funeral of my dear friend Archibald Guts. He’d returned from a post overseas and seemed somewhat under the weather. We all believed him to be suffering from the malaria or a severe gin-deficiency, but it was a fever of the blood that did for him and it was that same fever that caused him to rise again.

The first time I encountered Vampyr was in January of this year. Dontnod had just announced that they would be developing a vampiric RPG, to be published by Focus, and they had a few details to share. Now there’s a trailer.

I think the assault in the alley stands out, particularly the mournful gaze into the camera, and not in a good way. It’s such a short trailer that it’d be better served by shots that communicate the medicinal themes of the story. I think I get why it’s there – it’s a grim place, that there London, and there’s an obvious parallel between a vampire isolating prey and more ordinary urban predators, but it’s such a quick flash of a different kind of horror that I found it distracting at best.

Maybe that look to camera is supposed to be defiant, maybe she’s a vampire and is about to turn the tables. It looks like quiet despair to me though.

I’m going to take the unusual step of quoting the bulk of a press release because my previous post on the subject, linked above, is essentially a rewording of some of the ideas that have now been made official.

“Vampyr is set in early 20th century Britain as the country is gripped by the lethal Spanish flu and the streets of London are crippled by disease, violence and fear. In a disorganized and ghostly city, those foolish, desperate, or unlucky enough to walk the streets lay prey to Britain’s most elusive predators: the vampires. Emerging from the chaos, a tormented figure awakens. You are Jonathan E. Reid, a high-ranking military surgeon transformed into a vampire upon his return home from the frontline.

“Explore the darkly atmospheric streets of early 20th century London, and interact with a multitude of characters with their own identities and importance. Accept and fulfill the missions they give you, but don’t forget: sooner or later, you will have to feed, and make a difficult choice… who will be your prey? Absolutely all characters in the game are potential victims of your vampiric lust. Carefully study the habits of your next victim, his or her relationships with other characters, and set up your strategy to feed, unnoticed: seduce them, change their daily habits, or make sure they end up alone in a dark street…

“Be careful who you choose to hunt, as they will be gone forever, and their death will impact in a meaningful way the world that surrounds you. Feeding on human blood will not just keep you “alive”; it will also unlock new vampiric powers to use.

“There will be times when exploration and seduction will only get you so far, and you’ll need to resort to engaging in Vampyr’s dynamic real-time combat. It blends hard-hitting melee combat with ranged shooting mechanics and the supernatural vampire powers. You’ll face many types of enemies: different species of vampires and creatures, as well as vampire hunters who want to hunt you down with their weapons, tools and traps. In Vampyr, your health and the “energy” that drives your supernatural powers are one and same! Using powers will drain your own blood, giving you an edge in battle but also leaving you weaker. You will have to find a way to feed during combat to replenish your strength.

“Vampyr also offers a deep crafting system. Find and loot materials and components from the fresh corpses of your victims or during exploration, in order to craft and improve tools, melee and ranged weapons, as well as special ammunitions and coating to exploit the weaknesses of your enemies.”

The ability to chomp on anyone’s neck (after what sounds like thorough gaslighting) is clearly the most interesting part of this whole scenario, although the setting is smart as well. Not only early 20th century London but the surgical background of the main character. Vampirism as disease is far more interesting to me than vampirism as romantic affectation or metaphor for sulky angst.

The kicker to all of this is that Vampyr isn’t due until 2017. Hopefully that means some of the talented folk working on Life is Strange will be joining the team because, hot damn, I do like Life is Strange.

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Adam Smith

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