Death Is Strange: First Screens Of Dontnod’s Vampyr

When I first caught wind of Vampyr [official site], an action-RPG set in the Spanish Flu-ravaged streets of early 20th century London, I was quite excited. When I discovered Remember Me and Life Is Strange developers Dontnod Entertainment had their name on it, I was really quite excited. We haven’t seen the game in motion yet, but we can today have a look at its style in the first set of screenshots. They’re a bit, um…. on the bland side? Come see for yourself.

So yeah, Life Is Strange this is not. And while I appreciate that a 1918 London that’s not only in the grips of pandemic but is also struggling to regain its footing following a devastating world war ain’t gonna be all sunflowers and rainbows, I still didn’t expect the first screenshots to emerge from Vampyr to be quite as dark as they are:

What do you guys think, though? Am I being overly critical? Vampyr is after all a game about a surgeon who’s been bitten by an infected patient and thus has been transformed into a bloodthirsty vampire, thereafter forced to feed on fellow humans to survive. Add that to the whole crushing plague context and it’s only now as I write this down I realise perhaps Dontnod have it right. Here’s what publishers Focus Home say about it:

“Every character in the game has his or her own unique back-story and will affect the world. 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. As a Doctor, and a Vampyr who used to be human, you may also choose to heal your potential prey, crafting medicines from items collected in the game world.

“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, melee-focused real-time combat. It blends hard-hitting melee combat with supernatural vampire powers. 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.”

With that, Vampyr marks a much darker direction thematically for Dontnod, however choice – much similar to Life Is Strange and Remember Me before it – will be central to how it all unfolds.

Vampyr is due for release at some point in 2017.

41 Comments

  1. Frosty Grin says:

    A doctor? That’s pretty interesting. Probably the first really interesting detail about this game.

    I wouldn’t say that the visuals are bland. They just aren’t pretty, and it’s probably for the best. Because there have already been quite a few prettier takes on this setting.

  2. AlexandreFiset says:

    The thing with vampires is that they already exist in fiction, so you can’t really be that innovative with them. You can only execute it better than the others.

    I think the visuals look pretty great and on par with how I imagine a vampire game set in 1918 London. Looking forward to how this evolves.

    • lordcooper says:

      The thing with humans is that they already exist in reality, so you can’t really be that innovative with them. You can only execute it better than the others.

      • DrakeDwarf says:

        To be fair, you could execute it really badly like Twilight does.

        I don’t mind seeing the game in Life is Strange style however, that will be hilarious.

      • Asurmen says:

        Except there’s a vast difference between what using a human and using a vampire in the theme and tone. Humans are far more broad in what can be explored. Merely shoving a vampire into a human story doesn’t work in my mind.

  3. Morte66 says:

    Do we know whether it’s first or third person? I don’t see any back-of-head shots, so I’m thinking first.

    • snowgim says:

      I would assume third person, based on their previous games. These are just promotional shots of some areas, so no player character.

  4. DaftPunk says:

    And what did you actually expect from a game with vampires,rainbows and unicorns ?

  5. jellydonut says:

    Of course it’s going to be dark. You’re a vampire, you’re playing at night!

    And the setting is filthy, to boot.

  6. tomimt says:

    I’m digging the looks. This has already a ton of stuff going for it, as this seems to be taking vampires back in the less technically evolved times and I assume they’re trying to do something that most fiction about vampires is not doing and that is trying to make them scary again and not some moping emos.

    I’m trusting DontNod with this. Life is Strange is fantastic and even Remember Me, with all its flaws, was an interesting game.

    • Blackie62 says:

      You know, movies have more or less spent the last 2 years thoroughly killing the Twilight image of vampires. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Only Lovers Left Alive, and What We Do In The Shadows all have really long titles and gave original looks at vampires.

  7. JakeOfRavenclaw says:

    It’s true that these shots aren’t particularly inspiring in and of themselves, but I’m definitely eager to see how it looks in motion. Remember Me remains one of the most gorgeous games I’ve ever played, and if they can combine that game’s world-building with the narrative maturity of Life is Strange, we’ll be in for a real treat.

  8. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    How long have you been waiting to use that headline, Alice?

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      Who squealed? How’d you know I wrote that?

      • Premium User Badge

        DelrueOfDetroit says:

        Oh wow, I actually thought you wrote this whole article but it I see it was The JoeDon!

        I’m a little creeped out myself now.

        • Unclepauly says:

          I wasn’t creeped out until you said you creeped yourself out. Now I’m creeped out… o.o

  9. Zekiel says:

    I’m finding it hard to get excited about this. I LOVED Life Is Strange and I’m eager to play whatever DONTNOD do next… but vampires… crafting… not exactly thrillingly original stuff.

    At the end of the day, if its got good writing and characterisation I’ll probably love it pretty much whatever it is about. (I hope.)

  10. Deviija says:

    It’s a bit too dark, imo. Not too dark in tone or form, but actual too-dark-I-can-barely-see-anything. If they can liven up the lighting (light doesn’t equate to brightness), then I think it’ll be good. I like what style I see from the few things I *can* easily see.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Carra says:

    They could have also just done Life is Very Strange and I’d have been happy.

    Let’s see how they pull this one off.

  12. Rwlyra says:

    The screenshots look pretty much exactly how I imagined the game when I first heard about it, don’t understand the criticism.

    Looking forward to it!

  13. Emeraude says:

    It’s kinda sad because, I didn’t like what I had to suffer through of Life is Strange at all, and I thought Remember Me was a giant train wreck, but one thing I couldn’t fault DONTNOD with is the artistic direction.

    This looks… worse than bad in a way… it looks kinda bland. Hopefully the game delivers this time. I’ll welcome the switch if anything.

    • alw says:

      I think part of the blandness problem is the lighting. If you look at the screenshot with the people standing by the cart, that almost looks like they’re standing with a white LED light. But even in the other shots, the lighting doesn’t quite fit.

      Some of the texturing looks a little smooth too. You can see some bump mapping on the brickwork in the alleyway, but the ground appears to be a flat texture.

      The clean lighting and smoothness of the textures are what’s killing the mood. I’d love to see what it would look like with these things tweaked, I think it would make all the difference.

      • Emeraude says:

        I wonder how much of it is technical – in that case probably budget-related – and how much of it is actual artistic direction not cutting it.

        Certainly, you’re not the only one to have made a comment on it, and I agree, lighting has a clear impact.

    • HothMonster says:

      Don’t both of those games require Steam or a console? Did you finally bow down to our DRM overlords Emeraude?

      • Emeraude says:

        Nope, fiddled with them on a friends’s computer during a LAN after-party.

  14. malkav11 says:

    I hope it’s not quite that dark in practice. I can barely see anything in those screenshots.

    • Unclepauly says:

      It’s your screen then, because on my 2560×1440 ips I can see everything pretty clearly.

  15. Raoul Duke says:

    Those screens are basically black. If you are a vampire (sorry, “Vampyr”), then surely you can see in the dark and therefore it should be quite light?

  16. Jac says:

    “Every character in the game has his or her own unique back-story and will affect the world. 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”

    These words excite me, which I guess they’re meant to. Hopefully they can pull it off in a way that allows for emergent possibilities rather than presenting it as a choose your dinner type scenario from a prescriptive choice of necks at each juncture.

  17. cpt_freakout says:

    It might be super dark because DONTNOD could be sticking to how lighting at the time worked? I’m not sure about the history of public lighting (might be a job for Marsh when the game enters early access!), but even today, if you go to a small village that has one or two lampposts in a cloudy night it’s hard to see your own hands. I suppose 1918 London could be similar, in that sense, so it looks more ‘real’.

    • malkav11 says:

      That’s certainly the logic behind the endless “darker nights” mods for various games but the simple fact is, these aren’t reality, they’re games, and certain concessions need to be made so that they’re playable.

      • Emeraude says:

        But then the questions remain whether there is an actual game-design aim in the choice of low lightning…

        Certainly, convenience is good for games as products, but authorial control has to matter sometimes too. At times making a game more convenient just breaks it on some level, an you end up with something different.

        • malkav11 says:

          Convenience and playability are not the same thing. If I can’t see anything, and the game expects me to be able to (so, isn’t something like Papa Sangre), then it isn’t playable.

          • Emeraude says:

            So, yes, as I was saying: But then the question remains whether there is an actual game-design aim in the choice of low lightning…

          • Unclepauly says:

            I have a feeling your screen isn’t up to the job of dark settings because on my ips I can see everything quite clearly.

          • malkav11 says:

            And what I am saying is there is no game-design aim that is worth sacrificing the ability to play the game.

  18. AyeBraine says:

    I loved Remember Me. Without getting into what it’d done right and wrong, its UI, controls and art direction were so very confident, tight and cohesive. Which is.. you know, if someone promises an atmospheric period piece with unusual mechanics and flamboyant plot, it’s important to have. I don’t really like the studio in my guise of an art critic (just as I don’t like most of French comics and genre media), and it will sure have very weird and awkward writing, but it may be very cool.