Oh hey, I didn’t see this gameplay demo walkthrough-y footage of Vampyr [official site] come up earlier this week. It’s sort of from E3 but this version that doesn’t have people talking over the top so let’s have a look now. (In case you need a little refresher it’s that vampire-themed RPG from the Life Is Strange devs where you’re a vampire doctor and have to make decisions about who to kill to sate your thirst.)
If you are somewhere without the option of watching videos I will attempt to summarise:
The footage begins with a rainy nighttime funeral. At this point I stopped watching so I could read up about nighttime funerals. Apparently there’s talk of a floodlight system in the UK to enable nighttime funerals to take place, particularly in the darker months. There was also this interesting blog entry about night funerals during the Regency.
A man called Jonathan then stands over the open grave attempting to have emotions and failing. He’s probably a vampire. Yeah. He’s a vampire. He’s afraid of having feelings because one of the feelings he might have is “crazed bloodlust and murder”.
Jonathan now heads for St Mary’s church but stops to watch some terrible chump reading poetry to/at a lady. I feel like if you’re looking for a snack you could do worse than that guy.
There seems to be a kind of blink power that lets you easily traverse gaps. All the better to eavesdrop on expositional conversations about how people who have bitemarks and have been drained of blood probably didn’t die from Spanish flu.
Combat section next! It seems to be pretty blinky/slashy/stabby/shooty/blood-drainy, so pretty standard stuff for a vampire combat section.
Then Jonathan checks a notice about how to prevent the spread of Spanish flu. I don’t think vampires can get Spanish flu but maybe he’s just interested in concepts of public hygiene.
Ungh. It’s so… drab and dank and dark and he looks so much like a typical videogamesman. I mean, sure, it’s the atmosphere and the videogamesman and the combat that they’re aiming for so fine but I just feel like I’ve seen this before in so many ways. “You’re mine, vermin!” is one of the NPC combat barks which is about as generic as it gets.
Jonathan does seem to have the ability to summon dark forces that raise someone into the air and then snap their spine by ramming them down onto a spike made from demonic energy or something. I like that in the gameplay footage some unseen dude does a really awkward cough just after it. It makes snapping someone’s spine via demonic energy seem like a bit of a social faux pas.
You can use your vampire powers to tell whether someone has flu or TB or if they’re perfectly healthy by sort of scanning them and watching their lungs light up. You can also squeeze someone’s head and whisper for them to follow you – so a sort of vague hypnotism – if they refuse your request that they let you, a rando weirdo claiming to be a doctor, into their house to visit their ill child. You can then lead them a short way away and suck their blood while hearing their last words.
Apparently this will then let you look kind of anguished while dribbling blood and also robbing their corpse. It’s an emotional rollercoaster.
Then there’s a very pointed conversation with a priest who is all “monsters don’t exist” when you confess to killing the girl from the funeral at the start of the video. I feel like if I was the priest I’d be a bit more interested in establishing what you mean when you say you killed the girl he’s just laid to rest rather than being all “well, come on in…”
We then cut to a few nights later. Whitechapel is full of dead bodies and fires and decrepit silhouettes. I feel like I could perhaps even afford a house in this version of London. Wait. I think it’s supposed to not be an optimistic situation.
Anyway. That’s Vampyr. After Life Is Strange it seems so averagely videogamey. I mean it might be really fun to play or a decent entertainment of an evening, but I’m not really seeing anything here that elevates it above the mulch of similar-looking games with similar-looking combat/rainy run-down cities of the past/ideas about vampires. I also didn’t really see much in the way of meaningful choice.
There’s definitely a place for that kind of game, though, so this isn’t intended as harsh criticism, more just to point out that it doesn’t seem to have any of Life Is Strange’s feeling of being something notably different.