Vampyr

PC, PS4, Xbox One

EDGE - - GAMES -

De­vel­oper Dontnod En­ter­tain­ment Pub­lisher Fo­cus Home In­ter­ac­tive For­mat PC, PS4, Xbox One Ori­gin France Re­lease 2017

Among the things we dis­liked about our first glimpse of Vampyr, Dontnod’s tale of oc­cult pre­da­tion in wartime Lon­don, was its com­bat – a grace­less third­per­son mish­mash of three-hit com­bos and pis­tol ex­changes, pep­pered with crowd­con­trol spells and tele­port dashes. It was a shaky ad­vert for a de­vel­oper now wan­der­ing back into ac­tion-ad­ven­ture ter­ri­tory af­ter the suc­cess of episodic ad­ven­ture Life Is Strange, but the ad­di­tion of Teppei Take­hana to Dontnod’s ranks goes some way to­wards ad­dress­ing our mis­giv­ings. Hired as an­i­ma­tion di­rec­tor in June 2016, he brings ten years of ex­pe­ri­ence as an an­i­ma­tor at Ko­jima Pro­duc­tions and Quan­tic Dream, whose games tread a sim­i­lar line be­tween mo­tion­cap­tured plau­si­bil­ity and out­right fan­tasy. While Dontnod doesn’t have any new com­bat footage to show dur­ing our visit to the stu­dio’s Parisian HQ, Take­hana’s mat­ter-of­fact­ness is re­as­sur­ing. “To make a re­spon­sive ac­tion game is re­ally easy,” he notes. “To have a re­spon­sive ac­tion game that looks re­al­is­tic is more dif­fi­cult. This is our chal­lenge.” An­other, more neb­u­lous con­cern about

Vampyr’s com­bat is that it will steal at­ten­tion from the game’s most in­trigu­ing el­e­ments: the or­nate ug­li­ness of its dis­ease-rid­den open world, which evokes both the in­tri­cately meshed city of Thief and the char­nel­houses of

Am­ne­sia: A Ma­chine For Pigs, and the way in which you’re obliged to prey upon that world. The game’s smoggy, gaslit hunk of Lon­don is home to around 60 fully fleshed-out civil­ian char­ac­ters – from nurses and cop­pers to drunks and pro­tec­tion rack­e­teers. As re­cent vam­pire re­cruit Dr Jonathan Reid, you’re un­der oath to aid th­ese peo­ple, but drink­ing their blood be­stows much more XP than you’ll gain by din­ing out on generic en­e­mies such as vam­pire hun­ters armed with flame weapons, or your fel­low un­dead.

It’s pos­si­ble to com­plete the game with­out mur­der­ing any civil­ians, and re­fus­ing to feed doesn’t ac­tively weaken you, though it’ll deny you ac­cess to the most ex­otic abil­i­ties. But this ap­proach none­the­less charges the business of lev­el­ling with un­usual im­port: in or­der to grow pow­er­ful you must erode the nar­ra­tive foun­da­tions of the game, whit­tling down the cast, one by one, like a black-mar­ket sur­geon har­vest­ing or­gans. “If you want to act like Dex­ter and only kill the bad peo­ple, you can do that,” game di­rec­tor

Philippe Moreau ex­plains. “You can se­lect the peo­ple you be­lieve are no good for hu­man­ity, hunt them down and feed on them. It’s up to you, but what’s in­ter­est­ing is that you don’t re­ally have a choice if you want to evolve. You need to feed on peo­ple on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. It’s a very dif­fer­ent ap­proach, be­cause we’re not used to sac­ri­fic­ing NPCs, the peo­ple we talk to.”

Vampyr’s prin­ci­ple choice, in other words,

FROM TOP An­i­ma­tion di­rec­tor Teppei Take­hana, game di­rec­tor Philippe Moreau, and nar­ra­tive di­rec­tor Stéphane Beau­verger

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