Vamp y r
How your bloodlust affects Dontnod’s dark London
Since its announcement, Vampyr has been fluttering in the periphery of our collective vision like a bat at night. We know it’s an action RPG set in London during the Spanish flu epidemic, and that it’s as dark, wet and miserable as any pre-’60s depiction of the city, but not much more. I caught up with Dontnod narrative director, Stéphane Beauverger, to shine a paraffin fuelled light on the game. You are John E Reid, a doctor trying to figure out how he became a vampire while working with Spanish flu victims.
In contrast to the busy streets we’ve come to expect from semi-open games, there are only about 60 citizens on the streets of Vampyr’s London.
“It’s London during a deadly epidemic, so not many people are out at night,” Beauverger tells me. “If you meet someone, you know they have a good reason to be there. Most of these people fit into one of the four archetypes – The Saint, The Mad, The Desperate, and The Criminal – and you can interact with and kill any of them.”
These citizens exist outside the main storyline, but can still have a profound impact on your game. “All the citizens have families, jobs and lives,” says Beauverger. “And they’re linked in unexpected ways. If you kill someone, their friends may decide to get revenge, join vampire hunters, or perhaps close their shops down. Or maybe a citizen will be happy that you killed someone they had a grudge with, and reward you with quests and items.”
Beauverger stresses that you can go through the whole game without killing
“If you kill someone, their friends may decide to get revenge”
anyone, though feeding on blood is a well-integrated way of regulating the game’s difficulty. “The easiest way to level up is to kill a citizen. You can play without killing anybody, and the game will be more difficult, but there’s less risk that your actions will come back to haunt you.”
The story of the tortured vampire who needs to balance his sinful cravings with his innate good nature is nothing new, but the way your decisions impact the relatively small game world looks intriguing, and I suspect that it’s the encounters with archetypes and citizens that will confront us with the most intriguing moral and narrative dilemmas. I recently wrote for PCG about
Kingdom Come: Deliverance, and how its developers seem to be taking a ‘One City Block’ approach to design; a tight, interwoven world that goes on whether you’re engaging it or not, and where each choice can count in unexpected ways. It sounds like Vampyr could be playing with similar ideas, but over two years on from its initial announcement, you’d hope these ideas might start materialising soon.