In some ways, Vampyr is very frustrating. It features frequent load times. It’s combat is kind of clunky and never quite allows the player to have the upper hand against their enemy; this leads to frequent defeats and sitting through the above-mentioned load times. Resources feel finite, and leveling-up comes with risks. Now, what if I told you that everything in Vampyr, even the load times and combat system, is used to inspire temptation in the game’s players?
Dr. Jonathan Reid, Vampyr’s protagonist, is a newly-turned vampire. As one would expect, that means he now needs blood in order to sustain himself and grow in his new life. As a doctor, a blood specialist and surgeon to-boot, Reid is constantly around blood. People in general are also predisposed to trust him due to his being a doctor. Doctors generally look out for the well-being of others, so why not trust him? Reid has every opportunity to sate his thirst, and every excuse to get potential victims alone in order to do so. The only thing that can hold him back is a combination of personal morality and sheer willpower. It would be so easy to give in, but there’s a price to pay if he does. The exact same thing can be said for the player behind Dr. Reid.
In Vampyr, difficulty is tied to the how much the player is willing to let Dr. Reid indulge in his newfound vampiric nature. The more often they do, the more powerful Reid can become. There is a catch to it though. In order to “embrace” (i.e. feed on someone), Reid must first establish a rapport with his potential victim. The more he learns about them, the closer they get, the greater the experience reward embracing them will yield. You can’t just grab some random stranger off the street. In Vampyr, the victims come exclusively from Reid’s circle of friends, peers, and even family. Feeding is not without its consequences. Deaths and disappearances will not go unnoticed, and each one, no matter how minor they may seem, sends ripples throughout their neighborhood. Most of the time, those ripples end up making things worse for everyone.
On paper it sounds like an easy situation to deal with as a player going for a no-kill run; “I’ll just be very careful and experience grind a bit,” you might be thinking. There is that option, and it works fine in the opening couple of hours. However, character upgrades only ever get more expensive, enemies keep getting tougher, and the combat becomes more and more unforgiving. Soon the player, just like Jonathan Reid himself, will start looking around at all the potential victims and seriously start to consider why it would be missed and who wouldn’t. After all, why suffer if one doesn’t have to?
Herein lies the brilliance of Vampyr. It successfully inspires a sense of temptation in the player similar to that of Dr. Jonathan Reid. Players that give in an have Reid feed on his friends will be in for an easier game at the cost of the in game world. Refraining means a more stable London and a more powerful Dr. Reid, but it comes at the cost of many lives, the destabilization of London, and the loss of a chance at an achievement.
How one plays Vampyr is entirely up to them; there’s no wrong way to do it. However, every action has consequence, and that’s big part of what I think Vampyr about. Temptation is an incredibly strong phenomenon, and it at times can feel irresistible, especially when the object of said temptation seems as though it would make one’s life more enjoyable. The question Vampyr confronts players with is how one deals with it when confronted. Can self-control always win out? If it can’t are we willing to accept the consequences of our decisions?
What’s your take on Vampyr and how it tries to make the player feel like their character? Do you think it’s done well? Do you see an inherent problem in the execution?
Lede image is an official promotional screen shot for Vampyr.