Overall, Dontnod Entertainment’s Vampyr is a decently spooky game. To begin with, the entire game is steeped in an atmosphere of hopelessness bordering on fatalism thanks to the Spanish Flu epidemic. Once the supernatural elements come to light and we learn more about the true nature of the situation, everything takes on a much more sinister and chilling quality. As Dr. Jonathan Reid wanders the absolutely night-time streets of London, it often feels as if even an immortal vampire isn’t safe. Unfortunately, this carefully crafted tension is often broken by Dr. Reid himself as he fires off odd lines of dialogue.
One of the important ideas bandied about in Vampyr is that all vampires, no how matter much they would wish otherwise, are monsters that will give into their thirst sooner or later. Players encounter this early on, where they are very strongly tempted to drain a man dry. It’s presented as a near-overpowering compulsion for the good doctor, and it can only be avoided by the man’s sheer willpower. It’s a powerful moment meant to drive home the idea that Dr. Reid is now something other than human. If one wants the game’s best ending, they’ll have to do everything they can to keep him from taking any blood outside of combat.
The thing is though, vampires kind of need blood to survive (and power their abilities), so alternative sources must be found. Since this all takes place a very unsanitary city, the most readily available alternate source is rats. Lots and lots of rats. This is more or less where the game takes a turn for the silly.
When ever our stalwart surgeon bites into a rat and takes its blood, he can’t help but make some sort of comment. Sometimes its him saying something about how disgusting it is (understandable), but most of the time he says the same line: “I have this…thirst for blood.” It’s an reasonable line…in the very beginning of the game, but not so much after 12 hours of vampire shenanigans. Yet, he says it no matter what’s going on or what he’s experienced, and players going for the good ending are going to be hearing it a lot since rats are going to be their main blood source.
After a while, I couldn’t help but start wondering things like: “who’s he even talking to?” and “does he just forget he’s a vampire every night?” Every time I heard it, it would take me right out of the experience. There was even one point where I couldn’t help but start laughing at it. I had just beaten a very nasty boss and gotten a bunch of dialogue detailing the vampire.
Everything had more or less been laid out plainly and storywise Jonathan fully knew what he was. Yet, once I got control back and grabbed a rat to top-off the blood meter: “I have this…thirst…”. It was just too funny! As if he had partial amnesia and went back to the game’s opening moments for a sec there. After that, the tension of the story kind of broke during the game’s last few free-roaming sections.
This whole situation was incredibly entertaining for what it was, but I think all those reaction lines would’ve been better left on the cutting-room floor. They by no means ruin Vampyr or it’s overall tone, but they do tend to undercut the heavy atmosphere hanging over London’s dark streets. Then again, a bit of levity in an otherwise terribly somber game might just be a overall benefit.
What do you think? Do you like these sorts of accidents, or would you rather have the game’s atmosphere be maintained as carefully as possible?
Image by The Duck of Indeed