When it comes down to it, basic gameplay concepts like top down aRPG’s are always golden. There’s something about guiding your character through hordes and hordes of enemies just to upgrade your equipment that has remained satisfying ever since the first Diablo game. aRPG’s today still have a huge cult following. Dedicated fans are still playing Diablo III religiously.
Enter Victor Vran, a game that goes in a completely different direction to Diablo. You see there is one thing that games like Diablo and Path of Exile have always struggled with compared to games like Vran and Torchlight. And that is the game’s progression. Both Diablo III and Path of Exile often throw up mental road blocks for the player. Usually the fault of a game laden with repetition. Great gameplay, but repetitive progression systems none the less. I always felt I had a job to do whilst playing those games. Reach the end game for the best loot.
Somewhere in the middle, it always seemed like the developers thought that it’s okay if the majority of the first 20-30 hours are sub-par as the game doesn’t start until the 100th hour anyway. Hardcore purists may feel like this is okay, but for someone who has very little time to play (like the most of us) or just wants to have fun for a couple of hours, these games always leave wanting.
Victor Vran, however is at it’s best during the middle portion of the game. It never failed to hold my attention during those hours. A big reason for this can be found within it’s satisfying combat mechanics, challenges and small goals the game sets out for you. As well as it’s great humour and setting.
I’m a big fan of the design decision to add challenges to each zone. Measured by how many stars you’ve earned in that particular level, each challenge may vary from killing this big monster or killing a lot of monsters in a short space of time. Some have time out counters and some have ways to limit your combat abilities to complete them. As previously mentioned this adds another layer to the levelling and progression that other games lack. These are goals to achieve to add to your overall completion of the game that also provide you with some nice goodies.
Victor Vran handles movement and combat in a manner that would be deemed blasphemes by purists. A choice of WASD movement with Mouse and Keyboard. Or a Controller. I have to say I never thought I would see the day I would opt for a Controller in these kinds of games but the controls are tight and the mechanics just suit the controller best. The Hack n Slash nature of the combat that utilises the use of more than one weapon with a combination of magic spells known as demon powers that provide crunchy results that always left me satisfied with the choices of destruction that I made. In fact many things during the game took me aback as it breaks itself from the mould.
For example, the game includes a jump button as well as a dodge roll. This kind of movement options don’t often present themselves in games such as these often. I was sceptical at first but after a few hours I realised that they actually provide the game with combat dynamics that no other aRPG has really thought of. It wasn’t long before I was jumping over enemy projectiles and rolling away at the last minute to grant myself the big victory. The responsiveness of movements and tactile sensibility makes a case for itself in a big way. It’s worth to note that you can opt to use a mouse click move style but the game felt hindered somehow.
The variety of weapons at play in Victor Vran are one of the titles greatest strengths. Each weapon comes with its own movesets, game styles, strengths, and weakness. My personal favourite combination of a Shotgun and Rapier provides fast and rhythmic type of gameplay that revolves around critical strikes and fast movements. Big numbers with little weapons while my Victor rocks a sombrero and poncho combo that the demons would be terrified of in itself.
Nicely segwaying in to my next point, there are no classes in Victor Vran. Only Victor. However, you may adorn a tidy selection of outfits from a wardrobe that could probably compare to one of the village people’s stage outfits. As strange as these leather clad outfits may sometimes look, they all provide different bonuses and gameplay changes. One may give you more armour and health but one may change how you gain your main resource used for demon powers, called overdrive, dramatically.
Visually, the game places itself among one of the better in this genre’s market. Particularly in it’s enemy design. Each laden with colours and moving parts that feel organic. The fully coloured lighting adds atmosphere in the bucket load with saturation fleshing out all the little details that would otherwise be unnoticeable. Victor also provides a massive spectrum in its particle effects that when piled on top of each other creates a banquet of exploding monster parts, flashes of light and dark auras that provide a visual asymmetric treat. It sets it apart from other titles in the genre, not because other titles don’t include this. But because Victor provides such a variation in its delivery.
In terms of the game’s audio there is one thing that needs to be stated from the get go. Number one, Victor is voiced by none other than Doug Cockle. Yes, Geralt of Rivia. The graveliest voice in gaming is, at this point, basically the best monster hunter across all games it would seem. Infact if I closed my eyes during some of the dialogue scenes, I would have just thought I was playing Witcher. The lines are almost identical. The only difference and hiccough here is that each of the Dialogue sequences felt like the two characters weren’t even in the same room and instead edited together. Which is likely. But the dialogue in the entire game reminded me of that scene in Witcher 3 where Geralt briefly becomes an actor.
Now if you’re not sure, these are negative points I’m making. It’s great to hear Doug Cockle but it would be nice to hear a better range of dialogue other than “hmm, vampires, must be.”
However, there is a counter argument to me here. The game is crawling with references. The biggest coming from the Narrator. I did some research and some people also seem to think it is the same guy who narrates The Stanley Parable, Kevan Brighting. But, IMDB disagrees with me. Other references range from Skyrim to Lord Gaben (Lord and Saviour; CEO of Valve) that often had me giggling to myself.
Other than the fantastic voice acting. I must say, the music is phenomenal. It perfectly captures the Victorian style horror and Eldritch horror. It does a great job of not overstepping its bounds by not over elevating itself to a point it doesn’t fit well around the combat and general exploration.
Small confession. It was only until I hit the Motorhead: Through the Ages content that my analytical brain and creative tendencies finally came to life for this review. The expansion contains a heavy amount of inspiration from the bands artwork, music and fashion trends it created along with them. Well if it was titled as a Motorhead expansion and it didn’t contain those I would be a little worried.
Containing a few more worlds to explore, Motorhead: Through the Ages bombards the senses with an even more awesome sound track to destroy monsters with. A soundtrack of glorious Motorhead tracks. Not only does the expansion provide new gameplay elements such as weapons and demon powers, it’s also a great tribute to the band’s work. At times even emotional as you collect journals scattered around the map filled with quotes from Lemmy. Even a brief appearance from the man himself. Although voiceless, the implications of his presence and the concept of you continuing his rebellion put a stone in my throat. Calling him A Rock God doesn’t do him justice.
As you can tell I’m quite the Motorhead fan, but moving away from social commentaries by Metal genius.’ The new weapons like new guitar is about as badass as it sounds. Power sliding and causing enemies to headbang to you’re godlike riffs. Even more awesome is that they finally added Revolvers to the game. Something I’ve hoping for since the games initial release.
The Expansion also involves adding new locations such as a Western plain and a Steampunk Nazi warzone. Also the new bosses are all themed around Motorhead songs which I found hilarious. Seeing the Orgasmatron and Snaggletooth in 3D form was an experience.
The other DLC involved in the new edition is named The Fractured Worlds. A largely forgettable area but does add an endless dungeon while also raising the level cap from 50 to 60 and adding an extra destiny card slot (an item in which gives you specific abilities and passives). Endless dungeons need to make an appearance in more aRPG games. It’s the grassroot of the genre.
On the surface, there’s not much different to Victor Vran: Overkill Edition to the original. It contains no visual upgrades or gameplay improvements. So when I was asked to review the game, I was kind of left in a strange middle ground. Do I review the game? Again? It’s already been out for 2 years. I’m sure there are plenty of other reviews to check.
But I’m glad I came back to the world of Zagoravia. The half Transalvanian, half Victorian London world is one that I loved when the game first came out. And now with the addition of new content, I have a reason to return.