Releasing back in February as part of Steam’s ‘Early Access’ Program, the latest game from Haemimont Games, Victor Vran, has since seen the completion of its development and established itself as a fully-fledged release. Brimming with promise and a bucket-load of great ideas from the very start – this is a title that does a lot of things correctly, but sadly makes some mistakes along the way. Though a rather rocky path lays ahead for its players, this is one game that still manages to (mostly) entertain until the end.
Not too dissimilar in style to a traditional isometric action RPG, Victor Vran feels familiar enough to be accessible and entertaining to new players and genre fans, but differs just enough to sit comfortably beside the likes of Diablo 3. Set within the confines of the city of Zagoravia, the game takes the player through several uniquely themed districts and their associated dungeons. With access to the wider world based through a hub-area, the player can freely buy/sell new weapons and items in between each dungeon they decide to raid next. Though the player is directed around the game world by the narrative, and the districts are typically only unlocked as and when the narrative calls for it, players aren’t bound to completing certain areas in a particular order. As a result, players are able to explore the districts in whatever fashion they so please. With each offering not only riches and valuables, the defined areas also contain optional objectives that can yield monetary value, a wealth of experience points, or even particular items if successfully completed. Though the general formulae lacks much variety, the missions offer more than enough challenge to be fun regardless, and the reward is typically worth the trouble.
To add further complication and more bang for your buck, players can utilise ‘Hexes’ (once unlocked) within each of these areas that essentially act as modifiers for the player and enemy circumstances. Designed to add further and unique challenge to the combat, these are to be used to complete hex-specific objectives and to gain quicker access to the higher experience levels. They certainly add a nice touch to the gameplay, and in particular help to spice things up for the game’s veterans, and for when the enemy encounters start to feel a little stale.
Yes, unfortunately the game’s biggest issue is that the roster of enemies found within Victor Vran becomes totally overused. Though enemies start off by being gently introduced one-by-one, district-by-district – the game decides to abruptly throw nothing particularly new towards the player after what I estimate to be about the halfway point. Feeling like the designers ran out of steam during development, the entire roster is then simply recycled repeatedly, and the combat that was once enjoyable and challenged you to learn the ways of killing new enemy types is instead regurgitated over, and over again. It’s a damn shame that this is the case too, especially as the later districts offer plenty enough grounds to develop some interesting enemy ideas.
Speaking of the districts themselves, it has to be said that the artists down at Haemimont Games have done a terrific job in bringing the world of Victor Vran to life. Whether it’s the inside of a ruined tomb, an ice cave, or the industrial quarter – the city of Zagoravia and its surrounding areas feel bursting with character, and the interesting mix of gothic horror and steampunk makes for plenty of visual splendour throughout. Offering brightly coloured environments that are filled with fantastical charm, Victor Vran is a game that that carries a particular style and runs with it. It’s confident, rich, and interesting throughout – comments that unfortunately cannot also be applied to describe the level designs. Feeling totally lacking in interesting environmental challenges and scenarios – no matter the theme, each level unfortunately feels bland. Despite the player’s ability to jump and wall-hop, very little of the core design actually takes these into account. Because of the lacking implementation of the verticality and the largely flat environments, each level feels very samey in all honesty. No matter where you find are, you will still find yourself in rather large open-areas with plenty of room to move around in – and this does little to aid the repetitive enemy encounters. Despite all of this, however, the game world feels vivid and full of identity.
The world of Victor Vran is ultimately an interesting place to be and is absolutely more compelling than the game’s narrative that wraps itself around it. Told primarily through a mixture of hand-painted cutscenes and stilted dialogue from the games main cast, the characters are bland but at least deliver their lines with a self-aware feeling of melodrama. Victor himself is very-much the gruff anti-hero stereotype and enjoys to drone on about doom and gloom with a generic gravelly voice to boot. It’s fun to see the game poking fun at modern tropes such as this throughout, but the most amusing character comes in the form of a mysterious voice inside of Victors mind. Taking on a chilling yet humorous personality, this character feels like a comic book villain, particularly as there’s always plenty of time for daft anecdotes and witty one-liners to be dropped during his game time. The story and character interactions thankfully never feel intrusive, and as such it’s very easy to push it to one side and concentrate on the demon hunting.
As you may have guessed, the plot that is used here to connect the action is paper-thin at best, and is entirely forgettable. Players are unlikely to find a single shred of interest amongst the cast of dull characters and the barebones approach to storytelling. To boil it down to its very core, the plot is as follows: Victor is angry, Victor visits a city infested with demons, Victor does a whole lot of killing to end it all – and that’s it! This isn’t a problem, however, as Victor Vran ensures that all of its attention is held on what really matters to a dungeon crawler – hitting enemies with weapons and collecting a tonne of loot.
Filled with a tonne of destructible objects to break and demons to slay, the game world contains plenty of gold coins, weapons, items, and abilities to collect that all contribute towards the overall combat experience. Without any limiting character class to speak of, your game experience is ultimately tailored by the equipment you decide to use. With an inventory that freely allows players to swap out their equipment on-the-fly whenever they want, the combat in this game encourages experimentation to deal with each and every demonic threat. With a generous variety of weapon types that legitimately play differently from the last, the core combat is decent enough and even allows an easy switch between two equipped weapons, but sadly it lacks any depth. Despite weapons being randomly-generated and offering all kinds of different stats, passive effects, and appearances – the weapon specific abilities unfortunately all remain the same. As a result of this simplicity and the aforementioned lack in enemies, the combat does begin to lose its touch as you delve further in. In spite of this, the combat really excels when you work with a team of other demon hunters via the online servers, however. Though it doesn’t provide anything particularly new, the increased sense of scale and ability to complement each other’s fighting style makes for a somewhat tactical feel to the ever-so familiar chopping and slicing.
To say that Victor Vran isn’t an incredibly rewarding game would be simply untrue, and in addition to weapons to collect there’s many more game-changing pickups to place in your inventory. One of the more interesting aspects of the game is the use of Destiny Cards – a set of inventory items that can be equipped to provide passive abilities to the player. Limited by a maximum amount of cards to play at any time but with a wide-range of effects to grant the player (and different severities of each), there’s plenty to collect and plenty to suit different requirements. Being a demon hunter and all that, naturally Victor has the ability to cast certain demon powers whenever his ‘overdrive’ meter is filled. Similarly to the Destiny Cards, there’s a lot of powers here to collect and use, each with varying damage counts and effects. Adding on top of that, there’s also the usual mixture of health potions, temporary stat boosters and special effects, and even consumables such as bombs that can cause damage to anything unfortunate to be standing nearby. Lastly, there’s naturally the all-important experience points that bring you closer to the next level. Governing how much health you have, the numerical limit of your Destiny Cards, and even what rewards you want to receive at certain milestones, grinding for XP is as important as it always has been in games such as this.
Victor Vran is a game with plenty to enjoy, it’s just a shame that the quality begins to waiver as progress reaches the later stages. Beginning as a game where I could happily spend hours at a time slashing at enemies and exploring dungeons, I then became forced to transition to much smaller bursts of play in order to see the game through to completion. With a roster of enemies and a lot of level designs that fail to offer enough thrills and spills across the absolute wealth of content offered, the game unfortunately begins to feel very tiresome. Despite these factors however, there’s plenty of fun content available in this action RPG title that is more than worth the asking price.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.