Vampyr Review

Richard Walker

Dripping with dark gothic atmosphere within an old London town shrouded in persistent gloom, there are few games as captivating or absorbing as Vampyr. Playing as newly turned bloodsucker Doctor Jonathan Reid, you must choose whether to embrace your nature as a vampire or repress it at the expense of being unable to evolve your powers. A tricky moral dichotomy ensues, as Reid struggles with his oath as a doctor and the necessity of having to slurp buckets of arterial fluid to subsist.

It's this internal struggle that provides the beating heart of Vampyr, Reid always the consummate gentleman when interacting with the inhabitants of a diseased, decrepit 1918 London still reeling from the events of World War I. With Spanish Influenza seemingly on the rise, the local hospital's resources are stretched to breaking point, and while you might think that draining one of the patients of their blood and leaving their expended husk in a back-alley might help, chances are you're probably very wrong.

Seldom are Vampyr's choices so clearly defined as black and white; often they're drawn in shades of murky grey, making every life you take something to carefully weigh up and consider. You might run into the Wet Boot Boys' Booth Digby and decide on a whim that he's an arsehole (and he is, in fairness), but a knee-jerk reaction to kill him and reap the XP rewards in the process will have unforeseen consequences that could bite back later on.

Each citizen also has their own level of mental fortitude dictating whether or not you're able to mesmerise them in order to lead them into a dark secluded corner to feast on their blood. Initially, you'll only have your pick of level 1 residents, before progression enables you to raise your mesmerise level and unlock other tasty human options to dine upon. These levels ensure you can't just go on a feeding frenzy from the outset and murderise London's entire population. Digby's jugular will have to wait.

And as an Ekon, the purest, most intelligent, well-educated and human of the vampire species, such actions don't really suit Reid all that well. Consequently, the more souls you feed upon, the more your appearance will change, your countenance growing paler and scarred with ruptured veins, your eyes reddening more and more. Not that anyone you talk to will notice, mind you; even a detective you meet in the affluent West End part of town won't catch on that you're a member of the undead sect, despite your blackened eyes and blood-red irises.

Priwen vampire hunters, trash vampire Skals, hulking Vulkods and other beasts lurking amid the London mist will know full-well what you are, however, and attack on sight. Unfortunately, Vampyr's combat isn't that great, the camera often getting stuck in enclosed spaces, while attempting to take on multiple enemies can sometimes be problematic.

There's a decent arsenal of weapons to choose from, including two-handed scythes and bludgeons that enable you to parry enemies and stun them for some neck-biting action. Or you can dual-wield a one-handed weapon and firearm, switching between two different loadouts with a tap on the d-pad. Boss battles usually put Vampyr's combat mechanics to the test, and more often than not, you'll run into some sort of irritating issue that sours the experience.

Should you feed on an enemy in combat, you'll replenish your blood meter, enabling you to unleash powerful vampiric abilities, while feeding upon citizens is the quickest way to level up and upgrade. But you have to square that against the impact their untimely departure will have upon the district, and if, at pivotal points in the story, you decide to off one of the four pillars of each community, you'll have a hard time restoring stability to the region.

Certain citizens (usually the unsavoury or sickly ones) have inferior blood, and as a doctor, you can cure ailments to improve their haemoglobin and enhance the amount of XP they'll yield. As health declines in citizens, the stability of a district will gradually fall with each night you turn in and sleep. Going to bed at one of your hideouts is the only chance you get to upgrade your skills, and once you've confirmed your upgrades, the fallout of your actions manifests before your eyes.

Feasting on the blood of citizens is given due gravity too, as you frogmarch them into a dark corner to swelling choral chants, before administering a violent, screaming demise. As they breathe their last, you'll hear your victim's final thoughts as their mortal coil slips away, and you can't help but feel guilty for your actions. Still, the outpouring of XP is nice.

You'll scavenge resources and ingredients for serums too, so you can craft health, stamina and blood replenishing syringes or enhance your weapons using various materials. Weapons, collectibles and other items can also be earned from completing side quests acquired from the residents of Whitechapel, Pembroke Hospital, the West End and The Docks, while some citizens you can eavesdrop on to discover secrets they've been privately harbouring.

Learning hints by talking each person, most of whom have clear connections and relationships to others, deepens what you know about them, and unlocks avenues to other side quests or secrets. The facets of Vampyr's social interactions are pretty complex, and key to making each sacrificed soul feel all the more significant. Dontnod's Life is Strange experience shines through in the dialogue and impact of your decisions, the interplay with NPCs the strongest aspect of the game by far.

Iffy combat mechanics aside, Vampyr is an interesting, deeply enjoyable open-world action adventure with an evocative, often eerily beautiful setting. Disease-ridden London, with its foggy streets, rain-slicked cobbles and perpetual darkness plagued by shadows and monsters, is something to behold. Vampyr isn't perfect, but with a little more polish, and a bit more attention lavished on the sword fighting and gunplay, Dontnod could have had something truly remarkable on its hands. If there's a sequel – and Vampyr definitely deserves one – it'll probably be spectacular.


Vampyr is one of the year's most interesting games, cementing Dontnod as one of the most interesting developers around. Go get your teeth into it.

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Vampyr's music is fantastic, enhancing the already cracking atmosphere tenfold. Voice acting is mostly great too, but we did encounter one or two audio issues.


The game's rendition of 1918 London is often genuinely gorgeous, the shadowy alleyways illuminated by gaslight conjuring some scenes that look almost like concept art. Character models and their corresponding animations don't fare quite as well.


Becoming embroiled in the plight of London's citizens and the drudgery of daily life amid disease and poverty is never anything but compelling. Shame about the combat.


Small compared to other open worlds, Vampyr's London actually feels deceptively large. There's a good 15-20 hours in here too and it's mostly well-polished stuff, with only the occasional glitch. Loading times can be a bit lengthy.


A decent enough list, but one that requires two playthroughs, unless you do some save data jiggery-pokery. There are a few connected to collectibles and there are only 28, but it's a list that basically does the job. Extra marks for including achievements for letting all four districts fall into hostile status. That's fun.

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