It’s unsurprising considering the studio’s roots in choice-based narrative title Life Is Strange but Dontnod’s upcoming London vampire title looks to bring these same choice elements to a concept that would otherwise retain a strict combat focus.
Vampyr takes us back to the misty days of the Spanish flu, except where The Order: 1886’s werewolves used to reign supreme, it’s vampires that are taking the limelight for Dontnod. The third person action title will see players balance their supernatural abilities and needs with the health and wellbeing of the vulnerable inhabitants of London. On the cover, a vampire in London from a third person perspective screams combat and while blood is certainly running through the streets of the city, gameplay trailers suggest we were wrong to assume.
What we do know is this; Life Is Strange‘s excellent ability to track your own actions in relation to the feelings and actions of your peers has been extended to Vampyr. Plus, it’s likely that this will receive a boost ready for the later release seeing at Life Is Strange dates back to PS3 days. As Jonathan Reid you are not only the recipient of the prize for most British-sounding name but also a fresh new vampire on the streets of London. You are faced with an impossible see-saw through each one of your decisions – who do you pick off the face of the earth, and who do you help. Can you afford to feed on London’s inhabitants, and can London afford to lose its citizens in these vulnerable days of disease?
Everyone you come across is imbued with a devastating amount of detail including psychological profile and complex ties to other city inhabitants. Every move counts and every choice will pluck a cacophony of other strings. It would, at this stage, be dismissive to abandon the notion that Vampyr could completely avoid any combat gameplay in favour of a decision-branch structure. And, indeed, it doesn’t avoid combat, it’s just that reading up on the announcements we’ve had so far and rewatching the gameplay snippets that have graced YouTube channels, this combat looks thin.
Consider this. Vampyr provides you a roster of pistols, bone saws, and magical powers with which you can take on the mere mortals standing in your way. This all sounds like a lot considering your average London bobby would have a good stick and maybe a few rounds of ammunition in his pockets. We can teleport, use our God given talons to rip out a few throats, we can kill a man by blending his insides before the bullet has even left his fun. Unless we come across a considerable amount of supernatural enemies, a lot of this combat system feels one sided.
The game isn’t out yet, and isn’t expected until November, so this may well be way off the mark and is in no way a damning expose. But it is what it is, and it stands under a title – a simple musing on the way Dontnod have balanced their knack for decision-branching narrative and the combat gameplay they seem to have promised us.