Scott Watson reviews Victor Vran Overkill Edition…
It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Then again, there’s the flipside too that familiarity breeds contempt. Victor Vran, by Haemimont Games (of Tropico fame), straddles that ever so thin line between both splendidly. An action RPG with a storyline steeped in Grimm’s fairy tales (the titular Vran is a demon hunter and could well be a relation to Van Helsing himself), the game leans heavily towards days past of Baldur’s Gate or more recently the likes of Blizzard’s Diablo and its ilk. It’s been readily available for the best part of two years on PC, but only now is it seeing the light of day on console, including both the Fractured Worlds and all new Motörhead Through The Ages DLC.
An isometric action-RPG, Vran’s story and settings may be nothing new, but as an example of its genre it has to be up there as one of the most enjoyable romps. Some folks like their games to be thought provoking, to challenge their thinking. As for me, primarily a game has to entertain and engage. I can forgive story as long as the dynamics of the gameplay let me have fun. That one, simple, three letter word. Gaming for me is a release, an escape, a means of letting me forget the humdrum of daily life in exchange for adventures in another world. Victor Vran gives me that release, that blast of fun with much gusto!
As RPGs go, it doesn’t hide behind multiple skill classes, overly-complex skill-trees or convoluted equipment stats. It keeps things relatively simple and that works to the game’s advantage. In Victor Vran you level up as you progress through the game, no need to worry about picking a particular class to support your play style, no need to keep an eye on XP to unlock particular skills. At most you’re given a choice of three bonuses each time you level up. This could be a new weapon, potions, or buffs by way of Destiny cards. This style of RPGing suits me to a tee as it allows you to mix up your play on the fly without the need to scale back and start characters from scratch. It’s ideal for the kind of gameplay prevalent in Victor Vran too.
Battling your way through the game, you’ll always have two weapons at your disposal. I’m partial to a heady mix of ranged and heavy thanks to my lightning gun and hammer combo, but there’s also rapiers, swords, shotguns, pistols, grenade launchers and, thanks to the Motorhead expansion, guitars (just go with it here folks). They all feel suitably different and also come with secondary attacks that can’t be spammed thanks to a cooldown for each. It’s a nice little bit of strategic mix into the game. Watching the cooldown timer creep back as you find yourself over run by enemies tends to have you running about like a headless chicken caught in a persisten bullet-hell. Did I say strategy? Running away tends to work best for me until I remember that I have another weapon at my disposal that tends to save my bacon!
The weapons aren’t your only savior in game though, consumables such as area of effect bombs and demon powers are also at your disposal to make you at times feel like a one-man demon hunting army. While at times you can get easily overwhelmed, it can be really, REALLY satisfying (when you remember) pulling out a fire bomb to lay waste to all those around you, or use your demon powers to rain down hot fire from hell. These moments are regular occurrences throughout each pretty damn huge level and keep you sated in the constant and persistent quest for killer loot. They’re also a key part in the enjoyment of this hunt, kill, loot, repeat cycle.
Enemies do become pretty much of a muchness, adhering to the usual types in this kind of game it has to be said; skeletons, wraiths, elementals, spiders and scorpions all make way for the inevitable end of level boss battles. It’s fine though, because Victor Vran has another nice touch up its sleeve as each area also consists of five secondary objectives to work your way through, and return to if you want to at a later date (as all enemies re-spawn if you leave). Usually these objectives are a mix of kill scores, secrets and death by required weapon. They’re a great inclusion and are a huge part in helping you level up and achieve unique loot. Haemimont even add another layer onto this in some areas, where you can also add modifiers in the way of hexes that not only up the danger level, but increase the potential for reward.
Away from the gameplay itself, I’ve got to take my hat off to the writing, voice acting and music. Yes, I know the story isn’t going to win any booker prize awards, but the game grabs you in other ways, gameplay aside. The fabulous Doug Cockle’s tones are so instantly recognisable that you could almost have thought Geralt himself had inhabited Victor’s body. The writing here, in particular the dialogue of Victor and our unseen narrator, is pretty damn delicious, mocking, world-weary and very tongue in cheek too. There’s an air of self-awareness running throughout, with some great pop culture references and gaming nods that makes me applaud the wit.
The music throughout is also hauntingly melancholic at times. Sounds of harpsichords, lutes and more I’m sure give it a real olde worlde feel… unless you feel like rocking out to the killer sounds of Motorhead prevalent throughout the rather unusual additional DLC!
At the end of the day all of these elements come together to provide you with an aRPG experience that’s not only a familiar romp, but something that manages to surprise and delight in ways you perhaps didn’t think was possible any more in this genre.
+ Easy to pick up and play
+ Beautifully imagined levels
+ All. The. Loot.
– Can become quite the grind
– Storyline isn’t particularly strong
Platform review on Playstation 4