Title: Victor Vran
Version Tested: PC
Available On: Windows PC, OS X, Linux
Developer: Haemimont Games
Publisher: EuroVideo Medien
Genre: Action RPG
Official Site: Victor Vran
Release Date: July 24, 2015
Where to Buy: Steam, GOG.com
If you want an affordable action RPG to pleasantly surprise you, look no further than Victor Vran by Bulgarian independent studio Haemimont Games.
Haemimont, famous for the Tropico series, worked with publisher EuroVideo Medien to get the game released on Steam. It was part of the Early Access program from February through July of 2015 where it was previewed for The Nerd Stash by Sabine Algur, wherein she declared Victor Vran an “extraordinary upcoming ARPG.”
Now, having been fully launched in July, Victor Vran is just an extraordinary ARPG.
Each new game starts with the player taking on the role of Victor Vran as he arrives at Zagavoria to fight demons. From this point on, progress through the game is largely decided by the player. Gameplay in Victor Vran involves character customization, character development between levels, trade, inventory management, and copious amounts of combat.
Diablo III players will understand Victor Vran’s combat controls right away. Players will need to make strategic use of ranged and melee attacks while dodging the attacks of endless hordes of monsters. Victor Vran also includes a few variations on the Diablo formula, most of which I like. Victor can jump, not only to reach hidden areas but also for much quicker traversal of map terrain in some areas. Two primary weapons can be equipped simultaneously once Victor has reached the necessary level, allowing for rapid swapping on the battlefield at the push of a button. This allows for smarter strategy as enemies enter melee distance or try running from you.
As Victor Vran doesn’t make use of a class system, character customization is wide open throughout the game, modified through the use of different hero outfits, demon powers, destiny cards, and weapons. Upon surviving a few low-risk objectives, new players are tasked with deciding their style of play (more weapon use, more demon power use, or balanced) and presented with their first hero outfit accordingly. Players can then choose equipment that complements this choice as desired. Rather than gaining new skills as Victor levels up, players gradually have restrictions lifted (second equipped weapon, a number of destiny cards equipped, etc.) and receive their choice of a special item with each new level.
Effective trade and inventory management are crucial to timely progression through the game and, done wisely, can make a huge difference when the going gets tough. I found that buying the maximum number of potions possible early in the game was beneficial. I relied mostly on looting and, later, diligent weapon augmentation to stay lethal in the face of increasingly threatening enemies. The inventory and augmentation menus are not perfect, particularly while using a gamepad. Actually, the Victor Vran menus in general made me do a lot more fumbling around than I’m used to and this was frustrating. I ended up using some combination of controller and keyboard to get through long inventory management sessions, which was not ideal.
The game’s pacing is great. I thought the difficulty balance was comparable to the maturity of a much older franchise. The Normal game difficulty setting will give you time to acclimate before throwing you in the deep end and the Hard setting does the exact opposite, just as experienced players would hope. Hardcore player mode was a great later addition, challenging players to take a new Victor as far as possible without dying, at which time he loses Hardcore status. Victor Vran is accessible to new players but provides all the right challenges to seasoned veterans.
The biggest issue with Victor Vran, and this kept the game below a five-star rating, was a series of situations I found myself in where I’d met the quest objective and couldn’t get the quest to advance. This led me to wait around in rooms too long, transport somewhere only to have to transport back, and, in the worst case, fight a boss multiple times trying to move to the next objective. Brief research about this problem seems to indicate that quest issues have haunted the development team for some time. Unfortunately for players, this is the worst type of problem for any RPG to have.
Victor Vran’s graphics are very well done. The gothic fantasy art style makes for great maps and character design, and the art team supported it perfectly. While the visuals don’t always jump off the screen per se, they are suitable and don’t distract from the other great aspects of the game. There are many inherent challenges in designing a 360-degree rotatable isometric game, Haemimont seemed to have solutions for all of them. Victor went a bit further than many RPGs in its class, presenting very nice portraits of characters during dialog as well. This is a great improvement over the genre’s usual small text over tiny heads.
The sound design in Victor Vran was spot on. Music had to contribute to a general spookiness throughout the game in a way that wasn’t a pain to listen to for hours on end; I actually found most of it pleasant, even at its creepiest. The sound effects eventually became grating, but I don’t see how a game like this, with endless attacks, can avoid it. I’m willing to write that off as a personal hang-up. The voice acting was mostly great if a couple of characters seemed a tad under-delivered.
This brings us to The Voice. The Voice is heard suddenly inside Victor’s head near the beginning of the game and sticks with Victor long-term. Players have described their relationship with him as “love/hate” and I find that this is very accurate. The Voice’s intent is to occasionally get under Victor’s skin and he frequently had me rolling my eyes as well. Though he delivers some of the funniest lines in the game (several of them are references to other games like Super Mario Bros. and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim), he spends quite a bit of time taunting Victor and celebrating his torment. It gets tiring. To be clear, I’m sure this means the actual role was played exactly as intended and remarkably well at that. Still, it could have been dialed down just a notch.
Overall the presentation of Victor Vran was enormously impressive. I went in hoping the game was functional and walked away thinking of cues other games could take from this one in the future. While the game is not totally without issues, Victor Vran is action RPG gameplay at its best. I only hope Haemimont Games continues to deliver quality content and updates so I can continue to enjoy the game.
Are you a fan or own the game? Purchase today on Steam and let us know your feedback in the comments below!
- Gameplay: Fun combat and great balance across all game modes. Menu navigation is awkward on a controller. Quest update issues may cause headaches.
- Graphics: Art style is great, graphics are good without being stunning.
- Sound: Sound design fits the theme well. Music is excellent. Voices were well-performed though a few seemed a bit subdued. The Voice needs to relax.
- Presentation: The game without a doubt accomplishes its goals and it’s a blast to experience. There seem to be small imperfections to be found but the game is a welcome addition for fans of action RPGs.
- Fun, intuitive combat
- Great audiovisual design
- Surprisingly well-balanced
- Significantly lower price than many comparable games
- Combat is best with a controller, menus are best with a keyboard
- Quest system issues may leave you temporarily stuck