Developer: Haemimont Games
Publisher: EurioVideo Medien
Genre: Action, Adventure, Indie, RPG, Early Access
If you’re looking for a game that packs out-and-out action and elements of RPG into a somewhat comical supernatural isometric world, while assuming a customizable Helsing-esque avatar, Victor Vran is your game.
Haemimont Games, the studio best known for the popular strategy/management Tropico series, brings you a fresh and unique perspective on the ARPG genre. Victor Vran is available now in Early Access on Steam, and even as a work-in-progress, it stays true to its vision and the game is remarkably engaging and immersive.
At the bottom left corner of the menu screen, you’ll see a list of the recent updates made to the game, which is useful to know. And they’ve also allotted two easily accessible keys for providing feedback and reporting a bug. So, if you get this game while it’s still in Early Access, be sure to give the developers your feedback, so they can make it the best game it can be.
The game has a dark, medieval setting, but it still manages to have a lively feel with the deeply vivid colors of the environment, the enemies and special attack effects. The game’s soundtrack is in line with its setting – much like that of a traditional action horror. There’s not much of a narrative yet, except a few lines of text that run on 2D backgrounds with placeholder art or when you’re entering a new area, but these reveal very little. The story is being withheld by the developer on purpose, perhaps to surprise us on the full and final release. (This is revealed to us on speaking to Queen Katarina at Castle Zagore).
All we know is that Victor wants to find his friend Adrian, who apparently knows his past, and during his search, he’ll have to explore dungeons, take on bosses and their minions and unveil secrets that will make him more effective in combat. Your first task is to slay “a particularly nasty vampire hiding somewhere beyond the Royal Gardens.” Hmm, wonder who that might be?
Strangely, the absence of a comprehensive plot doesn’t put a damper on the game in the least bit. The colors and the diversity of enemies are so intriguing, and the gameplay mechanics are so combat intensive that immersion happens regardless.
You can play Victor Vran using either a keyboard and mouse or an Xbox controller. I chose to use the keyboard, though I’m not used to it, and what I particularly like about the game is that the keys are simple and straightforward. Press ‘M’ to view map and challenges, ‘I’ for inventory, ‘WASD’ for directional movement, ‘Q’ and ‘E’ for specials, ‘1’ for potion, ‘3’ for use of overdrive to unleash a powerful demon attack; point the mouse cursor at your target and right click to attack normally (click repeatedly for combos); left click and hold to rotate the camera; press the scroll wheel of the mouse to switch quickly between weapons; press spacebar to jump – yes, you can jump, which is unusual for games of this genre. And not only that, you can wall jump, too! Wall jumping allows you entry to otherwise hidden chest areas. Pressing a directional button twice will make Victor roll/dodge, which really comes in handy when you want to quickly evade an attack. So in terms of combat, it plays much like a third-person hack and slash, which is absolutely gratifying.
Note that, however, some of these skills are not readily available to you at the beginning of the game – you have to unlock them as you go on, which is in line with the RPG element of character development as you progress. Another plus point is that owing to the easy controls, the game’s tutorial is a smooth, delightful and effective guide in teaching you how to play.
You have one map in the top right corner for navigation and spotting enemies. Pressing ‘M’ pauses the game and gives you a closer look at the map and your current position. It also lays out your aims and achievements. Each area or dungeon presents you with five unique challenges for you to complete. As you complete each challenge, you’re rewarded with new weapons, experience points, money and destiny cards and gain new abilities.
How you play the game is largely determined by how you choose from a massive selection of weapons, outfits and destiny cards, your choice of rewards upon leveling up, how you position Victor, delivery and time of attack, as well as the frequency with which you use items. What especially sets this game apart is that except for your demon powers, the rest of your abilities seem to be dependent on what weapons you have equipped. So far, I’ve come across six types of weapons: the sword, shotgun, hammer, scythe, rapier, and the lightning gun (a favorite). You can have two weapons equipped at a time. Each of these has one basic attack and two special attacks.
Attacks can inflict different status effects on one or multiple enemies, such as vulnerability, fear, daze, etc. The uniqueness of each weapon is in its attack damage, range, speed, and cool down periods. By the way, the use of health potions also has a cool down period, so keep this in mind when you find that you’re unable to heal yourself immediately during a harrowing battle.
You have a limited number of slots to equip destiny cards, starting with a minimum of two. Those that you equip grant you passive abilities that raise certain aspects of your performance, such as higher resilience, more melee damage, more critical chance, more health, etc.
Speaking of outfits, if you go through your inventory, you’ll see the developer has left you a gift – the Wanderer’s Outfit. At the bottom of the screen, you’ll see notice two meters – the red meter is your life meter and the yellow meter shows your overdrive meter. When the overdrive meter is filled, you can unleash your demon power by pressing ‘3’. If you’re wearing your Hunter’s Outfit, you can fill up on overdrive by attacking enemies; however, with the Wanderer’s Outfit, your overdrive energy regenerates automatically without indulging in combat, though, of course, you need to give it some time.
Take a look at Victor’s hands when he changes to the Wanderer’s Outfit. Besides the ability to unleash demon powers, his hands are another sign that our mysterious hero isn’t entirely human himself.
You might find it overwhelming at times when you encounter difficult bosses and enemies in greater numbers. Don’t let this dishearten you. It’s the game’s way of encouraging you to level up and revise your gear. Haemimont Studios has also added a 4-player cooperative mode, so go ahead and team up with your friends online to eliminate those annoying buggers.
Even in its unfinished state, I can safely say that Haemimont Games will achieve what it set out to do. There’s a lot to look forward to upon the game’s full launch, especially a more detailed storyline and hopefully, some voice acting. Although it plays well using a keyboard and mouse, it requires quite a bit of coordination that may be better handled with the Xbox controller. Once you get the hang of those controls, you’ll see that Victor Vran isn’t just about slaying demons, it’s about slaying demons in style.
Victor Vran has been in Early Access since February 2015 and is due for a full launch Summer 2015.
Victor Vran available now in early access on Steam!