Vampyr review: The paradox of being a vampire doctor


Developed by Dontnod and running on the Unreal Engine, Vampyr might not be the most polished game, but that doesn’t detract from its charm.

Released on June 5, Vampyr is a highly-anticipated game where you play as Dr. Johnathan Reid in London during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. To make matters more complicated, you’re a newly turned vampire who’s looking for answers about your new condition.

The game starts with you waking up among a pile of bodies, feeling strange. Everything is in greyscale, except for the bright spots of red that guide you towards your first victim. Instinctively, you bite them to gain back your strength, only to come to and realize you’ve killed your own sister. In despair and still unsure what’s happened to you, you’ll explore London and run into a Dr. Swansea, who offers you a position at a nearby hospital.

The gameplay is a combination of action-based fighting and conversational decision trees. The fighting system allows you to wield a variety of weapons from guns to blades, as well as special vampiric abilities. Once you stun an enemy, you’ll also have the ability to bite them, regaining blood. Civilians are also at risk of your thirst for blood and choosing to bite them gives you a significant XP boost so you can level up your skills. However, this has consequences that can affect gameplay. In addition to the main quests, characters can unlock additional quests for you to undertake.

The animations and voice acting aren’t the best, and often come off as overdramatic in a nearly comical B-movie feel. The story is intriguing though, and the depth of the game mechanics adds a much-needed complexity.

The visuals for Vampyr are significantly outdated when compared to other recent titles, such as Detroit: Become Human or Far Cry 5. Character models and environment textures fall flat and don’t include the details that are common these days. Instead, Vampyr feels more like an early PlayStation 4 game (or a very late PlayStation 3). In my experience with the game, there have been a few glitches present, but nothing game-breaking.

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Vampyr is certainly a game that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Its unpolished feel can certainly be a turn off to those who have high expectations — and following on Detroit: Become Human‘s heels makes the decision-based aspects of the game feel simplistic in comparison. Still, the historic and supernatural elements combine to create a game that’s charming despite its flaws.