Victor Vran – Review
Victor Vran is a third person, action rpg which is similar to third-person classic Diablo or Torchlight series. The game begins with you arriving at the city of Zagoravia, a place that has become overrun with demons and the undead. The queen has summoned as many hunters as would be willing to come into her lands and help purge the evil that has attacked her city, but all who had answered her call and ventured out to meet the encroaching evil never returned. This is where your story begins as you arrive in the besieged city, searching for one of your fellow hunters, but ultimately gets caught up in the events that follow.
While Victor Vran is not a graphic showcase it’s still a fine looking game. Running at a smooth 60 frames per second and at a 1080p resolution, not once did I experience any real slow down or dropped frames, even when the screen is full of enemies and particle effects were flying everywhere. The game definitely feels incredibly well optimised for the PS4 (and I also have it on good authority that the Xbox One version also runs at a smooth 60fps too, albeit with a reduced screen resolution). From the games zoomed out, isometric perspective, the environments also look great and brooding enough to suggest that danger just lurks beyond the confines of your viewing angle. Environments range from decaying forests, long forgotten crypts to dungeons and other, standard gothic fare. There is plenty of variety here which makes exploring them anything but a chore. The mini-map actually has a nice feature which you don’t see in many games. While you explore through an environment, the mini-map leaves a small bread-crumb type trail as you explore, meaning you are never confused as to whether you’ve been down a corridor or not. The Trail isn’t persistent, however and seems to eventually fade over time; however, the inclusion is definitely a welcome one.
The controls to Victor Vran are relatively straight forward and are pretty much standard fare for this kind of game. While there are no fancy combo’s for the melee weapons, each melee weapon type has 3 basic attacks attached to the square, triangle and circle face buttons. You have one basic attack while the other two have cooldown timers preventing you from spamming them. It’s the same for projectile weapons, with the same 3 face buttons providing three modes of attack. The right analogue stick gives you control of the camera, allowing you to rotate it 360 degrees in any direction. However, I personally felt the camera was a tad over sensitive and with no option to adjust the camera sensitivity, I found myself not adjusting the camera angle as frequently as I would have in other, similar games. Additionally, some of the controller buttons don’t come into play until you progress further into the game. For example, the right bumper allows you to cycle between the two weapons you have equipped, but that requires reaching a specific level and It’s the same with the left and right d-pad buttons which can be eventually be assigned consumables such as healing potions and bombs.
Each environment you enter introduces you to a series of challenges which you can choose to go after or ignore. Ignoring them has no detrimental effect on your progress, but completing them will reward you with a mixture of XP, gold, loot or sometimes a combination of them all. Sometimes the challenges are straight forward enough that you will complete them purely by exploring that environment and accidently fulfilling the goals of that challenge. Some require you to attack enemies with a specific weapon or attack type or kill a certain quantity of enemies before a timer expires. Either way, the challenges introduce an incentive to encourage you to adjust the way your play for the opportunity to get something good to improve your character. It’s very easy to fall into a comfortable weapon and move set with these types of games, and by going after these challenges, it will force you to try something different which is no bad thing. Some of the challenges will be difficult too, so for those who enjoy optional challenges, they will likely relish trying to complete the 200+ that exist in the core story, at least.
Ontop of the level specific challenges, you also have the option to enable ‘Hexes’. Hexes are toggleable modifiers to make the game harder, while increasing the rewards that drop from enemies. Ranging from increasing the damage Victor takes per hit, increasing the health pools of enemies or the frequency of their attacks. All can be enabled or disabled at any time, especially if the difficulty they add becomes too much to handle. So, if you want to level up that little bit quicker, or just find the game too easy, turn on any or all of the hexes and see the challenge increase.
There is also plenty of variety with the many, MANY enemies you will encounter in Victor Vran. Some enemies have individual mechanics that you will have to quickly recognise and then adapt to if you have any chance of successfully beating them. Like some undead enemies can come back to life unless you kill them with an overkill hit; or Essence enemies will split into smaller versions of themselves once you reduce them to zero health, just to name a few. There are also multiple flavours of the same enemy types, some doing elemental damage, such as fire, cold or poison or just having completely different attack patterns. Then at times you will come across more powerful versions of the same enemies you’ve previously encountered. Mini-bosses and ‘Champions’, which are dotted around the maps and become a good source of loot and XP, but be prepared for a hard fight as they are usually surrounded with masses of lesser versions of themselves not to mention the danger they themselves represent. It’s not too difficult to acclimatise yourself to all the different patterns and attack types you will face, but mastering them will be key to surviving some of the more hectic encounters which throw multiple different enemy types at you at the same time.
Character progression in these types of games usually goes one of two ways. Either the game gives the player full control of the stats that sit behind their character, allowing them to fine tune their game to reflect how they want to play; or progression is more linear, making your character stronger and harder hitting each time you level up. Victor Vran sits mostly in the latter, linear camp. With each level you achieve, giving Victor a standard boost to his health, armour and the damage he outputs per swing, stab, slice or shot. You are then mostly relying on more powerful loot drops to boost his main stats further. However, Haemimont games have tucked in a subtle card collecting mechanic, called Destiny cards, that you find throughout the game. With these cards you can, to a limited degree, start to specialise some of Victor Vran’s stats. Destiny cards let you augment specific aspects of Victor’s ability to do damage, move, resist, boost magical abilities and heal. While the cards are no real replacement for full control over Victor’s character development, they do give you enough options that it will at least whet the appetites of those looking for more in depth character growth, while also being straight forward enough for those players who aren’t as interested to delve into min-maxing their stats.
Despite the dark theme that envelops the story and world of Victor Vran, the game manages to successfully blend in a reasonable amount humour that actually contrasts well with the otherwise grim atmosphere. Haemimont Games got the balance just right, and manages to avoid the common pitfall of the humour becoming too obnoxious or feeling forced in any way. For example, there is a voice in Vran’s head, which also serves the purpose of narrating parts of the game in a noir-esque inner monologue type fashion, that can have some choice words for our main character depending on his actions in game. The simple act of choosing a path can have our ethereal companion pass comment that it was the wrong path to choose and that Vran would regret it. Another memorable moment prompted my companion to start singing ‘Brave Sir Vran’, a play on the Brave Sir Robin song from Monty Python’s Holy Grail, mocking me as I dodged, ducked and dived away from the enemies in a particularly tough encounter. A scripted moment it may have been, but it was a fun moment that has remained memorable with me ever since. The game is laced with funny moments like these as the game never really takes itself too seriously.
Also, special note, the voice actor for Victor Vran is none other than Doug Cockle, the same voice actor who provides the voice for the Witcher Series main character, Geralt of Rivia. He uses the exact same voice for Victor as he does for Geralt and, on a few occasions, even makes humorous references to things he did ‘previously’.
Alongside the main game are two additional expansions. The first of which is Motorhead: Through the ages, a mini-campaign which sees Victor team up with the infamous band and Lemmy himself as they seek to use the power of the infamous Snaggletooth to fight back an evil preacher, the Fuhrer and the Queen of the damned. The other expansion, Fractured Worlds has Victor tackle new dungeons, which change on a daily basis as well as an endless Dungeon called the fracture. Both expansions add a huge amount of content to what is already in the core game. Arguably, they don’t do much to mix up the core gameplay, but if you enjoy the main campaign you’ll enjoy the extra content both expansions provide.
Finally, Victor Vran even has the option for 4 player, on-line co-op but, more even more surprisingly is the option for 2 player local co-op – a very welcome addition in an age where local co-op isn’t as prevalent as it once was. While I haven’t tested either online or local co-op the addition of both only serves to make this a more attractive package ontop of the content already there.
Victor Vran: Overkill edition is an excellent example of how to make an action rpg accessible, fun and rewarding to see through to the very end. A sizable core campaign, coupled with 2 additional expansion campaigns means players will get plenty of game time from this. While the single player experience is rewarding and fun, the option of also being able to play it with an additional player locally and up to 3 others online just sweetens the deal even more.
Haemimont Games has previously proven their console development chops with the well received Tropico series and Omerta City of Gangsters. With Victor Vran, it’s great to see that they were able to develop something beyond, what may be perceived as their comfort zone, and provide us a genuinely fun and standout game in a genre that already already has high profile titles ruling the roost. While it’s not perfect, it’s definitely a game that fans of the genre won’t want to miss.