There were a lot of exciting announcements at E3 this year. Among them were some fantastic new IPs such as Prey, For Honor, and Vampyr— the upcoming video game by Life is Strange creators, Dontnod Entertainment.
Set in Post-Edwardian-era London during an epidemic (presumably the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918), Vampyr players will assume the role of Dr. Jonathan Reid. Cursed with vampirism, Reid will struggle between an unnatural bloodlust and his humanity. The short trailer shown to us shows a lot to get excited for.
Most fans of the genre would agree that there hasn’t been a good vampire video game for years. Somehow the industry has seemingly forgotten how to make vampires work in video games.
The most recent disappointment we’ve had to endure was Dark, featuring a vampire protagonist no one cares about, in a world no one wants to see. The pace was slow, the script was horrendous and while in the beginning it no doubt raised hopes— rushing through the neon lit world as a supernatural creature created an undoubtedly memorable initial feeling, it ultimately collapsed under the weight of its numerous flaws.
Prior to that, Infamous 2 was given an expansion titled Festival of Blood wherein you played Cole MacGrath as a vampire during Pyre Night in New Marais, as he searches for a way to defeat Bloody Mary, a legendary vampire. Given that the character was already a familiar one, it’d be hard to critique his depth and significance, despite Festival of Blood being a standalone. He’s a gruff guy on the outside with a heart of gold/frigid heart of evil (depending on your choices). What can be rightly praised are the vampires in the expansion, who were vicious, bestial looking things. Great qualities seeing as how they’re antagonists, but it still lacked the overall depth that recent vampire games so desperately need. Of course, Infamous isn’t exactly a horror game anyway, so that hardly matters.
There’s a reason why everyone keeps mentioning the old video games such as the Legacy of Kain series, or Vampire the Masquerade: Redemption and Bloodlines, the latter of which some have already begun comparing the upcoming Vampyr with. Why do those games continue to receive such praise, more than a decade after their releases? It can’t be pure nostalgia.
Vampire the Masquerade: Redemption was a RPG released in 2000, based on White-Wolf’s paper and pen game which allowed for intricate characterisation. This was implemented well in the video game, which took two years to develop, mainly due to the financial and technological limitations present at the time. The vampire game follows Christof Romuald, a stoic crusader knight thrown into the World of Darkness, after an injury leaves him separated from his regiment. Temporarily stranded in the city of Prague, he aids the people by vanquishing a demonic vampire named Ahzra the Unliving (Were she rendered using the graphical technology today, she would no doubt scare the living sh** out of you) and is consequentially chosen by the Brujah vampire clan due to the strength he displayed. The tale follows him as he comes to grips with what he has become, as well as his search for his beloved who leaps into that dark world for love. Despite the relatively simplistic combat, we were drawn into Christof’s world purely through the magic of dialogue, character design, and the mystical and political intrigue it offered us.
It was because of that, the game received an indirect sequel with Vampires the Masquerade: Bloodline in 2004. With a modern setting, Troika Games gave us a worthwhile vampire video game. With an immersive environment, a host of both delightful and eerie vampires to interact with and more freedom of choice than was given in Redemption, Bloodlines became the standard for vampire action games, the one most people reference when comparing new releases. Never mind the fact that the popular game was riddled with bugs due to being released unfinished, because what we were given was entertaining enough to keep us wanting more and keep the modding community dedicated, so much so that 10 years later, people are still adding to the popular vampire game.
There’s a large fandom where vampires and video games are involved, and it isn’t difficult to see why. So what do they all want when it comes to vampires in video games? Character depth? Immersive environments suited for the nocturnal? Awesome supernatural powers? Freedom in gameplay? Well, as it turns out, all of the above.
When done correctly, vampires offer gamers near unlimited power, blood, action, and the means to be a stealthy immortal hunter of the night. It’s the whole reason why we loved the predator sections in the Batman Arkham games, except unlike batman, vampires don’t need fancy gadgets and are immortal (although we all know that the Dark Knight could totally become immortal if he really wanted to…because he’s…a billionaire).
We have other monsters done well in video games: dragons, zombies, werewolves, and ghosts, now we just need Vampyr to be the worthy mythological addition to this generation’s collection. You know what works Dontnod Entertainment, don’t let us down.