Developer: DontNod Entertainment Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One Release: 2017
Let’s get the most important question out of the way first. How exactly are you supposed to say 'Vampyr?' Is it just a fancy spelling of the standard English 'vampire', or do you pronounce it phonetically, as in 'vamp-ear'?
Stephane Beauverger, narrative director at DontNod Entertainment, has the answer. 'You should say “vamp-ear”. It’s the Hungarian way to write the name. But vampire is easier for everybody, so we just say vampire. But in the game, you will see people, very scholared people, who will say “no no no, you have to pronounce it vamp-ear”.' There we go, sorted. Never say that we at bit-gamer don’t bring you the most vital information about the latest games. Now, for the second most important question. What the hell is Vampyr anyway?
This one I can answer; Vampyr is DontNod’s new horror RPG set in London during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1919. The relentless spread of the disease proves fertile feeding ground for vampires, who can use the death and chaos caused by the epidemic to disguise their victims’ cause of death. You assume the role of doctor Jonathan Reid, a war veteran who is bitten by one of these chancing bloodsuckers and is consequently sired as a vampire himself. But because he is a Man of Science, Reid resolves to seek out a cure for his affliction while also battling with the needs of his new, monstrous form.
It’s quite the departure from DontNod’s previous project Life is Strange, with its Twin Peaks-inspired coming of age story, which was one of 2015’s most pleasant surprises. But Beauverger asserts that, despite the striking difference in setting and aesthetic, the two games share similar fundamental themes. 'For us, it’s always about putting the player in the position of making choices and facing the consequences,' he says. 'The difference in Vampyr is you’re a monster. You’re a creature who has to kill. So who will you kill?'
Vampyr’s core mechanics are based around your character’s central dilemma of being a doctor and a creature of the night, a man who has sworn an oath to heal the sick, and a monster who relies on blood for sustenance. The semi-open chunk of London you reside in, centred primarily around Whitechapel, includes sixty NPCs, all with their own backstories and involvement in the world, all of whom are potential targets for Reid. But you don’t want your secret to be made public, so you can’t just run up to any of them and sink your teeth in. You need to be discreet.
'The first way for you to achieve that is to take mental control of your target,' says Beauverger. 'The more secrets you know about someone, the easier it will be for you to control their mind. That’s enough to invite him or her to follow you to a discreet place.' Alternatively, you can use dialogue and acquired knowledge to persuade an individual to invite you into their home. 'Once you are inside the house, you’re free to do whatever you want,' Beauverger adds.