Victor Vran – Review

Title   Victor Vran
Developer  Haemimont Games
Publisher  EuroVideo Medien
Platform  Windows PC, Linux, OS X
Genre  Action role-playing
Release Date  24 July, 2015

You stand facing the army of shuffling skeletons, the brim of your leather hat flapping in the wind. “Time to go to work.” says Geralt of… wait… sorry Victor in a gravelly tone. He unsheathes his sword, charging the line of undead. “Something witty said in a posh English accent.” says the narrator from the critically acclaimed Stanley Parable. This is Victor Vran.

So that might not be fair, but from the start of Haemimont Games’ (makers of the more recent Tropico games) new title, Victor Vran, I found the choice of voice-over artists a little jarring. Usually when I start a review I like to cover the story, work through the visuals and the gameplay, then talk about sound but frankly it’s probably best to just get the voice over stuff out of the way.

From about thirty seconds in, it becomes apparent that the character of Victor is portrayed by Doug Cockle, talented voice actor whose most notable work is that of the voice of Geralt in the Witcher games. This reason this is immediately apparent is because Victor and Geralt sound identical. Initially, I found this completely jarring and was ready for adding it as a con to this very review; the guy couldn’t even be bothered to change up the voice? That’s just lazy. However, as the game opens up, the one liners become more absurd, you happen across the disco-dancing skeletons, and you also come to realise that this isn’t some kind of huge mistake on the part of the developers but more a poke at the whole monster hunter / Van Helsing universe the game seems to inhabit.

Victor Vran is styled after Diablo, but with all the seriousness of the Tropico games.

Victor is summoned to the expansive classically gothic city of Zagoravia by his friend and fellow demon hunter. As he arrives, he finds the city swarming with the damned and sets to work carving a path through the inhabitants of the once-grand city. Shortly after arriving, a mysterious disembodied voice begins to narrate Victor’s journey, pointing out key areas yet maintaining a level of malevolence in his tone that makes it clear that Voice is not an ally.

Ultimately there isn’t a lot to the story here; a fallen city, a mysterious voice, and a queen with a secret past. Ultimately, Victor is led by the nose around the numerous areas battling a variety of bosses. Much of the entertainment comes from the narration of the Voice as he mocks, misdirects, and ‘advises’ on the situation. Victor is very much the straight man in this comedy duo, rarely making a cheery comment, juxtaposing well with the incredibly up-beat maniacal laughter of Voice.

In terms of gameplay, Victor Vran plays much like any other isometric action RPG, where your left click will become your best friend as you bash it to smithereens attacking enemies. Each weapon type has two special attacks, such as the swords’ slash (a knock-back attack) and dash (a daze attack), which keeps things a little more interesting. As you gain levels you will unlock a second weapon slot, allowing you to switch quickly between fast and slow melee weapons, or melee and ranged weapons, depending on your play style. The variety of weapons is fairly decent. At the time of writing this I’m carrying the lightning gun, which hits one ranged target before bouncing bolts of electricity to another; and the classic scythe, which turns the player in to a whirlwind of destruction.

In addition to this broad array of weapons, Victor also has access to his demon powers which act as powerful offensive or defensive spells in combat. The abilities range from things like Blink, a short-range teleport allowing for a quick escape when surrounded, to buffs like the Berserker Aura, which increases damage output. Again there’s a huge range of spells to pick up and each varies in level meaning you are constantly upgrading what you are using. The Overcharge bar which fills as you deal damage, or use specific potions.

As you level up you also unlock what are known as fate cards, which provide stat-related buffs or passive abilities, such as increasing your strength or granting a chance to cause a freezing blast when dealt damage. Due to the volume of cards you pick up during the game you are constantly checking your inventory screen and adjusting your character, adding a level of depth to the RPG elements of the game as you try and balance each of these elements.

There’s not a huge amount to criticise about the combat; I found it comparable to Diablo and dependent on your skill; you will either find it incredibly straight-forward or challenging. Moving through maps, Victor is confronted by waves of enemies that are loosely tied to the area you are in, but only very loosely. At one point I was walking through a graveyard and found myself attacked by magic elementals, which essentially looked like giant glowing rocks, with very little explanation as to why they were there. I’m not sure this is a bad thing though, as the variety of enemies, their attacks, and weaknesses have you constantly thinking about your next move. Skeletons, for example, will die and reconstruct, unless you hit them with an ‘overkill’ attack (essentially a critical hit), while Spiders might panic and run away if you get too close, yet Wraiths will lay down massive debuff fields and shoot around all over the place.

When all of these things combine in to one huge fight it can look and feel fantastic , or in my case a confusing button-bashing, health-potion swilling mess, but like I said, it depends on your skill. Exploring the vast city – which is broken up in to individual maps and centres around a hub where you can trade weapons and cards to vendors for gold – it’s fair to say that the environments are very well presented. The Victorian/gothic style is reminiscent of the classic Dracula movies and you will move between opulent mansions to dank caves filled with glowing crystals. For an isometric title it is an incredibly pretty game; the effects and character models are all brilliantly rendered, although perhaps not as detailed as you’d expect due to the fixed-distance camera.

If you get tired of battling the forces of darkness alone you can jump in to the sparsely populated multiplayer and join with up to four other players. The multiplayer is essentially just an open version of the single-player game; players jump in to one of the various zones and complete challenges together. There’s very little here though, and in all honestly every time I’ve tried it the game has been incredibly sluggish. There is nothing worse than an action-packed game reduced to a crawl through lag and low frame rates.

Ultimately, Victor Vran is a great game, and, in terms of quality, if you don’t include the multiplayer, I don’t think you can criticise it technically. The combat is fast-paced and action packed, and that’s what you want from an action RPG in the same vein as Diablo and The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. The RPG elements are equally strong, allowing players to build their ideal demon hunter using a deep and varied system. It’s even moderately entertaining listening to the jibes from The Voice. If you’re already a fan of isometric action-RPGs you’ll likely love Victor Vran; not for its story, but for its variety and the quality of its gameplay. Oh and maybe because at one point The Voice decides you need a new vigilante name and you become Hatman as old Voicey cackles wildly at his terrible joke. Seriously, have you seen that hat?

  • Fast-paced action
  • Huge breadth in weapons and abilities
  • Often hilarious, sometimes awful narration from The Voice
  • You get a ‘cool’ hat
  • Doesn’t really bring anything new to the genre
  • I need a new mouse

When I agreed to review Victor Vran I came at the game as a bit of an outsider to the genre. I didn’t get on with Titan’s Quest, I found Diablo really dull and I hated The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing (despite how much others loved it), but I thought I’d give it a go and I’m glad I did because I was really pleasantly surprised.

I found that during a particularly busy few weeks at work I’ve managed to use Victor Vran as an escape, to disappear in to a world filled with many breakable things in the form of the undead, and bash my way through it. The story is genuinely very disengaging so you stop caring why you’re being asked to go to the next zone in the list that unlocks, and I found myself more excited to hear what The Voice and Geralt… sorry, Victor had to say as I slashed, smashed, and electrocuted my way through the demonic hordes.

Does it do anything new or fresh that might draw a non-action RPG player in? I don’t think so, but for £15 you get an incredibly well put together button-bashing adventure which pokes fun at itself while delivering a decent challenge. Worth the cost of admission, in my book.

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