This is an Early Access preview.
I sometimes wonder whether any action-RPG could replace the mythical spot held by Diablo 2. There were only a couple that came close (in my opinion Bastion, Torchlight 2, and Path of Exile), and I’d say the rest were just fillers.
But a new game is has joined these ranks, and while I can’t say it manages to out-do Diablo 2, it certainly comes close.
I nearly wrote off Victor Vran before trying it. It looked too much like a copy of Van Helsing (which is decent), but after giving it a shot, I was surprised to find a game that takes the monster-slaying mayhem of Diablo 2, combines it with the narration of Bastion, and brings in some of the skill-based combat of The Witcher series.
The developers at Haemimont Games seem to take many lessons from The Witcher 3. First and foremost, the main character (Victor Vran) sounds exactly like Geralt from The Witcher games. In Victor Vran, you’re a monster slayer, and you get called into a city that has been overrun with more horrible creatures than you could shake a boom-stick at. Your character comments on what he finds, comments on the smell and feeling of the places you take him. And he reminds you here and there of his role in this world, and the brother-like bond that exists between him and his fellow hunters (who you may come across alive or dead in this fallen city).
Also like in The Witcher, the combat makes you consider which tools would be best for a given area. Fighting spiders? Maybe the scythe would be best. Skeletons? Grab a warhammer or shotgun. Taking on a vampire? My choice is the rapier.
The combat is also built in a way that allows you to basically not get hit, if you’re good enough. You can roll out of danger, you can jump over enemies or projectiles, there are only a handful of skills and buffs you can use at once, and potions can only be used sparingly.
Taking a few lessons from Bastion, you have a mysterious narrator who comments on your actions. And also like in Bastion, every weapon type in Victor Vran brings a significantly different combat experience. Playing with the warhammer feels slow and powerful. The sword feels devestating and puts you in harms way. The rapier is fast and agile. The shotgun makes you feel like an old-West gunslinger with a special attack that instantly recharges if you manage to kill the enemy.
You can choose between the Diablo-style controls, where the mouse controls your attacks and movement. Or you can go with the default action controls (which I chose), which lets you control movement with the keyboard, and attack with the mouse. The action control makes it feel a lot more like a skill-based combat game than it does a random click-fest.
The voice acting is very well done. Characters are convincing, and the actual dialogue is just as good. You don’t roll your eyes when an NPC speaks, and I found myself taking time to listen to the characters even if I could finish reading the dialogue before they could finish saying it.
There are a few features that some gamers might not like, but that seeem to be done intentionally by the developers. Victor Vran is simple. You only get a few spells. There isn’t a skill tree or a sheet of attributes you level up. And it basically doesn’t have any character classes.
There is only one hero in Victor Vran, with a choice of three different looks that give different buffs. Every time you level up, you’re given a new feature (like being able to wield two weapons, or being able to carry a new skill) and you’re given a choice between three items (typically cards that give you buffs, a spell, a weapon, or a mystery chest).
Instead of having classes, it adapts to your playstyle. As you pick your perks, you slowly build the type of character you want to play. And you’re not locked into these choices. If you chose a card that gives more health for melee combat and you want to play ranged, you can just switch it out for another.
It seems the developers also expect you to swap weapons depending on what you’re up against. You could probably use the same weapon the whole game, but you’ll quickly see that some weapons work better against different enemies. This makes the combat feel more varied. If combat is starting to feel monotonous, you can just switch it up.
What really makes Victor Vran shien, however, is that it’s deeply immersive. This is a culmination of everything it does well.
You feel like a monster slayer, Victor Vran describes his feeling or sensing, the narrator teases and comments on your actions, characters have personalities, the combat makes you stop and consider the best approach for each situation, and the story makes sense of why you’re basically one-manning a city overrun with monsters.
Victor Vran is available available on Steam Early Access for $19.99.