Sometimes we make promises that we just can’t keep. Appointments, dates, even major milestones in other people’s lives can be disrupted due to a multitude of events that we just can’t see coming. Weeks become difficult and cluttered in a split second and things are missed, those promises fall through. So what does this have to do with the astute, English surgeon-turned-vampire Jonathan Reid? In his harrowing tale in Dontnod’s Vampyr, it’s paramount to the experience, for better or for worse.
Without diving into the grisly details too much, I will tell you that Vampyr is a fresh and exciting dive into the world of RPG’s due to its unique role the character takes as well as how the decisions the player takes factors into nearly every aspect of the game. While I may be biased as a medical student myself, I for one welcomed an opportunity to play as a physician during one of the deadliest pandemics in history: The Spanish Flu. While balancing his newfound abilities, which he even calls his ‘condition’, with his critical role as a doctor in his community, Reid and the player must get to the bottom of both the pandemic and the mysterious new layers of society he uncovers as a vampire. One of the biggest conflicts that Reid faces are those of responsibilities and promises.
Reid has various connections to the city of London, the game’s location. While Reid is primarily recognized as a surgeon, he is also a brother, a son, and a member of high society. These roles are all challenged and as a result, his responsibilities and promises are called into question. However, the only relationship that the player truly has a large effect on is that of his medical status, which can be a bit frustrating later in the game, especially around a particularly brutal boss fight. However, that same fight, and especially its difficulty, feeds into the most important promise Reid can, and should, keep: the Hippocratic Oath.
Reid and his unique relationship to the Oath remains a critical and brilliant aspect of Vampyr. Feeding can provide more experience and make Reid stronger, but the community suffers and can even descend into chaos. If the player chooses to go cold turkey despite the newfound hunger, the game becomes far more difficult. It is in this newfound difficulty that I found myself experimenting with my limited abilities and as a result, having a rewarding experience for both story and gameplay reasons. Mastering the combat while still having plenty of abilities at my disposal from scrounging as much XP as possible from the excellent side quests and treating patients resulted in Jonathan Reid becoming a heroic figure because his identity of a physician was not wavered by the supernatural fate that was thrust upon him, and my decisions dictated that. The role I chose to play dictated the experience itself throughout, which is something I hope RPG designers take into consideration in the future of the genre.
What did your decisions in Vampyr result in? Did you choose to play the vampiric role, not even once, or did you do a little of both? Did the game feel limited by your choices, or more rewarding and enjoyable? Let me know!