Author Topic: Vampyr [2018 -- Dontnod Entertainment]  (Read 21 times)

Offline Starfox

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Vampyr [2018 -- Dontnod Entertainment]
« on: September 14, 2018, 08:22:38 AM »
The year is 1918 at the end of WWI and right in the middle of the worst flu epidemic the world has ever known (real fact even, the flu epidemic of 1918-1920 -- wrongly called Spanish Flu as the first cases were thought to originate from Spain) caused twice more deaths itself than the whole of the world war with a minimum of 50 millions up to 100, but somehow it was obscured by the war the happiness of the victory and ended up as an undeserved footnote of History). Dr Jonathan Reid, an eminent worldwide specialist of blood transfusion just returned to London from his time of service as a medic in the trenches of the Western European front. He anticipates with happiness to be reunited with his family; his mother and his sister. But something goes wrong and he ends up awakening in a mass grave of flu victims not completely dead but not totally alive either... Somehow, someone turned him into a vampire which appears of course ironic considering his professional background (a bloodsucker specialist of blood transfusions).

Unfortunately his first victim as he wakes up completely disoriented and famish appears to be his own sister, Mary. Completely disturbed, torn apart by his act and oblivious to his current state, Jonathan starts running when some people calling him "leech" start shooting at him. It does not take long for him to realize that those people are some kind of hunters dedicated to his pursuit or at least to the pursuit of the kind of thing he became. But he still doesn't know what it is he became. Then, as he found solace in a deserted apartment, mortified by the death of his sister at his hands, he decides to take his life with the revolver of the former occupant of the place. One bullet in the heart and... of course that doesn't work. Jonathan is beyond that now.

So he decides to look for the one responsible for his transformation because he has some questions needing answers. He finally runs into another MD, Dr Swansea, that surprisingly knows more than him about vampires although he doesn't appear to wish him destroyed. Swansea belongs to a secret society that has been "monitoring" vampires for quite a long time only intervening when one looses control and start killing indiscriminately which is not the case of Jonathan... yet. It appears that Swansea is also looking for the vampire that turned Jonathan.

As both appear to have a common interest and as Jonathan is a colleague, despite his newfound status, Swansea propose him to take residence at the Pembroke hospital he administrates, as a night shift doctor which would effectively be the most effective cover for a creature of the night.

The bit of the story I just told happens more or less during the tutorial bit of the game and cover maybe the couple of first hours of the game (depending on your rhythm of progression because after all this is an action RPG we are talking about and as such there are people to meet, places to go and such. And the player is going to talk to people a lot. In fact if you don't like to discuss I would suggest you to stay away from this game. Don't be under the impression that this game doesn't have any action because it does even if it is one of its weak points or at least not so brilliant one. But we will discuss that further below.

The game was developed by the French studio Dontnod which has been responsible for the games Remember Me (which was mostly action) and Life Is Strange (mostly adventure). So one could say that the studio has a certain notoriety by now; even if their first game was a bit of a miss, Life Is Strange certainly made up for it. Those games were heavily focused on the storytelling of one character's adventures but whereas Remember Me featured very heavy (and boring) combat, Life Is Strange was devoid of any combat. In that regard Vampyr adopts a middle ground.

There are two things regarding the gameplay of Vampyr that could be hard on a number of players. First, there's the loot. All lootable elements have (like in most games of this type) a glitter to them. In the case of Vampyr however this glitter is very faint and, what's more, partly indistinguishable of some of the normal reflections of the game world. That can lead a lot of gamers accustomed to more visible "hints" to ignore and pass a considerable amount of loot on the way.

The second thing regards combat. I have three things to say about that: lock, lock, LOCK. Vampyr is a third person game but there's no auto-lock feature. Always lock one of your targets before entering combat (once one target locked one can switch between them simply enough by moving the mouse side to side or moving the right stick in the case of a controller) or you'll waste an awful lot of bullets, get lost during combat and miss a fair share of your attacks. It's not a joke, locking is the way to go or one should find themselves maybe winning some fights but gracelessly and inefficiently. Locking allows the player for example to keep track of some types of enemies that spend their time quickly going around because they possess "swooping" abilities similar to Jonathan's. However when it comes to certain encounters (typically bosses) you might want to unlock your enemy when it is time to avoid some special attacks because it's easier that way. Yes, the locking thing is that weird.

That certainly makes combat awkward for most people who don't use (or like to use) a locking mechanism during combat. However whereas manually locking an adversary is not necessary -- although the possibility is there -- in most third persons games like The Witcher 3  because this game has an auto-lock feature that without being overdone or intrusive is efficient enough, Vampyr appears to be lacking in the subtle auto-lock department. That is particularly obvious with ranged weapons and abilities. If the character is not strictly aligned with the direction of a target the shot will miss. The error allowance is really minimal, maybe 5° around a target which would be unimportant in a FPS but is not particularly helpful with a Third Person Perspective game devoid of any crosshair. Hence... lock.

Anyway, Vampyr is more about the journey than the fighting. There's a lot of talking, quite a few cutscenes... From a pure storytelling point of view, the game does good and manage to not be a vulgar copy of  Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodline or Bloodrayne. In fact, Vampyr brings its own twist to the whole Vampire mythology bringing an original perspective even though in the end the vampire is still a vampire sucking blood.

Aside combat Dr Reid has quite some other things to do, quests and investigations to complete, healing sick people (he's a doctor after all) and find stuff to upgrade his weapons. Healing people is an originality of this title because Reid doesn't heal people necessarily for the reasons you'd think. Healing people contribute to increase their blood quality and blood in this game represent XP that can be used to acquire and enhance Reid's abilities . The more blood a victim has the more XP Reid gains when "embracing" them (and yes embracing means "killing", we're not in VTMB here... just taking a little blood is not a thing). Beside healing, investigating characters (revealing hints about their lives, their habits, their flaws, their fears... etc.) contribute to augment the amount of blood available to collect. 

In reality the player has a choice. Go the fast or the slow route. Gaining XP still happens even when one doesn't "embrace" anyone. One gains XP by solving quests and investigations, killing enemies... etc. But one gains a lot less XP than by embracing because the two are cumulative and late in game, considering the cost of high grade skills and the huge amount of XP that some NPCs can bring to the player, one can be tempted to take the plunge. However, finishing the game does not require to kill any passive bystander (indeed there's even an achievement for finishing the game only killing hostiles; I say "passive" as opposed to "innocent" because there are quite a few characters in this game you'd happily sink your teeth into because they simply more than deserve it) nor does killing everyone to acquire maximum XP makes the game easier.

In the end anyway, the choice is the player's. Reid can be a bloodthirsty thug,  a selective surgeon (only removing the bad crop but then there's the moral issue of judge/jury/executioner) or totally keep clean. In each case, there will be consequences, good or bad.

Of course the goal of the story itself is for Reid to reveal the identity of his "progenitor" and to understand why he was chosen (believe it or not, Ekons -- that's the name of the higher vampires here -- rarely create new Ekons without serious planning, at least that's how it goes in Vampyr).

At the time of this review, there's only one difficulty level (Dontnod explained it by the fact they wanted players actions and decisions to directly impact the difficulty of the game -- for example the most civilians you embrace the most difficult the game is supposed to be because you can turn whole area hostile that way; in exchange the more civilians you embrace the more XP you gain and the more badass you become so it's a balancing act). However after some returns from players, Dontnod decided to include in a coming patch (now in beta) a "story mode" and "hardcore" levels respectively easier and harder than the vanilla difficulty.

In the end Vampyr is a nice game poorly served by a weird combat system. Come to think of it, combat design is a recurrent problem with Dontnod either because totally unoriginal and repetitive (Remember me) or because problematic (Vampyr). In the latter case though, the problem could have been easily solved by using the camera as an aiming device and not the character. When a player is orienting the camera in one direction they are generally expecting the character they control to fire or use powers in that direction. In Vampyr the aiming device is Reid. They chose to replace camera aiming with a manual locking feature but not all players are used to or like to use such a feature.

Still if we go beyond the combat woes, the title story characters and non-combat gameplay are interesting enough to warrant a good score.


Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. -- A. Einstein

Offline Starfox

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Vampyr and technical woes
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2018, 08:33:36 AM »
I put that in a separate post because it's a purely technical issue that should be solved down the road, one can hope.

In its current incarnation, Vampyr doesn't play ball with the current generation of AMD Ryzen processors when there are too many cores (more than 4) involved -- a fact that has been mentioned numerous times by users on the web. It's like if the game remained puzzled at the number of cores wondering which ones to use. The result in game is extremely -- and excessively -- long loading times, the game will just freeze on a loading screen for between 40 and 60 seconds (some players even reported up to 5 minutes) then suddenly load the level in catastrophe. Waiting for a proper patch, the current work around is to decrease the core affinity of the game after launching it so it only uses 4 cores (namely 0, 2, 4 and 6). That solves the loading time problem.

Minus side, you have to do that each time you launch the game (which is not without reminding me the old games like Star Wars KOTOR for which you had to perform the same operation when we switched from 2 to 4 cores processors. Except that Vampyr is brand new indeed newer than the current top of the line AMD Ryzen CPUs and run on a version of Unreal Engine 4 hence It shouldn't have this kind of problem. Note that only the loading times are affected -- which is even more curious; once a level is loaded all 8 cores and 16 threads can be activated, the game runs flawlessly. Note that the problem originally occurred also for the newest Intel 8 cores CPUs but that was solved in an earlier patch. AMD owners are still waiting.

Being myself the owner of Ryzen 2700X I'm a bit pissed off by Dontnod lack of reactivity on this issue which has been there since the game release and after two patches (even though the first Ryzen CPUs were released more than year ago and the second generation back in April 2018). Let's hope the third patch currently in beta will be the good one.


Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. -- A. Einstein

Offline Doc_Brown

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Re: Vampyr [2018 -- Dontnod Entertainment]
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2018, 09:40:11 AM »
the current work around is to decrease the core affinity of the game after launching it so it only uses 4 cores (namely 0, 2, 4 and 6).

Back in the day, you pointed me toward FlipTIB to solve a similar issue with the Thief games.  Are there better core affinity managers to use nowadays, or is FlipTIB still sufficient?
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Offline Starfox

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Re: Vampyr [2018 -- Dontnod Entertainment]
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2018, 06:31:21 AM »
Utilities like FlipTIB really just do the hard stuff for the user, stuff that could be otherwise done by creating a batch file with the proper parameters (you'd need one for each game and a basic knowledge of hex additions because this is the only way to specifically tell Windows which core(s) you want the application to run on).

There are several applications like FlipTIB that do the hard stuff for the user (mostly writing the command line you'd have in a batch file and passing it to the system), most are part of larger applications. However I didn't really kept in touch with that area because the way I've been playing games this past few years requires the game to be launched by Steam directly (for the correct steam controller profile to be applied) and this is the reason why I have to set the affinity when the game is already running.

With all the fancy stuff they've been putting in Windows 10 you'd think the eggheads at Microsoft would have finally included the option to select a bunch of cores in the compatibility tab of the application properties removing the need for a third party application, but no... That would be easy for them because Windows already offer the possibility to configure cores separately, all that's lacking is a user friendly control. But I guess there was not enough demand for such a feature. MS considers that as an "advanced" feature meaning following the Windows 10 philosophy: "if you don't know how to do it yourself you don't need it so stay away from it".

But in short to answer your question, I don't think that this kind of tools can get more "evolved" as the commands required for the system to change core affinity didn't change since at least Windows Vista, possibly even XP.

Anyway even though the need for core affinity control still exist it is rare enough. Even the old Thief games with their new community developed engine take care of multicore CPUs without the need for the user to do anything.

Vampyr in this regard is kind of an oddity... They must have seriously messed up with the Unreal 4 engine to achieve such a result.


Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. -- A. Einstein