Who’s been eyeing up Victor Vran? No, I don’t mean mentally undressing him and imagining Tom Hardy would play him in the movie (although I did that, too). Victor Vran has been out on PC for some time, but now it has finally come to PS4 as the Overkill Edition, a complete bundle that features extra worlds and extra gameplay. You might be forgiven for thinking this isometric action RPG is a cheap Diablo imitation, but you’d be making a grave error. Stylish and surprisingly funny, Victor Vran is a surprise hit in the Punk and Lizard office (and by office, we mean a shed at the bottom of Lizard’s garden. We sit on flowerpots for team meetings).
Victor Vran is a demon hunter. The game begins with his arrival in Zagoravia, a city overrun with a plague of demons and on its last legs. But he’s not here for them. Instead he is in search of a close friend and fellow hunter named Adrian. From there, things obviously spiral. While the story isn’t really key to the gameplay, it’s pretty good nonetheless. Cut scenes are hand-drawn static images that have just enough plot and progress to keep you satisfied without losing momentum. And momentum is extremely important because this isn’t a stealthy, sneaky, hide-in the-corner sort of game. It’s a non-stop slaughterfest.
Being an RPG you will have a certain number of choices to make and this begins with your starting outfit. Depending on which one you choose, you’ll get different bonuses and benefits which largely affect your armour and overdrive. Your overdrive governs when you can use your demon powers and builds up either over time, or when you deal or take damage depending on your setup. Once the bar is full you can let rip whatever power you’ve collected and equipped. These range from pillars of fire, energy boomerangs and healing and repelling shields.
As you level up, in addition to XP you will gain Destiny points and the ability to equip Destiny Cards. You have a limited amount of slots that will unlock as you progress, and once you have a space free to can equip various tarot-style cards that grant perks such as additional health, critical damage, and explosions. Some cards are more powerful that others so you’ll need to have enough Destiny Points to install all the good ones.
Of course no demon hunter would be complete without a small arsenal. You can equip up to two at a time which you can switch between with a quick click of the R1 trigger, but you can keep many more in your inventory. The weapons cater for a variety of playstyles and include swords, scythes, shotguns, revolvers and hammers that could give Mjolnir a run for its money. By far the most entertaining weapon in the whole game (and in any game in the whole history of video games) is The Killmeister, an electric guitar found in the Motorhead world that destroys demons with piercing power chord attacks.
The RPG elements while quite simplistic, suit the game completely. There’s just enough to cater to ranged or close up combat or a combination of the two for a more balanced approach. Really, this is the type of game that just wants to be tackled without too much thought. Each world has a separate hub where you can trade, access the full world map and just take a breath. From here you’ll be guided towards different dungeons as the game progresses. These dungeons can be repeated and you are encouraged to do so with various challenges and some rather lovely rewards if you manage to complete them. But what’s it like inside these dungeons? Awesome, is the correct response.
Each dungeon is different from the last so nothing ever feels repetitive. The environments are beautifully rendered and nicely challenging to navigate, particularly as you are able to jump to scale walls up to different levels. Exploring them feels interesting and intriguing. I hope you’ve got your weapons sorted because you really are going to need them. The game eases you in at first, but very soon you will be smothered, swarmed and surrounded by different enemy types. Some use ranged attacks, some melee, some both, some use magic, some cripple you, bite you, claw you, smack you in the chops with a bony elbow – all at the same time. It’s wonderful, chaotic and colourful fun. Your weapons have a variety of special functions that perform on a cool down basis, and timing these are all part of the fun. Thirty skeletons giving you agg? The first time you press circle to activate the hammer’s most powerful skill and all those skeletons turn into a lifeless pile of bones, you realise just how frantic and compelling this game is going to get.
Accompanying you on your journey are two voices. You’ll hear Victor’s soft and gravelly internal monologue (Hellooooo, Geralt!) as you go along, but from the beginning a second mysterious narrator will also chart Victor’s progress in the manor of a slightly spiteful uncle telling a twisted bedtime story. It’s extremely well done, providing information and lots of comedy relief. I’d absolutely buy this guy a beer. He takes the mick, he teases Victor, leads him astray and is pretty much a smug but likeable bastard and is at least half responsible for this game being as good as it is.
Replayability is a huge factor these days and so it’s lucky that Victor Vran comes complete with both online and local multiplayer co-op modes. These are purely optional and it’s always good to know that if you don’t fancy it the single player mode is big, beefy and all good by itself. The Overkill Edition comes complete with two expansions. In Motorhead Through the Ages you can meet Lemmy in a land heavily inspired by Motorhead’s songs, and the Fractured Worlds expansion contains randomly generated dungeons that change daily. There’s lots to keep you going.
Performance wise, there are no complaints. Everything runs smoothly and loading times into each dungeon are very quick. Graphically there is a lot of gorgeous detail that you’ll notice if you have time to stop and take a look. I wish there had been less detail on the spiders or perhaps just no spiders at all. If the developer would grant me one wish it would be for a spider free playthrough option. If you’re phobic, you’re in trouble. They are big and horribly realistic. I’ve stopped screaming now, but the nightmares will never fade.
A tip top isometric A-RPG with faultless gameplay, varied dungeons, frenzied enemy swarms, and voice-overs you’ve only dreamed of. With the online modes and additional world packs, this is a game with a good long shelf life. Fantastic.
S J Hollis Rating – 8.5/10
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