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After watching Dontnod’s first webseries episode, Vampyr: Making Monsters, I am hooked. Hauntingly beautiful music, stunning graphics, and a fascinating tale; Vampyr might just be the Vampire game we’ve been waiting for.
Dontnod’s explanation of what makes vampires different than other monsters sets the stage for creating a very interesting monster. “What interests me about vampires. compared with other supernatural creatures (like werewolves or ghouls), is that the vampire is self-aware of their nature as a creature, a predator, ” explains Game Director Phillipe Moreau. “They are intelligent. This is intriguing for me because we can use this notion of dilemma of moral choice, with the vampire figure.”
In Vampyr, you play as Jonathan, a brilliant doctor conducting research on blood transfusion techniques. How fitting. Jonathan returns to England after the war and is turned into a vampire. The details of that incident remains a mystery for now. Poor Jonathan has no idea that his life has been changed forever. What makes his specific situation even more complex, is that Jonathan believes science to be the answer and explanation for everything – until he becomes a supernatural creature.
“He must face the fact that darkness actually exists; the supernatural exists, forcing him to revise his whole perspective on the world,” continues Vampyr Narrative Director Stephane Beauverger.
Beauverger makes the profound statement that rarely in video games are players confronted with the fact that they are murderers. Games always focus on the player’s ‘right’ to kill – you must survive, win, continue, and so on. But in Vampyr, Dontnod is deliberately confronting the player with the fact that they are killing people. “What fascinates us is to put the player at the core of this duality.”
Vampyr will, therefore, place players in this unique position where they are both predator and caretaker. The “first do no harm” motto of physicians is going to do a number on Jonathan’s mind, and I would love to see how deep Dontnod explores this duality. Then to complicate matters further, there’s the friendship dynamic that Dontnod is also throwing into the situation. Players will get involved in character’s lives by sharing and solving their most intimate problems.
Dontnod aims to create a dynamic where the player always questions him or herself. This has been a theme in the best vampire movies, and it can be such a powerful theme to explore in the interactive medium of video games. All the games I know of glorifies the role of the vampire, focusing on their immortality and powers. Dontnod’s perspective could make for a fascinating and incredibly immersive experience. They have certainly delivered beyond expectation with the Life Is Strange series.
In Vamypr, there are different branches; the “Ekons” which is closets to the traditional vampire, and to which Jonathan belongs. Then there’s the Vulkods, who are more bestial, primitive vampire, and the Skals who live in sewers and hides from both humans and vampires. Vampyr plays off in 1918 London during the Spanish flu pandemic, and as a doctor, Jonathan has to unravel the cause of the pandemic, while dealing with his duality.
Dontnod has a good track record of telling unique stories (Remember Me, Life Is Strange) linked with innovative gameplay. From what I’ve seen of Vampyr, it looks like they will deliver something even better than their previous titles; as they’re attempting to refine their recipe and take it further than before. Vampyr is a more ambitious project than any of their previous games.
“This is a freedom that just doesn’t exist in other media such as literature and cinema,” concludes Dontnod. “It’s fascinating to create something where the weight of decisions rests with the player.”
The adventure begins later this year on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.