Demon-Hunting Done Right: A Victor Vran Review
(Note: This review is based on the single-player game experience only.)
That was the first word I uttered when I started playing this game, and I never once took it back.
Long years of derision for subpar anime dubs have made me notoriously picky about good voice acting in any media, and I only very rarely make video games the exception to the rule.
I had to do nothing of the sort with Victor Vran; right from the get-go, the main character declaims his opening monologue credibly, and the narrator takes over soon after - amusing and ever interesting, slyly leaving little winks to the player (e.g. paraphrased: "oops, that's not me - oh well, perhaps I'm locked in another castle" and "these vampires can't be too dangerous, they don't sparkle in sunlight").
Set in a dark fantasy world, Bulgarian studio Haemimont Games's Victor Vral puts you in the shoes of the titular character: a demon hunter with a talent for an exhaustive number of weapons, and a few demonic powers of his own.
After receiving a letter from Adrian, his friend and fellow demon hunter, Victor arrives at the demon-infested city of Zagoravia - a place where many such hunters came to fight and instead came to die.
Early reviews compared it to the Van Helsing ARPGs and probably with good reason - both of them are fun-as-heck isometric hack & slashers with demon/vampire-fighting heroes and giant explosions of color, loosely based off the gold-standard Diablo franchise model. Victor Vran cinematics cut away to a more painterly style a la Guild Wars 2, whereas Van Helsing tried hard to pump out pretty graphics.
But calling Victor Vran a Diablo clone would be untrue and doing a disservice to this game.
This game takes a step back from the traditional makeup of action RPGs, gutting staples like traditional class roles and leveling staples in favor of incorporating elements from games with more direct third-person character control (think Zelda).
Crucial parts of gameplay now include actions like jumping (!) and dodge-rolling (!!) in order to wall-jump or platform to hidden chests and avoid major attacks.
It's one of those why hasn't anyone ever thought of this before?? kind of ideas, and the devs have made it work.
Not perfectly, of course. There are a number of instances where wall-jumping can be kind of a crapshoot - due to its isometric design, you will often find yourself jumping against a number of invisible walls just to be able to see where you're going. While this can be annoying, you will largely get to where you want to go if you keep jumping.
Weapons and armor have been further pared down so you don't need to collect individual pieces of armor - rather, even early on you get to choose entire outfits, each of which allows you to charge up your overdrive meter for demon powers in different ways (e.g. at a steady rate, when you crit, every time you land a blow).
In terms of character leveling, Victor Vran takes an easier path through it - you won't find any of the usual strength and dexterity stats, but you will find destiny points and destiny card slots. These give you passive bonuses, and the more destiny points you have, the more powerful the cards you can equip.
Victor Vran also incorporates a number of handy frustration- and time-saving mechanics like being able to restart a mission right away without finishing it from the pause menu (and eventually being able to teleport back to the castle), plus you pick up items automatically by walking over them (not always a viable option in loot fountain games like Titan Quest).
All of these things together means Victor Vran offers an experience with all the usual fun parts of the ARPG genre, but with less of the frustrations that normally come part and parcel with them - the grinding, the repetitiveness, the pigeonholing into set skill tree and stat choices.
The leveling system comes off simpler and less in-depth than most fans like in this genre, but I honestly don't consider this much of a fault - it is exactly the ARPG for the gamer who doesn't normally like ARPGs, and I have absolutely no problem with that.
Experienced ARPG players should note that this game is comparatively easy to play, even at the hardest difficulty, and a lot shorter. It's important to follow this by pointing out that it aschews the normal "replay value" of Normal-Epic-Legendary playthroughs which has always struck me as exactly the same run with bigger flashy numbers... a cop-out of a timesink.
While Victor Vran was fully released late last month, there is still plenty that the devs intend to punch out - you can take a look at the post-release roadmap here, and the changes made in the most recent patch a few days ago here.
You can find this game on Steam for $27.99 CAD or your respective currency.