Best known for their work on the last three games in the Tropico series, Haemimont Games latest outing takes them into the action RPG territory, earning similarities to both the beloved Diablo series and the more recent The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing franchise. Spending its early days on Steam Early Access, the issue build showcased the early portions of the game, with a limited amount of areas to explore and a barebones weapon sets. The official release, however, this past Summer is proof that with determination and an open relationship with its audience produce a high-quality finalized product. In fact, the game features an easy to access bug reporting tool, allowing players to quickly report anything broken immediately in-game, rather than moan in ALL CAPS on discussion boards.
At the behest of a fellow demon hunter, Victor Vran heads to a city besieged by spiders, skeletons, vampires and all sorts of demonic entities. Although in Diablo, players genuinely feel weak until max level (ignoring the paragon system), Victor Vran can hold his own against any foul creature prowling the dark streets of Zagoravia within his first couple of levels. You’ll grind out levels, slaughtering countless (and I mean it) swarms of beasts and elemental spirits in the process, completing objectives, progressing through the lackluster dark fantasy narrative as well as side quests that are area specific. Although I enjoyed the story more than the latest entry of Diablo, these type of games are played for one reason and one reason only: loot.
Using a controller happens to be the best way to experience Victor Vran. I’m sorry to those PC traditionalists, but the console version of Diablo III and Reaper of Souls felt much smoother and was overall a better playing experience using a gamepad. Purists are fully able to click to their hearts content using a tried and true mouse and keyboard setup, but I never felt hamstrung or restricted for choosing to play the game to completion using a controller. When played with friends in cooperative action, the game truly takes off.
Instead of forcing players into a set class at the beginning of the game, Victor Vran removes any type of character class system and instead puts the focus on the different weapon types that can be equipped. Customizing your character is a blend of different earned outfits, special demonic powers, destiny cards and weapon types. Depending on how you want to play, your character may be unique compared to other Victor Vran's online. From powerful shotguns, swift rapiers, chain lightning rifles and more, as each weapon type comes with multiple unique abilities. For instance, Hammers are slow, but extremely powerful, especially against hordes of monsters, capable of dealing massive area-of-effect (AoE) damage. Rapiers, on the other hand, are quick to the punch and mortars fire explosive rounds, truly testing your ability to keep your enemies at a distance. Two weapons can be equipped at once, allowing you to quickly switch between them depending on the situation.
Just like weapons, two different demonic powers can be equipped, focusing on both offensive and defensive abilities. Deadly boomerangs can be thrown through hundreds of creatures; meteors rain down destruction while blink will teleport you to safety. Only the toughest of adversaries will drop demon powers, so ensure you are fully equipped with healing potion before venturing forth to hunt down the champions.
As you progress by gaining levels, the number of Destiny cards you can equip will increase, with each one granting a bonus attitude such as increased health, additional elemental damage or even explosive properties. Nothing wrong with turning a legendary hammer into an exploding icy ball of death, chaining explosions to nearby enemies. Depending on the situation, you may want to be an offensive powerhouse alone, stacking high damage spells, but when playing with others, you can focus on support, picking auras benefiting all parties involved.
Although your main base, or top-floor of a castle in this instance, is littered with vendors, I found I used equipment through loot drops. My first couple of levels, I may have purchased a sword or two, but in the late game, I had no desire or need to purchase anything outside of traditional healing potions.
Occasionally a fellow adventurer will appear in your quest to rid the world of evil (unless you play cooperatively and have fellow Victor’s running amuck), but from the outset of the game, your adventures will be narrated in similar fashion to Bastion. The evil voiced unknown entity at times taunts the demon hunter, adding a bit of humor to the narrative. In the world of Victor Vran, you’ll come across both movie and game references, even a group of dancing skeletons to Gangnam Style. If you were born without a sense of humor, feel free to break up the choreographed dancing with a leaping hammer blast.
Treasure hunts and bounties are newly added shareable items to the game. Treasure hunts add the location of a treasure chest in the world, but bounties require multiple objectives to be completed before producing the reward. There is even a dedicated Steam thread with users sharing codes with the community
Victor Vran almost does everything right but suffers from the same faults from just about every action RPG on the market. The story is uninspired, and unless you are planning to play with friends, you may have trouble finding other online players at your level. The combat system is enjoyable, as you test out different types of weapons. Even after completing the story, I had places on the map that I never unlocked. If you are a completionist, attempting to complete all of the objectives on every area will keep you busy for quite some time. Not to mention the allure of finding sick new loot, and the constant content being added to the game.
Note: The Victor Vran review is based on a digital PC copy of the game, provided for review purposes.