The Vrantastic Victor Vran!
Sometimes a game is so fun that it calls for having cripplingly bad puns in the title! Victor Vran is that kind of game. While I can’t say that Action RPGs have a very good track record for being fun and original, Victor Vran manages to hold its own in the saturated market with interesting gameplay gimmicks, weapon combo system, compelling story, and well constructed atmosphere. It was honestly a game I went into believing that it would be the same as the ones that came before it. While it didn’t totally prove me wrong, Victor Vran stood its ground really well.
Since I have almost entirely just praise for this game, I’m going to get the negatives out of the way first. It’ll be quick, I promise! Like ripping off a bandage. Then we can move on to the good parts! Anyway, it’s both good and bad that the weakest point of Victor Vran are the music and user interface. The music isn’t terrible, but it’s too atmospheric and gets old pretty quickly, or just becomes plain forgettable. Can’t say I’ll be scouring Google or YouTube for the soundtrack. The UI, while quick and easy to navigate through, appearance wise looks like it had very little attention in the game development process. In a game where you go through your inventory a lot I would have liked it if it looked a little better and wasn’t so basic and barren. Also, a sorting feature would have been nice.
There, done. Now we can move on to the good parts.
Victor Vran is an Action RPG (ARPG). For those unfamiliar with the genre, ARPGs can be broken down into two words. “Loot” and “Builds”. All the fun of an ARPG comes from gathering pieces of great loot and discovering new ways to string skills together, all in the name of smacking down hordes of enemies as hard and fast as possible. It’s a self-feeding cycle where the faster you kill enemies, the more chances you have at great pieces of loot. The more great loot you get, the more you get to tweak your build, which hopefully ends in having you kill enemies even faster. Then the cycle starts anew. It’s a style of game that can get really repetitive after a few hours and tends not to offer much past that. “If you’ve played one, you’ve played them all,” you could say. While Victor Vran doesn’t redefine the genre, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it does things differently enough to make a player stick with it longer than they normally would.
For one thing there is a lot more world exploration and map interaction to Victor Vran than you would expect from the genre. Not only can you perform dodge rolls for fast positioning and avoidance, but you’re even able to jump and wall jump. This allows for a pretty impressive array of map types that makes full use of your exploration and platforming skills, something practically alien in standard ARPGs. In order to encourage this type of gameplay the developers added plenty of hidden secrets to their maps that hide chests of precious loot! My precious, precious loot… It’s also to your detriment to blaze through a map for this reason, since you could end up running past something that will make your journey through the game a lot more fun and compelling than it normally would be. This was something that took me a little while to realize since I’m used to just burning through my foes and not even giving the environment a second thought. I would say this is the main part of the game that helps it stand out from its brother and sister games. It also adds quite a bit of re-playability for the game when you end up completing a level and see that you missed a few secrets while you were rampaging your way through. The gameplay is stellar and multifaceted, however, and exploration is not where the fun stops in Victor Vran.
Although the base game of attacking with mouse clicks is the same as any other in the genre, it’s the execution and weapon mechanic where Victor Vran gets it right. You’re given the ability to equip two weapons simultaneously, each with its own unique basic attack and two special attacks. Depending on the weapon type and combo you pick your entire gameplay experience can change. Are you strictly melee with a sword for killing mobs and a rapier for single-target foe slaughter? Do you prefer to stand far away with a shotgun and then surprise enemies by slamming back into the fray with a two-handed hammer? When I first started playing the game I was afraid I wouldn’t find many of the weapons entertaining to use. I can’t recall feeling so happy to be wrong. Even though I was drawn to using the sword during my first hour of gameplay, the moment I got a scythe in my hands I had found true love. Scything enemies to death and becoming a spinning top (Beyblade, anyone?) of blood and guts was fantastic fun. Then I found a lightning gun and, after figuring out the proper way to use it, realized love was fleeting. There is literally nothing as satisfying in that game as gathering up your enemies, bottle necking them in a door frame or gate way, firing off your two special attacks, and then holding down the left mouse button to watch the entire horde fry into a pile of ash. Unfortunately you don’t literally see a pile of ash, but a guy can dream, right? There was also a free DLC released recently that adds a brand new weapon called the Tome of Souls. It’s basically a spell caster weapon that gives you really nice crowd control. The basic attack fires missiles that make a nice explody animation on hit. It also fires faster the longer you hold down your mouse, but locks you in place while you channel it. The other two attacks allow you to charge in and out of enemy encounters with a daze effect, and also launch an orb that pulls enemies into the center of the impact. It works out great for weapons like the lightning gun and sword, which benefit heavily from having enemies nicely grouped up. Although the weapon does add quite a bit of flavor and changes up the combination of weapons, I’m glad it was a free download. I’m not sure I would have paid for it. However that could just be because the book doesn’t entirely appeal to how I like to play the game. I’m sure there are players out there for whom the book made the game worth playing.
The maps themselves have gameplay elements that really adds to the fun, too. Each map you enter has specific challenges that grant you awesome rewards. Although some can be pretty simple such as killing the boss of the dungeons, others get pretty ridiculous pretty quickly. Getting ready to enter a tomb with an angry mob of skeletons and sniper demons to greet you and seeing, “Kill 200 enemies without taking any damage” pop up on my screen is almost unfair. I am pretty proud of my ability to do the timed challenges, though. Killing 450 enemies in under two minutes is a paltry task for a lightning gun. Have I mentioned how much I love that thing? I have to say that giving the maps their own challenges was a great idea. I’m sure plenty of people wanted to see such a feature utilized more in ARPGs and Victor Vran milks it for all it’s worth.
I’m mentioning the equipment last as it’s the quickest to mention, however it’s definitely what helps make your character truly unique. You can equip items like potions to heal you or bombs to do extra damage, that’s pretty standard. You also have to slots for equipping special demon powers, of which there are many types. Controllable pillar of fire? Check. Green orb of decay and murder? Check. Giant laser? Check, check, check. There are also quite a few more from just those choices. They definitely add variety to the way you can wreak havoc. The outfits you can wear in the game also have their own special abilities attached to them such as granting you more health, armor, critical strike bonuses, etc. However what most helps define your character are the Destiny Cards you get throughout the game. You can equip a total of 5 cards, each one costing a certain number of destiny points to have equipped. Cards have their own effects and level of potency. You can choose to have standard stat boosting cards like melee damage, critical strike, and so on, or you can have cards that grant special effects. For example you could choose to side with survivability by equipping a card that grants health on it, or be much more crit oriented and use a card that causes explosions whenever you perform a critical strike. Thanks to the combination of cards, weapons, and armor you could have ten Victor Vrans in a room and have them all be different from each other in both subtle and obvious ways. I definitely love that about the game.
The game itself is pleasing to the eye. Although it was pretty great to look at with graphics set to Ultra, even set to Low while playing on my laptop I can definitely say it wasn’t an eyesore at all. The use of colors on Victor’s clothing and spells are pretty and also serve as a stark contrast from the usually bleak and dark atmosphere surrounding him. That’s not to say that the maps themselves don’t do look pretty good themselves, though. The problem with an ARPG about slaying the undead and demons is that it’s inherently going to have to look dark and menacing. However there is enough in the variety of map types that you’re never treated to too much of the same. Normally the map appearance doesn’t play too much of a role in ARPGs because your focus is on the enemies, not your surroundings. However since Victor Vran is so focused on making players explore and play around in its maps, it has to look good. Thankfully it delivers, especially in the introduction to the game with the city you fight your way through. The character art is also really good and well drawn. I like the detail put into them a lot. However I do wish the interactions weren’t just stills with text-boxes and were animated.
This has been Roderick and thank you for taking the time to read this review on BitCultures. Looking forward to writing more for you in the future! Until then stay cool, beautiful people.