Cross-genre games are an interesting phenomenon in the video game industry. When done well, they create an unforgettable experience that people reference and emulate for years thereafter. Games like Persona 3, Puzzle Quest, and, most recently, Borderlands, all demonstrate an unprecedented view of a cross-genre game.
Victor Vran borrows elements from several popular games while creating a unique experience for the player. Veteran developer Haemimont Games is no stranger to making PC games with an isometric camera style, having developed the popular games Tropico 5 and Omerta: City of Gangsters. Victor Vran adopts the isometric camera but adds a three-dimensional twist in being able to rotate the camera about the player to get a better view of the environment and its enemies. The game also introduces RPG and platforming aspects that give a fresh and natural feeling while playing.
It should be mentioned that this game is still in development and only playable as an Early Access game through Steam. It was released February of this year, with the full version scheduled to launch this summer. During my time playing the game, I did not find it mechanically unfinished whatsoever. I only encountered one major game-breaking bug where it froze and I had no choice but to force-close the program. Where it really felt premature was in the storyline and in some placeholder images. Haemimont Games does a clever trick with the story; as of yet there are no cutscenes, and NPC’s answer with “We do not want to spoil the story” when spoken to. It’s an interesting dynamic that makes sense, considering that the developers don’t want to spoil the story in the Early Access version. They’re using this time to solidify the game mechanics so that the final game will be perfected upon release.
What the Early Access does give you is the opportunity to try out how the game works and get a good idea of how it will feel and play. From the get go, the game throws you right into a dark, Victorian atmosphere, giving the impression that Dracula could be around any corner. Playing with headphones is highly recommended because of the game’s somber score that flows through your ears. There are a bevy of rich sounds associated with different weapon and enemy types. A simplistic control system puts you immediately into the character’s shoes, and running around the map is as easy as the game’s WASD keyboard controls. The mouse controls where your character is looking, and clicking a particular spot causes him to attack. This aim-and-move combat feels a little reminiscent of Geometry Wars.
As you hack and slash your way across the stone roads, the game introduces you to new and increasingly difficult enemies, and pick-up gear gets correspondingly more powerful. You pick up different types of weapons and can eventually equip two at the same time, allowing you to switch between them in mid-battle as necessary. There is a heavy RPG influence in the way that your character has weapons, Destiny cards, outfits, and demon powers. Your character has many options during battle: using weapon-based strike attacks, using special weapon powers, or enabling your aforementioned demon powers and special items. The Destiny cards are boosts that increase your character’s range, damage, and other effects. Surprisingly, your character can also jump, which opens up all sorts of doors, in theory. There are only specific times when your character can move vertically (read: jump) instead of engaging in grounded, horizontal gameplay via dungeon crawling, but when it happens it feels new to the isometric genre.
I previously mentioned that Haemimont Games is trying to hide the story, and that is precisely what they do in this version of Victor Vran. Instead of NPC dialogue and cutscenes, for example, you just get tiny “quests,” but in-between these points there are dungeons that have their own sets of objectives for you to accomplish. These gameplay segments give Victor Vran the feel of a mobile game. There are five objectives per dungeon and area that you visit, each giving you a star after accomplishing them. There is plenty to do in this early version of Victor Vran–from destroying enemies in a certain time limit or in a certain way, to finding secret locations within each area.
Victor Vran is a lot more than I expected. It plays like a triple-A game that you would expect from Blizzard or any other big developer. Haemimont Games spared no expense when making this game and it shows through the natural, cross-genre gameplay and deep Victorian environment. If this is just a preview of what is to come, I am definitely excited for it.