Vampyr: Shades of Red Preview

Vampyr: Shades of Red Preview

Last updated on July 5th, 2016

At Focus Home Interactive’s E3 booth, we had the opportunity to see a pre-alpha demo of Vampyr, a new action RPG where you play as Jonathan Reid, a doctor now turned vampire. In the game you must make difficult decisions of survival, both for yourself and for the citizens of early twentieth century London, which is being ravaged from the effects of a mysterious flu. Vampire’s must feed on blood to survive, but from who is where the game’s core moral ambiguity lies.

Genre: Action RPG
Developed by: Dontnod Entertainment
Edited by: Focus Home Interactive
Release date: 2017
Age rating: PEGI 18
Platforms: PS4®, XBOXONE®, PC

Vampyr Features

  • Explore a darkly atmospheric early 20th century London.
  • Play a tormented and powerful Vampire learning the rules of your new condition. A man of science, a beast of the night: Your toughest battles will be within yourself.
  • Build your own combat style through a wide range of crafted weapons and powerful Vampire abilities to defeat a large and unique bestiary.
  • Choose your fate: moral choices will shape your story. How human could a Vampire be, when he must feed?

The Vampyr Demo

The demo begins with a dramatic cutscene as we witness the burial of an individual, with the game’s protagonist in attendance. Right away we are given a sense of the game’s setting: overcast and dreary, the environment is imposing and heavy with choice. The dialogue matches this precisely as every question and answer is conflicted.

The game plays in third person, and provides flexibility of choice to the player, as resolution may be approached in many different ways. The player need not kill a single soul although not doing so has its own consequences. Blood is power, and in order to actually level up the player must find fresh targets. Several dialogue options are used to ascertain the whereabouts, habits and clues of potential victims, giving you the option to qualify your choices by focusing on those who may be deserving of death. Once victims have been taken, players can level up and improve their abilities as a vampire.

While one hand can take, the other can give and Jonathan can use his abilities as a doctor to heal the afflicted citizens, improving the quality of life for the London neighborhoods. The choices to help or harm have severe ramifications for the city, and it will change to reflect these. Take too much from your fellow man and the city will descend into depravity. Further complicating issues are a society of hunters determined to eradicate vampires, and you are there prey.

Combat in the game is fast and fluid and looks similar to Bloodborne. Players will use melee attacks as well as firearms to defeat foes and dodge with the familiar dash evasion which rewards speed and reacting to enemy movements. Further augmenting the combat are vampiric abilities, including the summoning of spectral forms. In the demo we witnessed a massive shadow-hand rise from the ground to lift and crush a foe. To counter the power of such abilities, using them during combat drains your health and strength requiring you to feed to restore. Jonathan is also able to teleport to different locations, adding an extra strategic element of traversal.

Although it’s an action RPG, the game has an investigative feel to it that allows the player to slow down as they examine the world for clues and insights into the citizens of London. There are secrets and items to uncover which add a layer of intrigue to the story.

We left the demonstration impressed with how easily the game switched gears from dialogue and exploration to combat and how effective the setting and gameplay was at making us feel like a vampire. The moral struggle inside Jonathan adds a weight to the game and has the potential to leave an indelible bloodstain on the minds of gamers when it releases next year on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

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Editor at Fextralife. I look for the substantial in gaming and I try to connect video games to the emotions and stories they elicit. I love all things culture and history and have an odd fondness for the planet Jupiter. I think my dogs are pretty awesome too.

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13 comments on “Vampyr: Shades of Red Preview”

  1. Avatar FiveScissors475 says:

    Keeping an eye out.
    Might turn out interesting. ‘Sides, I’m basically reading "Bloodborne for XBOne and PC", so I really just have to hope it’s good.

  2. Avatar Emergence says:

    It only share similarities with Bloodborne in combat. Otherwise it’s quite different from Bloodborne and a lot of other games as a whole. It’s so much more focused on interaction with other characters, interesting dialogue and investigating than any other games. It flew below our radar leading up to the demo, but when we saw it we were pretty rapt with attention.

    It gave me this distinct vibe of a classic Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde duality with how the doctor alternated between thoughtfulness and lethality.

  3. Avatar FiveScissors475 says:

    -Fast paced dash-based combat.
    This sorta looks like "Just far enough from Bloodborne not to be a copy".

    I like Jekyll and Hyde. Not the game, mind you :P

  4. Avatar qeter says:

    as a bloodlines fan i’ve been dying for a good vampire game.

  5. Avatar TSMP says:

    A doctor who’s also a vampire? Talk about job security.

    More seriously, this has a very promising premise and direction. I’ll definitely keep an eye on this one.

  6. Avatar Forum_Pirate says:


  7. Avatar qeter says:

    best game.

  8. Avatar Forum_Pirate says:

    It just occurred to me that I could have come off as disparaging. That wasn’t what I meant to do.

    My point was:
    1) The concept, as they’ve describe it so far, has already been done. If possible (without misleading people,) they should change the language to be more clear.

    2) The people who did it (shocking nobody, they’re many of the same people behind Planescape Torment, Fallout 1/2/NV, and Pillars of Eternity) created a singularly extra ordinary game as far as RPGs and interactivity go and so have set a very, very high bar.

    3) Assuming it is a similar concept, direct comparisons are unlikely to favor Vampyre in any aspect of the game except combat, based on how modern big budget "RPGs" and games in general tend to handle things.

    It might be good, in fact it might be very good, and I hope it is. If it’s half as good as VTM:B it will still be a very, good game. At the moment though, they aren’t really pulling me in. It’s an interesting concept, that I’ve already played in what is often considered one of the best RPGs ever made. I need to see something unique or different before I can be made to care.

  9. Avatar FiveScissors475 says:

    It’s by the dudes who made Life is Strange. I’ve never played the game, but Life is strange has an 83 metascore and 8.6 user score( which is high as hell as far as user reviews go) on PC, and similar scores on XBOne and PS4. Story’s definitely going to be good. Not as good as Planescape’s or Masquerade’s, but definitely good. They’ve got a great idea already, we can trust them to develop and explore it well.

    Gameplay does raise me some doubts though.

  10. Avatar Forum_Pirate says:

    You didn’t actually mention me, but you seemed to be talking to me so I’m going to respond.

    That doesn’t really change that they haven’t shown me much that seems to differentiate it from the VTM:B concept in a meaningful way. It doesn’t really matter to me (as far as my desire to play it goes) if it’s good if it’s still just a worse version of something I’ve already played. I can just go play more VTM:B, I’m sure there is some story path or combination there of that I haven’t done yet or don’t remember well.

    That’s why I said that’s what they should do. Even something as simple as showing a more personal journey for a well developed main character instead of a journey for whatever character I create might be enough (if I like the character at least.) That’s all I was saying.

    The more easily I can compare it directly to VTM:B, the less likely I am to care. It’s up there for me with Skies of Arcadia, KOTOR 2 and the Persona series. Nobody can do it better, so do it different and show me what’s different to get me interested.

  11. Avatar TSMP says:

    Wow, the TVTropes page of Life is Strange is intense. Gonna have to give that one a go. If they put the same kind of work into Vampyr as they did in that game, we’re probably looking at a winner.

  12. Avatar Emergence says:

    The game seems pretty heavily focused on Dr. Jonathan’s Reid evolution as a vampire. When the game begins he has just turned and is coming to grips with what his profession is (healer) and what he must now do to survive. The gameplay demo had several intriguing dialogue portions that revolved around his internal turmoil, including a rather tense moment when he goes to confess to a priest in a church, of course hoping to be invited in. The historical backdrop of the Spanish flu epidemic sweeping through the city really placed the game in time and place.

    Based on what I saw, I’m expecting it to be an exceedingly personal journey that takes momentary diversions to engage is some high speed Bloodborne type combat.

  13. Avatar Warrick says:

    Do we know who is voicing Jonathan?

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