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Victor Vran: Overkill Edition

Score: 75%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Wired Productions
Developer: Haemimont Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2; 2 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Action/ RPG/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Isometric action role-playing is not an oversaturated subgenre, and thatís for a reason. Itís incredibly difficult for one to set itself apart from the other. Pool them all together. Diablo, Torchlight, Nox, Path of Exile. The list goes on. While these games vary in terms of style and content, the gameplay is very much the same. This trend works to Victor Vranís benefit and its detriment. To be fair, itís a decent game that has some good ideas, but since itís surrounded on all sides by superior alternatives, it is ultimately difficult to outright recommend. But if you are unable to resist anything even remotely resembling this particular style of role-playing, you could certainly do worse than Victor Vran: Overkill Edition.

Victor Vran left a pretty rough first impression with its visuals; one that took me back twelve years to when I played first-generation Xbox 360 games on my CRT. And it all has to do with the text. Why, oh, why must it be so tiny? Iíve got a 60 inch OLED, and every minute Iíve spent with Victor Vran leads me to believe that the game is deathly afraid to assert itself. Everything just looks so distant, from the interface to the on-screen action. Itís nice to have camera controls, but honestly, I would have preferred if theyíd gone the Diablo route and fixed the angle. The visual weirdness that ensues when Victor disappears behind a wall is difficult to reconcile with the almost constant onslaught of action. But artistically, this isnít an unpleasant game to look at, once you get past the fact that, like in nearly everything else to this game, better alternatives have come before it.

Sound design generally fares a bit better than the visuals, though to be frank, I have no idea what the developers at Haemimont Games were thinking when they chose the inimitable Doug Cockle (Geralt from The Witcher series) as the voice of their titular demon slayer. Victor Vran is often a really fun game, but when you take one of the assets of probably the best video game of the current hardware generation and try to make it your own, all youíre going to do is invite unflattering comparisons. Apart from Cockleís performance, everything else sounds fairly standard for the subgenre, from the incredibly powerful-sounding attacks to the shrieks of the hellspawn Victor slays by the score.


Gameplay:

The city of Zagoravia is lost. Teeming with some foul combination of damned and undead, itís a place where people tend to go and never come back. When a man named Adrian is reportedly claimed by the fell place, a demon hunter with close personal ties to the guy shows up to find him. He is Victor Vran, and he doesnít suffer evil in any conceivable form.

Okay, so itís a fairly flimsy excuse for you to strap on your gear and descend into the teeming masses to summarily butcher everything, but in these kinds of games, you generally donít come for the drama. You come for a very specific feedback loop of gameplay and reward. As Victor, you kill enemies, collecting everything they drop, while growing stronger in the process. Itís a decades-old formula, yet it still works beautifully. The hook that drives you to continue your progress is wickedly sharp, though the gameplayís apparent simplicity might not look that way at first.

Environments donít feel organically connected in the way that they do in most other isometric action role-playing games. For example, in Diablo, there are clear paths to and from each area, and over the course of each Act, you get to know them pretty well. In Victor Vran, they are segmented into tightly-focused mission areas. The upside is that each area is strictly defined and populated with its own set of objectives that can only be completed in that specific area. The downside is the fact that this threatens the sense of immersion, but this is easily forgiven when you understand that this game isnít attempting to set any standards when it comes to storytelling or world-building.

Victor Vran: Overkill Edition naturally comes with the core game, but as is true of all games that feature a special edition appended to the title, thereís more to it. Specifically, two bits of content: one which is about what youíd expect, and the otherÖ decidedly not. Fractured Worlds toys with procedurally-generated dungeons through a clever, multiverse-inspired idea, increases the level cap to 60, gives you another Destiny Card slot with which to further impact Victor's survivability and playstyle, and introduces Talismans, special equippable items that alter both Victorís appearance and abilities. The other add-on is MotŲrhead Through The Ages, which is a treat for that particularly awesome cross-section of awesome people who are into awesome things, namely demon-slaying and heavy metal. Sure, itís pouring a bit of peroxide on the wound caused by Lemmyís death, but itís got a certain sweetness to it.


Difficulty:

Most isometric action role-playing games substitute level/gear grinding for challenge level; so much to the point where it ultimately feels pretty mindless. If youíre tired of getting to that point where you essentially ascend to godhood and are capable of annihilating literally everything in your path, Victor Vran sympathizes. While it doesnít feature the mechanics that would allow a casual observer to mistake it for a classic character action game, it does require the player to remain on edge. This is where Victor Vran does its best to separate itself from the others, and itís where it finds the most success.

For instance, special goals will often require you to shift your tactics beyond "press all the buttons and stay away from the big monsters." Mob management is absolutely key, but when the game challenges you to dispatch certain ones in a certain way, things get a bit more interesting. Even more so when you know what kind of rewards are in store for you.


Game Mechanics:

If youíve any history with this subgenre, youíll be able to pick up Victor Vran pretty quickly. As always, itís a matter of negotiating your environment, attacking, looting, and customizing. Movement is simple, though Victor has a literal leg up on most of his competition by being able to jump. I say this literally, because Iím not really convinced jumping belongs in games like these. That being said, it doesnít harm the experience. Youíve got your health and magic bars, both of which often feed into and work off of each other, depending on how you grow Victorís character.

From there, itís all about diving into mobs and destroying each monster one by one, using whatever sequence of physical and special attacks you deem appropriate. Not to mention the fact that Victor has cleft to the old adage about becoming a monster in order to fight monsters; he can utilize one of a host of Demon Powers. And, of course, monsters drop loot. Money and gear are the big ones, but every good loot system has its share of surprises. This oneís not bad at all, and considering growth is primarily facilitated through the weapons themselves, its importance canít be understated. Speaking ofÖ

Victor Vran goes out of its way to establish its main character as a freeform jack of all trades, and to be completely honest, I love this idea. Itís just as well, considering most games in this subgenre restrict you to one in order to buffer their replay value. Not so here; provided youíve got the experience, gear, and collectibles, you can be whatever the hell you want to be. Of course, the major potential drawback to this is that Victorís story never really feels like your own story. But if youíre not really looking for that, youíll likely appreciate the freedom of customization present in Victor Vran. Whether youíre looking to assume a specific role or achieve mastery with every single weapon type in the game, the goal is to make it your own.

The areas in which Victor Vran distinguishes itself from its competition shouldnít be understated, but it still ultimately fails to measure up to the paragons of the subgenre to which it belongs. If youíre a huge fan of this kind of gameplay, by all means, give it a go. There are some really good ideas at work, though they may not be initially apparent. I personally consider the investment required by Victor Vran worthwhile, but othersí mileage will surely vary.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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