Victor Vran PC Review
Playing action RPGs is a good way for me to relax and explore dungeons, smash enemies and gain powerful loot. I have been doing this with Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – my default option of choice when needing to kill things. Occasionally a new game in the genre will release to pull me away from the depths of High Heavens to check it out, which is the case with the new kid on the block, Victor Vran, a title that had completely gone over my head until it was properly released on Steam (it was in Early Access for around six months). Victor Vran is by Bulgarian developers, Haemimont Games, a company more known for their recent Tropico games rather than action RPGs. While their jump into this genre isn’t without issues, the developers have placed interesting mechanics into the game to give Victor Vran just enough to distinct itself from other games in the genre.
The differences start from the very beginning, since Victor Vran does not feature a character creator or any typical classes to speak of. All you get is the one character, since players are thrown into the shoes of the titular hero, who arrives at the city of Zagoravia overrun with demons and other horrors. Victor is looking for information on the missing hunter Adrian, but is dragged into the city’s conflict after the Queen wishes Victor to help get rid of the demon infestation. This leads into exploring areas of the city to clear out monsters and take down the bosses, but you won’t remember much of exactly why you are doing these tasks, as the uninspired plot is a prime example of a forgettable tale that makes you go to this place and kill something or collect a thing. To be honest, a lot of action RPGs fall into this problem, but just like most of those, Victor Vran is more focused on bringing engaging gameplay rather than an award winning story.
In fairness, even though the story is bland and the characters never get development time for anyone to care, there are some genuinely amusing moments involving either Victor or the mysterious narrator. This entity, known only as “The Voice,” often chats to Victor through the means of telepathy to throw in a joke, speak about the hero’s progress or other random nonsense to bring sprightliness to the monster slaying. We are talking jokes that break the fourth wall, references to other video games (Portal) and even films, such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The game also brings comedy through its enemies and non playable characters. Early in the game a broker that goes by the name of GebaN (Gaben) will offer you goodies at promotional prices if you defeat him, and even zombies can’t get enough of the 2.3 billion viewed YouTube music video, as they join in doing the Gangnam Style dance. These rotting corpses can sure strut their stuff, that is until you decapitate them with a swift scythe attack to put them out of their misery.
Having a narrator that chats to Victor (it feels more like he is chatting to the player) brings similarities to Bastion. The voice does not chime in as much as Bastion‘s, but it’s trying to use the same method of engagement to improve on the presentation and bring at least some style to the forgetful cast. The performance of the voice actor is decent, not quite the quality of Logan Cunningham, but it won’t blow anyone’s ear drums. Interestingly, one voice that people should know is the main character’s, voiced by Doug Cockle, well know as Geralt from The Witcher games, and his performance is a complete copy of Geralt in this game, just without an amazing script to work from. When I heard the voice from the trailer video, I had to do a double take to make sure it wasn’t the DLC trailer for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Just listen to it and you will see what I mean. I guess Haemimont Games wanted his Geralt voice, because let’s be honest, it’s a rather great tone for such a fantasy setting.
Victor Vran has all the characteristic of an action RPG – rooms packed with enemies to slaughter that in the late game feature buff bonuses, random loot drops, isometric camera, colour coded items and fast paced action. Anyone who has played Diablo, Torchlight, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing or Path of Exile will have an idea on what to expect with Victor Vran, but while the game might use some of the tropes from the genre, it by no means just wants to be another copy of the same formula.
This is clear from what I feel is the preferred control scheme for the game, the controller, it’s often the best way to play games that use movement and directional aiming input, similar to twin stick shooters, which this game often feels like rather than the clickly-click of the isometric action often associated with these types of games. Sure, you can play by clicking, but due to issues with some drunken path-finding getting in the way, it’s easier to use movement keys (WASD) for movement or plug in a controller and play with two sticks to remove any movement issues. The interface even adapts to the controller input, allowing access to attacks and items with a push of the assigned button, and while it takes a few minutes to get used to moving around the inventory menu with a controller, once that step is overcome, it comes across as the ‘correct‘ way to play Victor Vran – combat feels right at home using two sticks, and all movement issues vanish that were caused with using keyboard and/or mouse.
With no classes, character ability points or skill trees to improve, Victor Vran brings its player build with the ability to equip any weapon discovered. Melee is made up of slow, powerful hammers, armour penetrating rapiers, critical scythes and, of course, swords, while range weaponry involves shotguns, hand mortars, and lighting guns, a weapon that personifies the proton stream from Ghostbusters – I felt like I should be zapping down ghosts and trapping them in containment traps when using what became my favourite weapon type after acquiring a legendary lighting gun that casts an exploding dome when it overheats.
All weapons have a basic attack and two skills, which change depending on the weapon class. Lighting guns will always have the exploding energy ball and homing energy ball, while scythes will always have the stun area of effect and the overly powerful spinning move (think Barbarian from Diablo III). With the ability to equip two weapons, which are switched instantly at the touch of a button, combat becomes constantly active, as players can switch weapon while waiting for their primary weapon’s skills to cooldown. This also opens up the ability to link skills together, such as stunning a group of enemies with the scythe, then blowing them up with a exploding lighting ball. There might not be many combinations, but mix the fast action with weapon switching, the ability to roll to dodge incoming attacks and a jump button, which is often utilized with wall jumping (maximum of two jumps) to find hidden secrets stashed on roofs or find good camping spots to deal range damage, brings refreshing elements to the genre, especially something as simple as jumping, which is usually excluded from most action RPGs.
More tweaks to Victor’s build come in the form of equipping destiny cards, which are essentially ways for the player to buff their hero. Each destiny card takes up a slot and comes with a destiny point requirement – the better the card the more points you need spare to equip it. Attributes modified can cover critical strike damage/percentage, general attack damage, health increase, life stealing and having special damage attacks that happen after a specific countdown, say exploding moon symbol every 15 seconds. Cards are found in the same way as weapons – enemies drop them as loot or can be found in chests, and since they are so easily swappable, you can keep a large inventory of rare and legendary destiny cards to switch up what improvements you feel are required at the given time. Gaining new destiny cards was more exciting than levelling up for me, since the predetermined level path means you either get health, destiny slots, destiny points or some new feature unlocked. It’s not exciting to level up in Victor Vran, because you do not have the power to build the hero around benefits from levelling up, apart from the destiny card slots and points, but I count them as separate, since those cards are loot drops.
Initially finding loot was great, always able to swap to better gear, but as the game continued on, loot drops became less impactful on my load. I didn’t swap my gear for the last two hours of the game, which for a title that takes around 8-10 hours to finish on the standard difficulty, isn’t exactly a great demonstration for loot variety. I can see a reason for why the game was made like this, since loot can always be stored in the hub world for use with the transmutation machine, once it becomes unlocked. This allows all the rubbish loot to be used to combine a mutation with gear to improve elements on weapons and armour. I highly recommend using the transmutation for the last third of the game, since there isn’t exactly an end game to Victor Vran, you unlock a wave mode and can try a new character on the harder difficulty, so to compensate for this, it feels like the later enemies are made to frustrate by having with lots of health and often splitting into smaller enemies, dragging out the fights with them. Enemy variety is something Victor Vran needs more of.
Challenges make for interesting gameplay, as each dungeon, which are picked from a map that sits in the middle of the hub world, has five stars that fill in when the corresponding challenge is complete. These optional tasks cover a huge scope. One could have you taking down 120 enemies within five minutes without the use of a health potion, while another could be killing with shotguns only or finding all hidden secrets. The implementation of challenges, along with Hexes that make the game harder by altering enemies (more defence, health regeneration, more champions) is a great way to add more content and depth for the player. Since these are all optional, you are not forced to participate if you just want to play the game for its main content. There is cooperative action, for up to four people, and as with most games, co-op makes it all more fun. However, there is no option to trade with your friends, meaning all gear has to be gained and created yourself.
Options are plentiful when it comes to tinkering with Victor Vran‘s graphic settings. It will run well for most machines, since you can alter the anti-aliasing, shadow quality, grass quality, textures, ground quality, and more to find that perfect setting for your machine. Increasing the anti-aliasing to something crazy, like 8xMSAA, requires a beastly machine, because even though a Titan X might be able to run it, expect frame rates to drastically change depending on what is happening on screen. Victor Vran makes good use of particles to make things shower in pretty visuals, and overall, it’s a nice looking game for the genre.
Sadly, a horrible glitch spoiled my experience and stopped my save progressing. I have seen others mention the issue as well, so it wasn’t just me. I was playing cooperative with a friend, when at one point the servers must have been struggling, as it would keep dropping me or my friend from the co-op session back to the main menu. We gave up playing that day because of this, but returned the next day to find that the mission I had finished during the previous day’s issues was highlighted as needing to be done. Finishing it again didn’t help, as I was stuck in a loop where the next quest would always be the same one I had done before. In other words, my progress was broken and my options were either start again (I was on the third to last boss) or, and thankfully, make my friend create a game and use his progression as a way to see the last bits of the game, even though I never saw any of the quest titles, as my map was telling me to finish exploring the demon realm. A real shame that soured my overall experience.
It might have a rather generic name for a video game title and a mediocre story, but Victor Vran makes for a solid option from other action RPGs to blast on for a few afternoons with friends, thanks to its focus on fast paced, fun action and neat ideas with the destiny cards to add a distinct flavour on top of the otherwise well-known formula of isometric action role-playing games.