Haemimont Games have long been most heavily associated with the Tropico series, dropping you into the shoes of a dictator presiding over a burgeoning banana republic. However, recent years have seen them aspire to move beyond that series and their most recent efforts have brought Victor Vran through Early Access, a familiar looking top-down action RPG with a Van Helsing vibe.
Adopting a similar visual style to the tactical battles of Omerta, Victor Vran can be best described Haemimont’s attempt at Diablo in the guise of a spectacle fighter like God of War. It can get a little fiddly from the top-down perspective, but there’s plenty of freedom to your movement, with jumping, dodging and even wall-jumping, which lets you reach certain secret areas.
Thankfully, Victor Vran has multiple control schemes and customisation options to choose from, so you can get the game handling exactly how you like, whether playing with keyboard and mouse or a gamepad. Performance is also great, even on lower end systems, and is important for this style of gameplay, even though it would have been nice to have higher quality textures and more effects for those with PCs that can handle it.
If you were expecting something gritty, serious, and thought provoking, then Victor Vran’s plot throws that particular hope and dream out the window. Its plot is awfully generic, even if it does have the voice actor of The Witcher’s Geralt in the role of the titular Victor Vran. He is in Zagoravia to find his fellow Demon Hunter friend Adrian, but really it’s just a threadbare excuse to wail on some demons.
In fact the saving grace here lies with a disembodied voice that breaks up the monotony of the combat with sarcastic quips about how pathetic Victor is, but also about his awesome hat. He also has the potential to mislead, with one example being the promise of a ‘colourful surprise’ at the end of a cave. Yes, he wanders into meme territory, shattering the fourth wall as a result, but the Gangnam Style prancing skeletons probably already did that hours beforehand.
Character development doesn’t centre around classes, but rather each weapon having its own two abilities and the demon powers that act as magic. Magic uses the Overdrive meter which is charged depending on what outfit you have equipped. This allows you to change your loadout on the fly and quickly switch to a different style of play, which could be handy for those new to the genre, but eliminates some replay value by not having a different path of upgrades to explore by rolling a new character.
As you progress, the game unlocks more options for customising your character. Destiny Cards augment your character with various buffs, such as being able to create explosions with every overkill. Upgrades to items are also possible with the transmuting mechanic, which can be used for gambling items into a higher class. It’s confusing at first, but the in-game codex gets you up to speed if you’re prepared for a little light reading.
“But what about the dungeons?” you might be asking. Each of the Diablo inspired dungeons have a ton of enemies to fight, secret areas to find, and challenges that you can complete for extra loot or experience. The dungeons aren’t randomly generated, but they do encourage mastering the mobs that swarm around you to complete the challenges, and are genuinely fun to explore.
Sadly, this is where the major flaw with Victor Vran comes into play. There is enemy variety in that individual monsters have their own unique traits, but they generally fall within one of six very familiar families, those being skeletons, wraiths, spiders, elementals, gargoyles, and vampires. A few dungeons utilise a varied approach, but the vast majority focus on one or two types per dungeon.
The result is that the early game will be spent whacking skeletons and spiders, only for the skeletons to get back up with full health. I wouldn’t mind as much if that didn’t also apply to the Champion monsters that are occasionally quite touch to beat. It also makes it clear that the enemies were designed in a gameplay sense, rather than in an organic way that helps with the world building.
What doesn’t help is that it isn’t a terribly long game either. It’s entirely possible to see all you need to see within ten hours, which is short of the longevity that the action RPG genre is known for. Trying to beat the hard mode and more difficult challenges may tide some over, but that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Thankfully, free DLC is inbound to expand on the gameplay a little.
Online is where the best gameplay experience is, provided you have a team of friends running through each area methodically while trying to check off the challenge list. As you progress, a PVP arena is also unlocked, though the draw is minimal at best. The lack of class diversity is what ultimately hurts online play the most, as everyone has access to the same equipment, depending on drops.
Victor Vran shows that Haemimont Games have more in their arsenal than just city building with dictators. As far as Diablo clones go, it isn’t of the same calibre as Path of Exile due to its rather simplistic nature and the overabundance of the six primary enemy types, but it does feature some neat gameplay twists of its own. It’s worth a look if you are starved of action RPGs, with the emphasis on action.