"For fans of the genre, VV is a must-play..."
Victor Vran is a story about a demon hunter seeking his friend who's gone missing in a city fighting off a demonic invasion. Our protagonist, Victor, also has a wonderful hat, as the voice haunting his psyche is wont to tell. Of course, hack 'n' slash titles like VV are less about the story, and more about their own variation of left clicking enemies and leveling up skill trees. Just how far does VV vary, and is the story really all that mediocre?
As stated earlier, VV's central arc is a glorified fetch quest, but soon after starting, the plot morphs into one of heroism as Victor reluctantly helps the queen and her townsfolk wage war against the demons. Some modestly intriguing NPCs litter the castle, most of little consequence. The story unfolds as predictably as one might assume, with a ho-hum ending. Victor Vran's most compelling character is the aforementioned voice, whose knack for references is sure to entertain the average gamer. Unfortunately, the voice lacks a unique sense of humor, but he's clever and well acted enough to crack a few grins, even from the most jaded gamer.
Now, what you're probably here for is the gameplay. Victor Vran boasts a more free-flowing, dynamic method of combat that sets it apart from many hit hack 'n' slash titles. This generally involves dodge rolling to and fro, but positioning and knowing when to use certain abilities that plant the character in place oftentimes remains just as critical. The active pace of combat is refreshing and makes me wonder why more titles don't incorporate these mechanics.
Most of the gameplay is skill-driven, as no abilities allow players to spawn pets or tank endlessly. While abilities exist to take the edge off damage, players need to truly work and hunt for equipment that allows them to sit in the middle of a mob of enemies. For players who start off on normal and seek a higher degree of difficulty, the game offers five challenges in each area to accent what VV already does well. These challenges initially require players to use equipment or techniques as a tutorial for enemy behavior, suggesting that running face-first into a plague essence might not be the best tactic. Later, the challenges require players to either work as efficiently as possible or use equipment that might not be best suited to certain enemies. The rewards for challenges are gold, experience, or equipment. For an even greater challenge, players can use hexes, which add stats to enemies, like damage or movement speed.
Another characteristic that sets VV apart from others of its ilk is how it handles equipment and abilities. Most equipment discovered throughout the city are weapons. Each type of weapon offers two abilities in addition to attacking. Hammers are slow, but can deal immense one-on-one damage or area of effect damage. Tomes offer revved up ranged damage with a blinking attack or exploding fireball; the tome also allows players to pick up orbs and use abilities in quick succession without worrying about cooldowns. That's another interesting thing about VV: there is no mana or other finite resource used to perform abilities; it's strictly cooldowns. This simplicity isn't a cop-out. Truly, it takes what makes hack 'n' slashers fun and cuts the annoying micromanagement of mana. Even without this element, battles are often hard fought because of the emphasis on mobility and using abilities at just the right time due to the cooldowns.
Besides weapons, VV doesn't have "core" equipment, like boots, gloves, shields, etc. The game offers armor, but this rarely found attire only affects the rate at which one earns overdrive, a bar of energy that allows Victor to use one of two spells equipped. These spells range anywhere from calling a meteor storm to wearing a damage-absorbing shield to turning into a poisonous cloud of smoke. The strategy here lies in knowing what spells to equip for the right situation. To further heighten the pace of gameplay, players are encouraged to move as quickly as possible, as staying out of combat drains the overdrive bar.
So Victor is well-equipped for engaging with all manner of horrors, but how do the enemies stack up? As I hinted at earlier, VV offers a wide variety of enemies that require different tactics. Fortunately, switching between two weapons is easy, since most engagements will call for melee or ranged attacks. As enemies rush at the nimble Victor, players will find that frenetic, skill-driven tactics are the core of avoiding nasty foes who demand a specific strategy, while others require a different one. Enemy behaviors and methods of attack truly accentuate what makes VV a fun game.
Unfortunately, as long as VV is, the varied gameplay and content can't keep up. At about halfway through the game, the types of enemies introduced dwindle, as well as the equipment and types of challenges offered. To call the game stale at this point would be too harsh, but the developers seemed to run out of time or ideas, which screeched the excitement to a halt. Still entertained, my brother and I (did I mention there's multiplayer?) found the entire experience less dynamic and more formula driven. With some ingenuity or more time to simmer in development, VV could be a masterpiece in the game design department, but it falls shy of that.
Fortunately, the presentation is stimulating. While not quite state-of-the-art, the graphics and artwork bring the world to life and should keep most gamers enticed. Abilities are colorful and enemies are clearly depicted, no matter how dark and dreary the environments are. Everything is clearly marked and labeled, and everything pops off of the screen. Though the music is forgettable, the voice acting is good, most of it done by the disembodied "Voice." In the control department, VV rarely frustrates, which is critical to a game boasting this level of mobility and precision. Everything flows as it should.
Most of this review has been complimentary and lauded what Victor Vran does right. The only weakness — and it's a biggie — is the lack of variability in the second half of the game. Haemimont Games were clearly onto something here, and I hope they can replicate this formula, making their future titles even better. For fans of the genre, VV is a must-play, as it has refreshing ideas that are implemented well. If not for what feels like padding, this game would appropriately find itself shoulder-to-shoulder with the titans of the genre.