Title: Victor Vran
Platform: PC/ Mac (reviewed on PC)
Developer: Haemimont Games
Publisher: EuroVideo Medien
Release date: 19 February 2015 (Early Access), 24 July 2015 (Full Release)
TL;DR: An isometric ARPG, Diablo-like that expands the list of controls from basic clicking. Set in a made-up part of Eastern Europe, you play as a gruff man with a dark past and a troubling voice in his head. Generally polished but not without its flaws. A stand-out in the genre if you’re already into the genre.
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Victor Vran is an isometric ARPG from Haemimmont Games, the maker of Tropico. This is the studio’s first entry in the ARPG genre and it is a totally competent one.
Right off the bat, you should know that there are some people who are going to absolutely love this game because it’s a fairly polished, well-presented, visually beautiful ARPG that’s quite addictive and features a plethora of customization options. There are also people who are going to find the game a joyless slog. Personally, I fall more into the former category than the latter but Victor Vran didn’t turn out to be all that I’d hoped it to be.
I’m the kind of person who can’t take the game-play in isometric ARPGs too seriously because of what I look for in them. I’m into Diablo 3 and the Torchlight series; I like chowing through mooks and plenty of loot. I look for cheap instant gratification from these games. From a game-play perspective, I have much more respect for RPGs where I feel like I can improve at it even as my character does. Like, if I were to do a second play-through of such a game I’d have an easier time because the systems would be familiar to me.
Victor Vran aims to be the kind of game where skill does make odds. Its Steam profile says the following:
Victor Vran is the isometric action-RPG where your skill is just as essential as your character build and gear.
Certainly, Victor doesn’t aim to hit exactly the same spot as Diablo 3, although it does so in the early levels. As you go along, spiders and corpses are replaced by magic users with sizeable health-bars and a love of lethal pyrotechnics. Still, Victor wasn’t a game that I felt I was getting any better at through playing. I found grinding and levelling up to be the best way to confront a new boss rather than speed or strategy.
Maybe the onus is on me for not experimenting enough with combat, but the point is Victor never challenged me in a way that I felt I had to. As a result, I’m not entirely sure whether Victor succeeded in placing a more even emphasis on skill. However, I did play with the mouse controls option and it might be the case that the ‘action’ option is better for this game. You can jump around and dodge in this game; I found using the middle-mouse key cumbersome and unresponsive in dodging. I have a feeling that I’d prefer to play this with a controller but there’s no such support on Steam.
I also ran into other, minor, issues with the controls. Sometimes the clicker would disappear, making selecting enemies a difficulty. Also, selecting enemies in general was occasionally irksome. You can change up camera angles in this game but I found that doing so would also change up the weapon because they use the same key twice. Since you can change camera angles, I felt that the developers put less work into making areas look visible from all angles. This became a mild issue for me because I’d end up having to switch view during a fight. Moreover, whilst it was a revelation to be jumping around in an isometric ARPG in the first few hours, I’d sometimes run into invisible walls.
On one occasion, just the one, I jumped off into an inaccessible region. Fortunately, you can teleport back to base or restart the level whenever you like through the main menu.
Overall, Victor has a good, intuitive UI. It’s an incredibly easy game to pick up and play. It’s like Guild Wars 2 in the sense that you don’t have a whole lot of skill slots and options when you’re in the midst of combat but there’s a lot of different consumables and passives that you can select from to change your experience. There’s no classes in the traditional sense, so you’re never tied down to a particular play-style. Victor stream-lines your inventory as well; loot doesn’t come so frequently and there are few armour options so you won’t spend a whole lot of time staring at store-fronts wondering which item you can stand to live without.
Victor Vran is also quite a pretty game in a way that I felt never translated so well to screen-shots. It has the vibrancy of Torchlight with the gritty, steampunk aesthetic of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. Speaking of Van Helsing, Victor bears some eerie resemblance to that series as they’re both isometric ARPGS that are based in made-up eastern European kingdoms and feature monster hunters in their lead role. They also both have Katarinas in a major supporting role. In my mind, if you’re going to be playing any game of that very specific ilk, Victor Vran is the vastly superior option.
Now, let’s get onto my favourite part of the game: ‘The Voice”. Now, the story’s not spectacular; Victor Vran, our intrepid hero looks like the result of every action hero ever having a baby together and is every bit as generic as you’d expect him to be. His genericness, however, is completely off-set by the taunting of this mysterious ‘Voice’ that seems set on crushing Vran’s ego and soul. The voice-acting in this is very good and Doug Cockle, i.e. Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher series, nails exactly the kind of earnestness that Andrew Wincott’s ”The Voice” hopes to puncture.
I found it supremely entertaining to have this little voice in my head whilst adventuring. ‘The Voice’ talks you down dangerous paths and points out loot. He goads you into battles and criticizes you for your rampant murder. He also seems, weirdly, like he kind of admires the protagonist and wants to get him on side. ‘The Voice’ effectively undercuts the stony-faced moral certitude and the blandness of the other characters who I otherwise would not have paid mind to. He’s not exactly GLaDOS, but I feel like I can mention ‘The Voice’ in the same breath as her magnificence. Definitely, I wouldn’t get the game on account of the writing if you’re not at all interested in the game-play. Still, it was a lot better than what I was expecting.
In conclusion, Victor Vran is a decent game that I imagine will recommend itself highly to fans of ARPGs and MMORPGs. It’s the kind of game that I’m sure some folks can happily sink hundreds of hours into, with all the challenges and PVP. As for me?- I enjoyed the 20-something hours that I spent with it but won’t be returning to it any time soon.
Just don’t play this if you hate grinding and spiders.
What Rocks! :)
- ”The Voice”.
- Good visual design.
- So much better than The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing.
What Sucks :(
- The disappearing clicker. Major problem.
- Small problems with the jump key and mouse controls.
- Standard critiques of Diablo-clones apply. Some people just aren’t going to find the game-play super compelling.
The controls are quite simple to understand. This being a top-down RPG, it’s not so immersive so it shouldn’t give them nightmares. There were no references to sex that I picked up on and the violence level is never overly bloody.