Victor Vran is a traditional ARPG, which had its full PC release in July 2015. However this year’s EGX featured Haemimont Games‘ PS4 port of the title and I had the opportunity to play the game for the first time. And did. For about 3 hours! The game was very accessible for newcomers, to the game and genre, and the fluid combat mechanics made it easy to sit on a tacky green plastic stool, guzzling repulsive energy drinks, freely available courtesy of the show’s sponsors.
ARPGs have always drawn me in. My primary game for the last 2 years has been Path of Exile, which is arguably the apogee of the genre. I’ve invested serious time into Diablo 2, Titan Quest, and played a small amount of D3 (at its release) and Torchlight 2. VV takes the fluid gameplay of Torchlight, the Gothic styling of Diablo and mixes it up with Titan Quest’s loot system. It does not have the build depth possibility of Path of Exile – but that’s ok: it’s excellent the way it is.
Thematically VV is a classic-looking dungeon crawler built on medieval and Eastern European imagery, with more than a small helping of Halloween decorations and almost Disney-esque dark romantic cuteness (and silliness – exploding chickens, anyone?) Haemimont haven’t skimped on graphics, which admittedly aren’t the most important aspect of ARPGs (in ARPGs “Runescape mode” would be preferred if it lets you squeeze out the last few FPS to avoid hardcore mode death) and there’s a broad sense of humour in the NPC dialogues and throughout the narrative. The narrative is not Witcher 3, but it supports the game adequately.
For gameplay, you can play it as a simple hack and slash adventure in the most casual of modes. However, my recommendation is to enable all “hexes” (added-difficulty elements), increasing the challenge. The added difficulties make it so much more fun and brings added bonuses to experience and loot. Hexes make completing the area challenges much more fulfilling.
You can complete the game’s storyline relatively quickly – by around level 45-50. Creating a fulfilling endgame that will retain players is a serious challenge for ARPG developers: players will want content to continue the grind, min/max their character and test their builds against top-tier content; you want to feel powerful while crushing endgame content and rewarded for increasing the challenge. Haemimont have made a good go of their endgame here. After level 50 your progression follows a scheme similar to Diablo’s Paragon system, with a secondary level system, ‘renown’, visualising your leveling goals. A second set of level challenges, ‘elite challenges’, also open up and provide far more demanding tests of your character and mechanical skills than the initial area challenges. Two grinding areas, ‘The Cauldron of Chaos’ and the aptly named ‘Bottomless Pit’, allow you to perfect your build and provide a way of obtaining legendary weapons. VV’s endgame is not as deep as Path of Exile’s: but no other endgame in the ARPG genre is. However, at 30 hours in, I feel there’s still more playtime and that’s good enough for me!
Pros: art/gameplay/build potential with cards! Some great level design & boss fights – notably the Broodmother’s area. Melee fighting is actually melee, rather than ranged sword attacks; this is something that ARPGs generally don’t do well, but is enjoyable here.
Cons: the story functions as a story, but isn’t much more than this. It’s also a bit disappointing that immunity is used to nullify DPS, notably crit. An alternative, like -%crit reduction, would have been better.