Maybe it’s my age, the fact that I’ve been playing games for the best part of 40 years, or maybe even that I am becoming increasingly cynical in my old age, but originality seems to be a very rare commodity these days. And anything that does bring a little originality into the video games arena is destined to be copied, over and over again. The latest deja vu session has been brought on by Victor Vran Overkill edition, developed by Haemimont Games.
First released back in 2015 on the PC, this game appears to be a love letter to Diablo 3’s dungeon crawling, loot grabbing, monster mashing gameplay, with a kind of industrial/fantasy skin laid over the top. The game it put me most in mind of was Van Helsing, both in tone of the story and general layout, but this came first, so I guess Van Helsing was a homage to this? Anyway, being a bit of a sucker for dungeon crawling and loot collecting, I fired it up and set off into the dark.
The Overkill Edition part of the title refers to the fact that this game contains all the expansions that were released for the PC, of which there are two. Firstly, and weirdly, given that Lemmy is no longer with us, is a team up with the heavy metal band Motorhead. Snaggletooth, the band’s mascot, has somehow been brought to life by Lemmy and co, in order to hold back the Fuhrer from taking over the worlds. In the time that has passed since then, Snaggletooth has fallen silent and is now as lifeless as a brick, so it’s down to us to travel to the worlds and see what we can do about it. As you’d expect, the music of Motorhead features strongly in this expansion, and if there’s a better soundtrack for smashing enemies up with a big hammer, I’ve yet to find it!
The second expansion, Fractured Worlds, is a series of procedurally generated dungeons that you have to delve in to find the item that will allow us to break a demon curse. Obviously, it’s not going to be that easy, as the item in question, an Astrolabe, has been broken up and split between worlds. Whatever happened to putting things away in a safe location? I’d be really miffed if one day I needed the lawnmower, and the blade was in next doors garden, the handle down the street… You get the picture. Ah, cliches, what would we do without you?
Still, these activities are more for high end character builds, especially the Fractured Worlds part, which is recommended for characters over level 20, so I initially dived into the world of vanilla Victor Vran. The story of the game, such as it is, is that Demon Hunters are being summoned to the cursed city of Zagoravia, but then not returning. Victor’s friend, Adrian (a Demon Hunters name if ever I heard one) has also answered the call, and being worried about his friend, Victor sets off for the city to see if he can find him. We soon find that even getting to the castle at the centre of town is going to require mincing some monsters, and luckily Victor comes with a variety of methods of dispatching the undead and demons that stalk the streets.
Obviously, with this being a loot based game at heart, as you go through and kill things, they will occasionally drop items for you to pick up, ranging from weapons in various different levels of rarity, demon powers you can equip, Destiny Cards that give you passive buffs and consumable items to help keep you healthy.
There are more weapons in this game than you can shake a katana at, and it’s not just the basic types I’m talking about. You can choose between swords, rapiers, hammers, guitars (yes, really), shotguns, revolvers, grenade launchers/mortars and even lightning guns. Now each of these can also have other abilities, such as Leech which heals you, or Ram which increases knockback. They also come in five different rarities, so hopefully you can begin to see what I mean about many ways to slay! I’m just surprised there isn’t a kitchen sink weapon…
Combat is very easy to pick up, but surprisingly deep, with your character’s build, weapons and buffs all adding up to a glorious whole, which can be tweaked to make sure you’re in the best shape to take on the challenges in front of you. Will you build a character with strong crowd control abilities, in case you get swarmed by skeletons and minced? This happens. A lot. Maybe you’ll need a hard hitting high damage output build to take a boss down?
A lot of how Victor behaves in combat is down to the Destiny Cards that you can equip as you level up. Starting off with a single slot, as you hit milestones on Victor’s development arc, extra slots are unlocked, with the effects of the cards stacking. The cards have a range of different buffs that they can apply, and each one can be either found as a certain rank, or ranked up by using Transmutation. That is Victor Vran’s way of sacrificing some objects to make others stronger. For example, some cards give extra health, or allow you to steal life from enemies when you hit them, or give greater chances of critical hits. There are many others, all with useful effects. Add to this the fact that you can get each of these cards in Divine or Wicked flavours, that subtly twist the way they work, and you can begin to see the depth of customisation that is available.
Another ability that can be tweaked is Victor’s ability to use Demon Powers. Due to a mistake he made as a younger man (that is explained along the way), Victor is able to channel demonic powers and use them against the evil hordes. These again can be broadly split into offensive and defensive powers, with attacks ranging from a focused beam of sunlight, the summoning meteors to even summoning a giant iron fist that smashes into the ground, flattening any baddies beneath it. There are also powers that increase your healing, increase your armour or even let you turn into a dark cloud, poisoning anything you touch.
The use of these powers is regulated by Overdrive, which you accumulate either by attacking, or being attacked, depending on the outfit that you are wearing. Yes, as he goes through the game, Victor can change outfits which again bring benefits of their own. So, between the choice of weapon (primary and secondary), demon power (likewise), outfit, destiny cards and even a choice of consumables, you can see that the personalisation options are almost unlimited.
In another move that seems aimed almost exclusively at the masochists amongst us, once you reach a certain level you can equip Hexes. Hexes change the way monsters behave, making them faster, or stronger, or more armoured, for instance. Each hex you equip gives a 10% increase in experience points gained, so there is a good risk/reward mechanic that you need to get right. Also, there are challenges associated with each area of the game – some of the challenges for a level are tied to having certain Hexes turned on. There are others, time based or kill a specific number of enemies based, right up to using a certain weapon to kill a certain bad guy. Fulfilling these challenges gives you bonus gold or XP, or even a weapon if you are really lucky!
On to the gameplay itself then and if you’ve played Diablo 3 you’ll be right at home here, as the controls are very similar. X is your basic attack, and B and Y unleash the recharging special attack for the particular weapon you have equipped, for instance with a Hammer ‘B’ does a massive ground pound attack, hitting everything in the vicinity, while Y initiates a charging slam on a single target for increased damage. The triggers sort out your two equipped Demon Powers, while LB and a direction is a dodge move, and RB switches between the your two equipped weapons. Lastly, left and right on the D-pad uses the two consumable items you have equipped, both of which have cooldowns before they can be used again.
The controls work very well, giving fluid and precise control over Victor and his actions, and soon you’ll be smashing skeletons like a seasoned pro. Finding out what works on certain enemies, and which combination of powers works for you, is a huge part of the fun of this game. If there is a criticism, it’s that the missions all play out the same way: go to an area, smash enemies until a boss appears, smash it and then rinse and repeat. Somehow though, it doesn’t get old, with the different areas looking very distinct from one another and different enemies being introduced as you go through the game. The short cut scenes when a boss appears are also fun to watch, and help fire you up for a bruising encounter.
Graphically, the game performs well, for the most part. There is some annoying slow down when the screen gets particularly busy, especially if you and the enemies are using your demon powers – did I mention that the baddies can also use the same powers you can? – but it isn’t all the time. The animation of the creatures and Victor is also a high point, with the skeletons having a pleasing Ray Harryhausen kind of jerky walk, and things like ghosts and gargoyles zooming about the place. The sound works well too, and you can often hear the monsters before you can see them, giving you time to gird your metaphorical loins before wading in again. The crunch as a skeleton is destroyed by a hammer is very pleasing indeed!
In conclusion then, Victor Vran Overkill Edition is a worthy addition to the genre. It doesn’t out-Diablo Diablo, but thanks to the care put into the levelling and loot systems, it is undoubtedly worth the time to explore. With the DLC included in the package, especially the Fractured Worlds which are different each time you dive into a Rift, the value here is beyond reproach. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with Victor, and think you just might as well.