Vigor is a new game with an interesting premise… yet a strange implementation.
In Vigor there has been a nuclear war, and the only country to have survived is Norway. In fact, it is where we have the last stand, and as a nameless Outlander, you are charged with rebuilding and trying to survive. So far, so Fallout, right?
What Bohemia Interactive have done though is create a game of two halves. One half sees you using resources that you gather to upgrade and build a shelter, alongside trying to craft weapons and ammo, and then you are left to use these to help you survive in the other half of the game. Yes, riding the wave of Battle Royale games right up onto the beach, the other side of Vigor has you trying to gather resources by looting houses and cars, trying to stay alive by killing or avoiding the other players in the level, and then attempting to get out unscathed via one of the exits.
First up and I have a small confession to make. I don’t like Battle Royale games, and I don’t like the majority of people that play them, at least if I take Vigor as an example. See, I seem to have been killed more by teammates in this game than I have by enemies, and have been only one teabag away from snapping my pad in half as I’m killed by a supposed ally. I’ve been called a camping noob because I shot someone, I’ve been invited to go forth and multiply more times than I can count, and honestly I have found the whole premise to be frankly nothing short of toxic. In fact, I’ve found myself behaving in a way that I never would in any other game purely to try and survive, even moving the airdrop – the ultimate goal of each encounter – closer to an area that suited me and laying an ambush. Seeing the airdrop carrier skipping down the road, thinking they have escaped and suddenly meeting my shotgun at the exit caused a storm of hate mail, and I wasn’t even sorry. However, this is largely irrelevant to the review, and so I apologise for the diversion.
Vigor plays out in a third person perspective, following your character through the Norwegian wilderness. Each map has a selection of points of interest to find and explore, and helpfully in the top corner of the map you can see where you are, and there is a rundown of how many points you have yet to find. There is an achievement tied to finding all the points of interest in all the maps, but there is a bit of a problem with this. See, trying to select a particular map and running an encounter on that one specific option never ever works. The only way to get into an encounter is to use the quick play option, which loads up a random map, which, more often than not, focuses the attention on the other three, which can be quite frustrating.
Thankfully visually the landscapes are actually quite nice, and the weather effects are also impressive, with fog and snow cutting visibility very dramatically. Coming across another Outlander in these conditions is proper panic time, with the fight or flight instinct very strong. One exception to the good standard of the graphics is the running animation though, particularly when your character is wading across a river. First, there is no water deeper than waist deep in the game, or if there is, it’s sealed off behind invisible walls. These can be a bit surprising when you’re trying to escape a fight, to suddenly hit an invisible wall and be forced back into the situation you were trying flee. Many strong words have been uttered at these moments, especially when it cost the chance of an airdrop…
Gunplay is very strange in Vigor as well, with some weapons struggling to hit the side of a barn, like the Thompson, whilst others seem way over powered, like the ADR-97 – which is pretty much a laser cannon. Shotguns are very hit and miss, if you’ll pardon the pun, sometimes struggling to hit people when when you’re stood on their bunions, while at other times seem more akin to a sniper rifle, killing from 100 yards away.
Setting up and aiming your gear in Vigor can be done in two ways:a press of LT will bring a crosshair up on screen, and clicking the right stick will focus your iron sights or scope. The problem with this is that the sights can’t turn as fast as the characters can move, so you quickly learn not to use the sights and instead run with a “spray and pray” approach. Now, the issue with gunfights is that if you lose, and die, the victor can loot your corpse and steal not only the resources you collected prior to your demise, but also your weapons and your ammo. This can be somewhat upsetting, to put it mildly. Also rather distressingly, if you are trying to sneak up on an enemy, the gun you are carrying will often poke through walls and doors, giving a handy indicator of where you are and what you are up to.
There are safes to find in each map, in random locations, along with a comms station, that allows you to move the airdrop to an area that suits you, and a signal detector, which shows all the remaining Outlanders on the map. As you can imagine, this is useful information, showing not only where the rest of the players are, but how many have survived. If there’s only one left then it may be worth trying to get to the airdrop, but the risk is quite often far too great for the potential reward.
At the start of each encounter, every Outlander is given the chance to use some of the in-game currency to either increase the loot resources, enhance the quality of the airdrop and, best of all, purchase insurance that will preserve your loadout and loot if you die. This currency can be generated if you build certain upgrades in the shelter, or they can be acquired from completing daily missions that require you to play in a certain way. I’ll admit I gave up on the one that required me to kill three enemies while armed only with melee weapons, as it feels like Ken Dodd’s tickling stick would do more damage than the melee weapons in Vigor!
There are some good bits though and shelter building is quite rewarding, in a calming kind of way. Choosing upgrades, building them, going into the encounters to find the things that you need and then coming back and building some more is very rewarding. Each level of shelter sees the structure being renovated a bit at a time, which is nice to see. There is also a shooting range where you can try out all the weapons you have found, with four challenges attached to each gun. Sadly, the issues with gunplay in the levels are more than replicated here, and trying to get a good score is nigh on impossible. The ballistic effects seem to be somewhat random, and the sights almost need to be pointing next to the targets in order to score a hit. With gold scores requiring 10 targets to be hit in 12 seconds, as an example, it just feels like the game can’t be beat.
I have spent a lot of time complaining about Vigor on Xbox One and those who frequent it, and even though my points are valid, there is a degree of fun to be had here. There is a draw, a hook, that has kept me going back for more despite the faults in the gameplay. Surviving a firefight for instance, particularly if you didn’t start it, is very rewarding, while getting the drop, and running away with an enemy on your heels before surviving is a great feeling.
Maybe it is this which is what keeps bringing me back, but from someone who has experienced the best and worst of Vigor, just take my advice, and only play in a team with someone you know… and trust! Because outside of that comradery Vigor is very hit and miss.