Interview with a Vampire.
After an initial mobile release back in 2018, Vampire’s Fall: Origins quickly gained praise for it’s fun and addictive gameplay, since then it has seen a well-received port to Steam and in September it became available on the Big N’s hunky hybrid, the Switch. But can this Vampyric adventure suck you in for a good time or will it cast a poor reflection in your gaming library? Let’s find out as I’m going to give you the choice, I never had.
The game starts with a suitably gothic title screen that oozes atmosphere, after creating a character from a somewhat minimalistic but sufficient set of options you can then choose one of four bloodlines to associate your character with. These bloodlines have a specific perk each to help you get started but as it turns out, won’t be the be-all and end-all of your character due to the fantastic progression tree you get to utilise as you level up (more on that in a moment) Once your character is created and named the game begins,
“In a dark and ancient time, a menace who calls himself The Witchmaster (apparently Witchdoctor was taken) and his hoard of devious dickheads roam the land wreaking havoc and despair upon all who oppose them”
Ok, not the official words of the intro but you get the point.
Beginning life in a small village you are given a few tasks to complete that will get you to grips with the basics of the controls, combat, item management and so on. It’s all fairly standard stuff on the surface but is introduced at a good pace allowing newcomers to the RPG genre to get a feel for things while feeling fondly nostalgic for seasoned players.
The first thing that jumped out at me was the presentation, clean and crisp isometric gameplay gave me welcomed vibes of Diablo and Baldur’s Gate, even the writing font felt like it should say Tristram and I half expected some boney old codger with a voice like a constipated Bane to ask me to stay awhile and listen. Once I made like Slim Shady and snapped back to reality, I went about my tasks which began as by the numbers activities but were made more entertaining by the great writing and almost knowingness of the characters of the stereotypes they were portraying, yet remained grounded enough to flow well within the world. Before long I was sent to fight the big spikey Sauron cosplayer known as the Witchmaster, I tried to tell him I was in love with you but he was having none of it and with a quick ooo eee ooo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang he slaughtered me on the spot!
A short game then? Not on your life!
I awakened to find my village burnt to a crisp and the residents slaughtered to the last. But something was different, seeking to quench my thirst I drank heavily from the conveniently placed well only to find the liquid was about as refreshing as a McMuffin Sandwich, but what’s that? The dead body to my right looked as appealing as curry to a pisshead, go on then I’ll give it a try. That’s right, I was now a creature of the night, a goddam blood-sucking Vampire! wait till mum finds out!
Now I must set out to find the Witchmaster and get revenge. So begins the story of Vampire Fall: Origins, but after a fun and engaging intro, would the rest of the game continue in the same fashion, I am pleased to say that despite a few technical hiccups along the way, this was a bloody good time.
Vampire’s Fall gives you a large world to explore at your leisure but you will generally be guided in the right direction by the series of quests on offer which are clearly highlighted on a large map which reveals itself the more you explore. As you set out on your journey you will encounter various towns and settlements filled with NPC’s to help advance the story and provide entertainment through side quests and amusing comments.
Multiple choice answers and branching dialogue.
One of the highlights of the experience was being able to choose a series of responses to give during conversations, you could easily just say yes to advance the dialogue or you could choose from a selection of sarcastic or snide comments in reactions to the often batshit crazy dialogue that made me blow air out of nose faster than normal in amusement and on a few occasions produced a good old belly chuckle. This inclusion of amusing writing and slightly outlandish characters didn’t quite do enough to disguise that a lot of these quests were general fetch quests, but it made them more entertaining, such as seeking a rock that has cursed a town with stupidity only to find out the town was just full of stupid people all along.
Obviously being an RPG adventure set in medieval times, danger lurks all around so you will be spending a fair amount of your time clashing swords with bandits, beasts, ghosts and ghoulies of all shapes and sizes. Once again I was surprised by the depth of the combat, what at first appeared to be a basic one on one turn-based scenario of slap and tickle until someone’s health bar is depleted soon expanded into a robust combat system with a solid level of strategy and options. Basic melee attacks can be performed with a selection of weapons from swords, spears, maces and so on. General protection can be granted by acquiring better armour and clothing either from a Blacksmith or by loot acquired through battles.
Attacks are assigned to the D-Pad directions but blissfully the Switch had full touchscreen support which was a good nod back to the games mobile roots. As you land attacks you build up focus which can be spent on using abilities such as summoning a bat swarm to cause damage over several rounds, a good old backstab with high critical hit chance and even a Vampire bite to suck the HP from your opponent and regain some of your own.
Every third round in combat you are given the chance to string together combos by lining up a series of attacks. Other than your basic attack which is free, each special attack costs a level of focus to use so it’s up to you whether you save your focus for these moments and string together a good selection of special attacks or just land a couple of basic moves to wear the enemy down. Keep in mind that items cannot be used during battle so any health potions you may have can only be drunk once the battle has concluded, so having a quick suck on your enemy before the combo turn might be a valid move if you wish to succeed.
With great power comes great abilities.
More abilities become available through the skill tree and it is here where the real character customisation comes into play. Each time you level up you will be granted a number of points to put into Blood Lines and a single point to put into Abilities. Blood Lines are split into three categories, Anger, Vitality and Deceit with each one granting access to various attribute upgrades.
The Vitality tree grants increases in HP, Focus, Armour etc whereas Anger focuses more on the damage you can do with certain weapons or the chance at critical hits and Deceit will cater to the amount of loot you can earn, dodge success and so forth. It goes without saying that tailoring your upgrades to suit your play style will be the key to success and will make combat much more dynamic. Aside from story encounters there will be regular random encounters as you explore the world and at times you will happen across a foe that is far beyond your skill. Fear not, when you die, and you will, you are resurrected at the nearest town at the cost of a couple of coins.
The random encounter element was spaced out enough as to not become annoying like the PS1 days of Final Fantasy but the regular appearance of overpowered enemies did grate on me a bit, though at times there was satisfaction when taking down tougher enemies with clever use of the abilities I had unlocked. Certain story enemies would also be overpowered resulting in the need to head into the wilderness and grind away until you levelled up sufficiently, this is nothing new for RPG’s but to me, it felt like one of those old gaming tropes that is best left in the past but on the whole, this all blended together to provide a solid role-playing experience that I found myself enjoying much more than I thought I would.
I spent most of my time playing in handheld mode so I was happy to see that the controls were intuitive for navigating menus and selection dialogue and combat options and as mentioned earlier, the full touchscreen controls were very well implemented, just dragging my finger along the screen guided the character through the world with ease with options being selected with a simple touch.
Vampire’s Fell over
One issue I did encounter that sucked some of the joy out was some regular crashing, nothing is worse than overcoming a particularly troublesome foe only to be presented with “something went wrong” and the application to close. Luckily Vampire’s Fall saves regularly so I rarely lost too much progress but I would hope to see a stability patch come through in the near future. Other than that the presentation was crisp and clear, the sound effects were good enough and although music plays during combat and in towns it would have been nice to have a selection of ambient tunes playing while I roamed the open world, the solum sound of footsteps and wildlife just didn’t provide the same atmosphere as a catchy medieval gothic tune would have done.
Vampire’s Fall: Origins has been showered with praise in its mobile and steam iterations and it is easy to see why. What begins as an almost cliche nod to the genre greats and yes, it does borrow heavily from some, soon becomes an engaging and deep role-playing experience with an addictive combat system with a generous asking price of $12.99 / £8.99 that won’t suck you dry. Despite a few crashing issues and a dose of grinding that slowed the pace down, my overall experience was a positive one and I highly recommend this one to anyone who is a fan of titles like Diablo, Baldur’s Gate and Vampires in general.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Xbox Nintendo, Mobile
Release Date: 17/09/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: RPG, Adventure, Action
Developer: Early Morning Studio
Publisher: Ultimate Games
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop