Level-specific challenges make this more than a simple clickfest
Story might as well not exist at all
Victor Vran wears a damn fedora (actually it’s a trilby)
Victor Vran carves itself a healthy niche in the aRPG genre, making up for a silly story with excellent (and addictive) combat. “Click-and-watch-things-die” has never felt this good.
You know what? I’m starting to think that the original Diablo III release being a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad game (or at least being perceived that way) was potentially the best thing that could’ve happened to the action-RPG genre.
But think about it: Before Diablo III, the action-RPG genre was largely stagnant. Then Diablo III came out, botched its launch, and people started looking around for something to sate those pesky aRPG cravings. From a dev perspective, suddenly Diablo III didn’t seem quite so unassailable. Torchlight blew up, Path of Exile launched, and the Van Helsing series nabbed some fans.
Let’s go ahead and add Victor Vran onto the list of genre classics while we’re at it.
Fifty ways to skin a monster
“Something something I kill monsters because I am a monster hunter,” says titular character Geralt of Rivia Victor Vran (paraphrasing) and that’s about all the introduction you get in this game. And to be honest, it’s pretty much all you need.
I don’t know why a well-crafted aRPG is so addictive. If I had unlimited funding and knew a bunch of hard-up scientists, I might set them to studying the problem instead of finding a cure for cancer or whatever it is scientists do all day.
It’s true though—aRPGs get their hooks in deep. There’s something about careening into a group of enemies with a scythe in hand (yes, a gosh darn scythe) and clicking on them until they die that’s…oddly satisfying. And to its credit, that’s what Victor Vran is best at.
Victor Vran somewhat overhauls a genre that for years has been primarily about click-click-clicking on enemies. While you can play with click-to-move controls, this seems like more a concession to purists than anything else. The correct way to play is with WASD movement or a controller, similar to the Diablo III console port. Plus there’s an honest-to-goodness jump button.
And you know what? It’s a fun time. Victor Vran isn’t revolutionary by any means—nor necessarily better than a mouse-focused game like Diablo. It does give Victor Vran its own identity though, which is important in an increasingly saturated market.
The game also ditches other aRPG trappings. For instance, remember how everyone was so excited about Path of Exile’s twisting, freeform skill tree? Victor Vran is the polar opposite. No “classes,” no “skill upgrades.” Instead, each weapon class comes with two unique skills. Enjoy fast, flashy kills? Try the rapier. Enjoy flying into the air and smashing the face off a wraith? Hammers.
Also, scythes. Because scythes are the most badass type of weapon, and always will be.
Leveling up gives you more health, more item slots, or more “Destiny Points.” Destiny Points/Cards are yet another method of customization—equipping them gives you bonuses to critical chance, health regeneration, et cetera.
Victor Vran takes the loot game to its logical end, which is “Everything is loot. Literally everything you pick up is loot,” a.k.a. the Borderlands approach.
The upshot is you’ll swap gear more often than, say, Diablo. Since skills are tied to weapons, there’s a solid reason to keep around that shotgun or that hammer in your inventory, even if you only use it once every hour or two for specific boss enemies.
This modular approach to character classes also plays into Victor Vran’s other hook: Challenges. Each map is tricked out with five normal and five elite Challenges—everything from “Find six secrets” to “Slay fifty monsters within 120 seconds with a hammer.” They’re entirely optional, they’re pretty much entirely for bragging rights, and yet I can’t stop trying to finish them. I’ve restarted maps upwards of a dozen times just to complete some pointless Challenge.
I’m pretty sure Challenges are what’s keeping me hooked to Victor Vran, because it sure isn’t the story. I started writing an entire review of Victor Vran focused on the story, and quickly realized what a mistake that would be—because it really doesn’t matter. Diablo is a dumb game with dumb lore. Victor Vran is even dumber.
You play as Victor Vran. You kill monsters. And also Victor is voiced by Doug Cockle, the guy who voices Geralt for us English-speaking Witcher players. There’s something about a queen screwing up her kingdom, a ghost who spouts Nietzsche, and a narrator known only as “The Voice” who does a silly Stanley Parable imitation, but it’s all largely inconsequential. If you’re not here to click on enemies and watch them die, you’re definitely not going to stick around for the story.
I do have some quibbles. For instance, each area is actually a massive hub and four or five smaller sub-levels. Not a problem. But for some reason the game re-hides the map and repopulates all the enemies in the hub world if you go back to the shop to sell anything or if you quit the game. I understand you don’t necessarily want a loot-based game to have levels devoid of enemies, but it led to me playing the game in a very specific way—completing all five Challenges on the hub world and discovering all sublevels, then accessing those sublevels from the level select screen instead of running back to them across the hub. It’s a bit of a cheat.
Also, I experienced some minor performance issues, even running on a GeForce GTX 980 Ti. Tons of particle effects on-screen would make the action lag and then jump ahead occasionally, and this game doesn’t look nearly good enough where that should occur, even on Ultra.
It’s more than a bit silly and mindless but, well, the whole aRPG genre is a bit silly and mindless. Victor Vran strips out some of the complexity of its peers, but makes up for it with a dynamic combat system and incredibly modular character customization. And the most awful hats. And stale jokes that are so stale they’re almost funny again. Almost.
I ended up enjoying this one more than I expected. It’s not perfect by any means, nor would I say it’s as good as genre leaders Diablo, Path of Exile, and Torchlight. But it still kept me up until 4 A.M. one night, so I’m calling this a win.