Victor Vran is an action RPG game from Haemimont Games, who are probably best known as the stewards of the Tropico series. The action RPG genre is dominated by several titans, including the 800 pound gorilla known as Diablo 3. Victor Vran has some seriously huge shoes to fill, and it does surprisingly well at it! I got a few days with the game prior to release, courtesy of Haemimont. In my Victor Vran review, I’ll give you a rundown of what makes it worth your time.
Over on our YouTube channel, I demo’ed Victor Vran and showed a good chunk of gameplay. Check it out:
Action RPGs are a long and storied genre, but there’s no question that the Diablo series is at the center of it. Orbiting Diablo at close range is Torchlight, the more indie series from Runic Games. Further away are action RPGs that hew a bit closer to “action” than RPG, like Devil May Cry and Kingdoms of Amalur. Victor Vran combines many bits and pieces from several of these games.
Most of these games follow a pretty similar pattern. You play alone or in co-op as a hunter of evil, armed to the teeth with weapons, magic, special skills, and various consumable items. Combat takes place in realtime, with positioning and cooldowns factoring in heavily in battle strategy.
Fighting the aforementioned evil grants you experience, as well as loot. This loot is sometimes better than what you’re using, but even if it’s not, it can be transmuted into something potentially more useful, or sold for gold.
Victor Vran owes several debts to Diablo, especially Diablo 3. They both share a sort of twangy, brooding, soulful guitar soundtrack. Weapons are randomly generated with different attributes, which influence their naming. Get ready to wield a hundred different variants of “Shotgun of the Bear,” for instance. There are certain champion monsters that spawn with special bonuses, and some of these bonuses are the exact same as the affixes on champion monsters in Diablo 3.
However, Victor Vran’s similarities to Diablo help it feel familiar rather than making it feel like an imitation. There are a lot of new ideas in Victor Vran that set it apart from other action RPGs.
The Ancient Art of Wall Jumping
The first “oh, that’s a great idea!” moment was early in the tutorial, when the game taught me to jump and wall jump. Wall jumping is rarely required to progress, and is usually reserved for uncovering secret areas. However, it feels so right. I don’t know why action RPGs have generally been anti-jumping, but it seems like such a simple concept once Victor Vran introduced it.
Pro Tip The eyes in the statue between the health and overdrive bars will glow when you are near the entrance to a secret area. Look nearby for false walls or areas where you can put your jumping abilities to good use.
Victor Vran also puts a lot of focus on careful, timed ability combos. It doesn’t quite approach the combat system of the Batman: Arkham series, but it’s enough to reward skillful play while still allowing for button mashing. Each weapon type has a set of 3 different attacks, with varying cooldowns. Chaining them together with precise combos can grant various bonuses, like guaranteed critical hits.
Pro Tip Switching weapons mid-battle is a good way to play to the strengths of both of your weapons at once. While the special abilities of one weapon are cooling down, you can be using the abilities of your second weapon, for instance.
In addition to weapons, there are a bunch of other swappable bits of gear. Demon Powers are super strong “limit break” style moves that need to be charged before they’re used. There’s also Destiny Cards, which modify your character in various ways. Finally, there are different outfits which confer bonuses tailored towards certain styles of play.
The game also features an adjustable difficulty in the form of hexes. Hexes are a set of 5 difficulty modifiers that can be toggled on or off at any time. Turning them on increases the difficulty but also increases the rewards for fighting monsters. This sort of thing has been done before in games like Bastion, and it’s a little like a more flexible variant of the Torment ranks in Diablo 3. However, it makes a lot of sense in a game like Victor Vran where grinding for loot is a key part of becoming as powerful as possible.
Also adding to the replay value is the challenge system. Each area has a set of 5 challenges, with 5 more “elite” challenges unlocked after completing the game. These challenges tend to vary, with some being tied to certain weapon types, while others want you to slay certain monsters or do something in a fixed period of time. Completing a challenge grants a reward – usually a bonus chest, some additional XP, or a big pile of gold.
Pro Tip You don’t have to do all the challenges in a single run of a level – if you clear a challenge, it stays cleared forever. It can be worth it to seek out challenges that grant XP, as they often give you substantially more than you’d get from grinding monsters.
All of the various strategies and challenges to overcome in Victor Vran keeps it feeling fresh through hours and hours of play. There are around 40 different zones in the game, although many are optional. It took me roughly 15 hours or so of play to get to the ending, but past the first 10 hours or so I didn’t really mess about with completing all the challenges and finding all the secrets before moving on. I could easily invest many more hours uncovering every secret and crossing off all the elite challenges.
Despite my love for the game, I do have some criticisms of Victor Vran.
First up is the plot, and just the writing in general. Victor is a “grimdark,” gravely, mysterious-past-having, gritty, brooding, walking cliche of a protagonist. I was rolling my eyes the first time he opened his mouth. His voice sounds like Geralt from The Witcher if he was trying to do an impression of Christian Bale’s Batman.
At the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the “Voice,” the ominous, omniscient narrator of the game who taunts Victor at every turn. He has a penchant for memes, although most of his humor just fell flat for me. There was an obligatory “arrow to the knee” joke, some Gangnam Style references, and even a few jabs at Steam. I’m not sure if they were going for a Thomas Was Alone or The Stanley Parable style humorous narrator, but it really didn’t do it for me.
Thankfully, the plot is pretty minimal, and mostly serves to push Victor into new areas with new challenges and better loot.
A few of the game mechanics were also a bit lacking. There’s just one class in Victor Vran, with no skill trees or anything of that nature. Although there are several different weapon types, all weapons of a given type have the same attack style. This means there’s not a lot of diversity in the combat. It seemed like ranged attacks were very advantageous, so I found myself using the same couple of weapon types throughout the game. This is balanced somewhat through other systems – like challenges, destiny cards, and so forth – which can shake up the gameplay enough to keep it feeling new, but it’s still something that veteran aRPG’ers will likely see as a drawback.
The inventory management is also a thorny. It’s possible to sort the inventory, although the option is well hidden. (With a controller, it was clicking the right stick.) Using the D-pad manually rearranges items, which was somewhat problematic for me since I tend to prefer to use the D-pad on menus to give me a bit better control. It’s also not uncommon to have dozens of bits of gear, and keeping it organized can get moderately painful.
I’d also like to see some way to jump between checkpoints on some of the larger maps. Trying to do challenges or find all the secrets can get time consuming when you have to walk back through previously cleared areas over and over again.
Victor Vran got several meaty patches in the last week of its Early Access run, so it’s possible that by the time you play it, some of these issues will be nonexistent.
Victor Vran takes ideas from big games in its genre, and gives us a fun, creative, and unique variant on the action RPG formula. If you enjoy the staple gameplay elements of aRPGs and are looking for a fresh take, it’s certainly worth the time and money.