A hack-and-slash dungeon crawler set in a steampunk-era European setting, sign me up.
Typically speaking, if you begin the description of a game and include the word steampunk, I’m gonna play it. Follow that up with additional descriptors like dungeon crawler, RPG, demon hunting and a badass hero and you might as well take my wallet right now. Victor Vran is all of these things and more. Between an interesting story with some great voice acting, mixed in with some fun enemy-shredding combat and basically the hardest battle becomes me trying to turn convince myself to stop playing when it's time to go to bed.
The city of Zagoravia is on the brink of collapse. Demons have driven the few remaining survivors into a final stand at the castle keep. It’s been a year since Katrina, the Queen of Zagoravia, summoned members of the Hunters Guild for help, but those who heeded the call have not been heard from again. Among the missing is Adrian, a close friend of the protagonist you’ll play as: Victor Vran. Having received a mysterious message via a raven from Adrian, Victor heads into Zagoravia in search of his friend. Over about 10 or so hours, a wonderfully voice-acted and engaging, if not a little cliched, story will take place. The two voices you’ll hear the most, Victor and a mysterious stranger, are perfectly cast and a joy to listen to.
Gameplay is done in arena-type areas throughout the city, ranging from the Royal Gardens to skeleton-infested crypts. With no shortage of enemies to shoot, bash, or maim, the goal of each level is made clear and its placement shown on the map. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting from point A to B alive, other times you’ll need to take down a big bad before moving on. Victor Vran differs from other action hack-and-slash dungeon crawlers in that it doesn’t require that you choose a style of play upfront. The choice of whether to pound a demon into oblivion with a large hammer, or to fry it from afar with a lightning gun can be done on the fly. The style of play you choose is dictated by the weapon that is equipped, and in many cases changing up the way you battle is encouraged based on enemy placement.
After hitting a certain level, Victor earns the ability to equip two weapons and this will allow you to smoothly flow between a ranged sniper and melee fighter with a simple click of a button. The breadth of freedom is really quite refreshing, to be able to adjust on the fly based on the environment or the enemy allows for a smooth flow of destruction. If that wasn’t enough, Victor is able to fill an overdrive meter to pull of some incredible demon powers. These can range from damage buffs, to temporary armor, or to my personal favorite, a room-clearing solar blast from Victor’s hand.
Having access to devastating weapons that charge up even more powerful demon attacks would be a waste if the enemy placement hasn’t been optimized. Luckily for carnage-loving folks like myself, ample opportunity is given to shred through dozens of enemies at a time. One battle in particular comes to mind. My task of killing a demon spider led me to its den, and it’s here that I really got to let loose, killing what felt like a couple hundred spiders by the end of the battle. It would have been nice if the camera was a little closer to the battleground so that I could better see the destruction I brought upon the hive, but I still got to enjoy smearing spider guts around the room. By the end of the game, I had amassed so much equipment and gained so many demon powers that I felt like an invincible god raining down unstoppable judgment on the wicked, and it was a good feeling.
Though the 10-hour campaign may seem short, a mixture of challenges and additional content can keep you engaged for hours to come. Each arena has a unique set of challenges to complete. They can range from defeating a number of mini-bosses, finding hidden chests, or completing the level after activating a hex which will impede your ability in a number of different ways. A second mode in which you play as a member from the band Motörhead is included in the Switch Overkill Edition. It’s as wonderfully ridiculous as it sounds, giving you more ways to tear through enemies, including attacking demons with your guitar.
The release date for Victor Vran seems perfectly timed with the announcement of Diablo coming to Switch. Blizzard fans have a terrific opportunity to get accustomed to the style of play on the Switch and will have a fun title to play heading into the fall. For the rest of us, Victor Vran is a terrific option to dip your toes into the genre. The wide range of combat options and the openness that is maintained throughout makes it accessible to a wider range of audience. If you enjoy overpowering dozens of enemies with wanton acts of destruction, you’ll have a hell of a good time with Victor Vran.