Have you ever thought to yourself, “I just can’t get enough of Geralt of Rivia’s voice and its gravely goodness, and wish his voice actor would narrate another adventure?” How about, “I wish I could play a Diablo-like where the player character has a voice in his head that teases and annoys him for most of the adventure?” If that’s the case for you, then you’ll get a lot of isometric RPG goodness in Victor Vran.
Victor Vran, the titular character of the game, is a demon hunter that secretly made a pact with a demon in order to wield demonic powers (and enable fun game mechanics). Everything is going well until he receives a letter from an old friend telling him to go to Zagoravia, a country completely overrun by demons due to a tremendous invasion the prior year. The mystery of what Adrian, Vran’s friend, found and the tale of the demonic overtaking of Zagoravia consists of almost the entire plot of the game, and while it may not be the most new and exciting thing ever, it certainly does its job well enough. The real meat of this game lie in its game mechanics, with the story being just enough to give the characters motivation and perhaps give excuse for a disembodied voice to toss out a few glib remarks from pop culture.
Victor Vran is an action RPG that doesn’t exactly have a class system, instead allowing the players to customize the character to find what works and what does not. Players can equip Vran with two different weapons to switch between on the fly, ranging from swords, hammers and shotguns to scythes and even lightning guns. Different outfits yield different bonuses which can influence how you tackle certain challenges, such as one outfit filling your special attack meter on attack while another fills the meter slowly but automatically, though it removes the ability to gain meter by attacking. Destiny cards function like the accessories or talismans from other RPGs, since they can give various buffs that may also alter how you play significantly as well.
Players have access to an overdrive meter, which when full allows Vran to take full advantage of his demonic powers. Players can only have one equipped at a time and they each have a variety of benefits- the one you begin with will drop fireballs on enemies and deal severe damage to them, while other powers may create a damaging shockwave, heal Victor, shoot a large laser beam (the Kamehameha I was waiting for), and more. On top of this, each weapon has three skills they can each perform, typically containing a basic attack, heavy damage attack and an area-of-effect attack, and even more than that some weapons have bonuses for timing attacks, like the shotgun, which increases damage as well.
With all of this in mind, one nice thing to note is that players don’t have to sit down and studiously sweat over every choice they make at level up unlike other isometric ARPGs. Leveling up provides you with bonuses for your character but are things like getting a new weapon, Destiny card or random treasure with loot equivalent to the level you’ve gained- no sweating over skill points, here. Don’t take this to say that Victor Vran is a shallow game by any means, however, as there is a surprisingly high variety of ways to build the character as you progress through the game, from low damage but nigh invulnerable scythe builds that steal health with every swing to builds that do nothing but focus on critical hit chance plus cards that cast highly damaging spells on crits. Being able to effectively swap from one build to another, though, without fear of punishment or spending all of your earned gold on a respec is actually quite nice and encourages player experimentation rather than stringent min-maxing.
The variety of control schemes included is quite the boon, since you can play with mouse only, mouse and keyboard or simply with a controller. A similar nice design choice is that Vran is extremely maneuverable, having the ability to jump whenever you want (this sounds like it isn’t a big deal but it is, indeed, a rarity when leaping isn’t just done via contextual sequences) or wall jump to find hidden loot. With that being said, this mobility can also come in handy in allowing players to dodge enemy projectile attacks while still maintaining an offensive presence. On top of these, Victor Vran offers bonus challenges in each area players visit, with successful completion of the aforementioned challenges awarding gold, items or even experience. Most challenges fall along the lines of, “Kill X enemies” or something along those lines, but the added rewards are typically worth the effort when you were probably going to slaughter that many of the area’s enemies anyway.
A staple of isometric ARPGs is the ability to connect to other players for cooperative play, and Victor Vran doesn’t ignore this much-needed feature. Up to four players can combine their efforts to rout demons and accomplish challenges in Zagoravia while those more competitive may partake of the PvP arena and fight to determine who’s the best demon hunter. Playing with friends is quite entertaining and there’s always enough loot to go around.
Game mechanics finally aside, the dark Gothic aesthetic of Victor Vran is a common motif in this genre but it does look quite good in this game thanks in no small part to the great use of lighting effects and well designed landscapes. The soundtrack is pretty remarkable as well, maintaining that dark and Gothic feel of the visuals without sounding horribly generic. Victor Vran may not have the most memorable soundtrack around, but its audio is definitely head and shoulders above competing games since the visuals, sound effects and soundtrack mesh extremely well into a cohesive package that doesn’t seem tired despite it being extremely common in the genre.
Of course, movie quotes and references can go a long way with some players and Victor Vran does this better than most since the character making most of these references isn’t trying to be deadpan at every other moment. The disembodied Voice that harasses Vran throughout the game as well as skeletons that attack you while performing the Gangnam style dance don’t seem particularly out of place, mostly because it all openly annoys the main character and comes off as classic comic relief.
Overall: Victor Vran is a great title for those who love Diablo. It can be a little on the short side, especially for those who just want to beat the game and be done with it, but while it may not take 200+ hours to reach the endgame, Victor Vran does more than make up for it with a wealth of unique gameplay elements that are typically not seen in the genre. This $20 game will not last as long for those who are still addicted to Diablo II or III, but everyone else who can appreciate an action RPG that plays differently enough from others in its genre, on top of looking and sounding great, can find a lot to love in Victor Vran. Anyone who is even remotely enjoys this genre would most likely be doing themselves a favor by looking into Victor Vran.