Xbox One has several Diablo-style games. But until now, none could top Diablo III. Victor Vran from Finnish developer Haemimont Games and THQ Nordic might just be better than the game that inspired it, with sharp combat, platforming, a streamlined loot system, and a wry sense of humor. And for some reason, it features a DLC expansion based on the metal band Mötorhead.
Introducing Victor Vran
The game begins with the titular protagonist, a demon hunter named Victor Vran, arriving in the troubled realm of Zagarovia. He has been following the trail of Adrian, a fellow hunter and friend who disappeared recently. There, Victor finds the area besieged by hordes of monsters and demons. Victor only plans to stay until he finds Adrian's trail, but soon he becomes embroiled in the conflict at large.
Victor Vran's cinematics largely come to life via mildly animated hand-drawn cinematics, so it can't quite compete with Diablo III from a presentation standpoint. But this game has something Diablo doesn't: Doug Cockle, the English voice of Geralt of Rivia in all three Witcher games! It's odd hearing Geralt's voice coming from another monster hunter, but Cockle really has a fantastic voice for this sort of character.
Geralt, I mean Victor, has also made a pact with a demon that grants him demonic powers. This also has the side effect of allowing a demonic voice (Andrew Wincott), to tag along on our hero's adventures. The Voice gives advice and makes light of dangerous situations. I've laughed several times at his jokes, which offer a pleasant contrast to the self-seriousness of the Diablo games.
Victor Vran is an isometric-view action-RPG in the style of Diablo III and Vikings: Wolves of Midgard. Visually, it doesn't display as much detail as either of those games. But it does run at 1080p at 60 frames per second, dynamically scaling to 900 when the action gets hectic. Thus the game always runs buttery smooth, even when the screen becomes overcrowded with enemies. Screen tearing occasionally rears its ugly head, but not often enough to be an issue.
As for the combat, it differs quite a bit from Diablo – starting with the streamlined class system. You only play as Victor here. His class is determined by the outfit he wears. Different outfits provide unique bonuses and affect the way Victor gains Overdrive, the meter used for performing Demonic Powers. After completing the tutorial area, players will get their choice of four outfits. As Victor levels up, they'll be able to choose from more.
Leveling up doesn't grant skill points like in a traditional Diablo game. Instead, Victor gains varous bonuses for each new level, such as increased health or additional item slots. The player also gets a choice of three reward items, which can consist of weapons, outfits, consumables, and more. Enemies don't scale with Victor, but leveling up also doesn't make as much of a difference as genre fans might expect.
Instead, equipment is the major source of progression. Victor Vran offers numerous styles of weaponry, including the typical melee implements but also shotguns, lightning guns, and spell books. Unlike other Diablo-likes, our hero has no persistent abilities or attacks. His primary three attacks/abilities change with the weapon he wields. He can even switch back and forth between two weapons at will, each with its own hot-bar of attacks.
This really streamlines things since you don't need to worry about spending points on this or that attack. However, you will do a fair amount of switching weapons to suit the areas you visit. Players can sort items by numerous factors, but having to stop and figure out which ones to equip or sell bogs things down slightly – especially in multiplayer.
Victor can equip two Demon powers, special moves that rely on the Overdrive meter that fills during combat (and, annoyingly, depletes outside of it). He also gets to equip Destiny Cards that offer numerous beneficial effects. That's the extent of Victor Vran's equipment system – no armor or gem slots here.
Platforming and healing
The element that really makes Victor Vran's gameplay unique is the ability to jump. In fact, Victor can wall jump and even use mortar weapons to rocket jump in order to reach new heights. The platforming and verticality elements keep the game feeling more dynamic and the level design more interesting than typical Diablo-style games.
The one gameplay element that I find troublesome is healing. Victor can equip weapons and cards with vampirism, an effect that drains enemy health. But in my experience, the level of health refilled seldom keeps pace with damage dealt by enemies.
Naturally, you can use potions to heal a sizable amount of health at once. However, these have a lengthy cooldown timer, much like in Diablo. The big difference is enemies don't drop health. As a result, it can be annoyingly tough at times to maintain your health. There's no big penalty for dying, unless you're an Achievement hunter and/or playing on Hardcore mode. Still, I find myself at the mercy of the potion timer too often for comfort.
Victor Vran supports 2-player local co-op and 4-player online co-op, as well as a PvP mode. Local co-op has some limitations, though. A local team can't join or host online games – unlike Diablo III.
Worse, the second player must create and use a save file on the primary player's profile. This means you can't start as a second player and graduate to playing on your own profile down the line, nor can the second player earn Achievements. Some local co-op is better than none, but the implementation here leaves much to be desired.
Thankfully, online co-op fares much better. Playing with 2-4 online players is a great time. Unless you set your game to private, your friends can always join in no matter where you are. Victor Vran even allows players to occupy completely different areas than their teammates. You're never automatically dragged along to a new area, although you can choose to warp to other players.
The freedom to be in different areas from each other is highly unusual for console games, and I like it. The one downside: if you've unlocked an area that your teammate hasn't, that player won't be able to enter the area even if you go in. So co-op games tend to consist of getting the player who hasn't gotten as far up to speed.
Players can't revive each other, although certain Demon Powers provide group heals. More strangely, there's no way to trade or drop items for another player. Everyone finds plenty of loot on their own, but I wish we could share choice items with each other like in Diablo III and many other multiplayer RPGs.
Downloadable content and Overkill Edition
Victor Vran comes in two editions to match the Steam version: regular and Overkill Edition. The regular game sells for $19.99 and offers a solid campaign with 20+ hours of gameplay. The Overkill Edition costs $39.99 and bundles two expansions DLCs that retail for $11.99 each – a $4 savings over buying them separately.
Both expansions introduce their own world (campaign), selectable from the main menu. Character progress and inventory carries over between worlds. Each expansion adds a unique hub area, story, and quests. The Fractured Worlds DLC increases the level cap from 50 to 60 and offers four dungeons that you'll need to revisit multiple times. These dungeons are randomly generated and change every day, and one of them is endless, to boot. Fractured Worlds is good for long-term content, but it's the more forgettable of the two expansions.
The more interesting DLC is Motörhead Through the Ages. This one teams Victor up with Lemmy from British heavy metal band Motörhead (who doesn't speak) and Llyod Kaufman of Troma (who unfortunately does) in a battle against a Hitler-like Fuehrer and his army of machines and demons. Progressing through the expansion's goofy story, you'll unlock drawings made by Lemmy, album covers, photos of the band members, and more. Oh yeah, and the soundtrack consists of instrumental metal songs and actual Motörhead songs with lyrics. Even if you don't care about Motörhead (I don't!), Through the Ages is so different and wacky that it becomes a must-have add-on.
The Xbox One version of Victor Vran offers a colossal 90 Achievements worth a total of 1,500 Gamerscore. Of these, 50 Achievements and 1,000 Gamerscore come with the base game. The most challenging ones involve completing the game and expansions on Hardcore mode and Hard difficulty, and one for beating the game without dying. Since you don't control when the game saves, the no-death Achievements will likely be frustrating.
To Overkill or not to Overkill?
Diablo-style games aren't all that rare, but the best ones are worth appreciating. Victor Vran is such a game. The slightly uninspiring name belies a huge action-RPG with great combat, clever platforming, and a welcome sense of humor. These games are usually great for zoning out and relaxing while you play, but Victor Vran's depth and wealth of challenges provide a greater level of engagement if you want it.
Should you grab the base game by itself or go with the Overkill Edition? If you like devoting lots of time to a game and doing everything there is to do, the Overkill Edition is the way to go. The expansions add lots of content that makes a big game that much bigger. But if you'd rather spend less or commit less time, the base game is still a good buy. You can always grab the expansions down the line.
- Great action and even platforming in a Diablo-style action-RPG.
- Challenges for every level add ample replay value and satisfying difficulty.
- Dynamic 1080p resolution and 60 FPS frame rate create a silky smooth experience.
- Game stutters, freezes, and then crashes at random intervals.
- Healing system leads to unfair deaths at times.
- Local multiplayer doesn't allow the second player to use his or her own profile or join in online games.
Xbox One review copy provided by the publisher.
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