Hack ‘n’ Slash Action RPGs have taken a backseat ride for the past few years, but Victor Vran lets you re-discover the simple pleasures all over again. In a post Diablo 3 era, gamers have clamored for a deeper experience with the action RPG genre. Path of Exile, a free to play A-RPG, found much success with Diablo 2 veterans wanting a deeper customization offering. Victor Vran still manages to dangle that carrot on the stick but keeps things fast and fresh as well.
Victor Vran streamlines many aspects of the game design right from the get go. Pick up a weapon, gain those skill sets immediately pertaining to that weapon. No need to mess with skill trees or character points. The game will force feed you into a fairly linear leveling reward tree. Rewards usually include more hit points, treasure chests, weapons etc. This may discourage hardcore players from that feeling of complete freedom of choice. As a totality of gameplay design, this is mostly true, but is offset with a number of interesting features.
In addition to leveling and picking up more powerful weapons, you also have demonic powers and destiny cards to flesh out your skills and stats. With demonic powers, you gain very powerful build up abilities that can be anything in the range of shields, to beams of energy to help with taking out bosses and large crowds of enemies. To release these special abilities you need to fill up your overload bar. Filling up your overload bar depends on the type of armor you are wearing, and can fill up automatically, when you land a critical hit, etc. So keep an eye on all of your items and destiny cards, making sure that they all play off of each other. Maxing your overload bar fill rate is a crucial part in your damage output and overall survivability.
Destiny cards on the other hand will be useful in specializing your character into the style of combat you wish to play. As you level, you gain more and more slots to place destiny cards. Each card has a weighted value depending on the scaling strength of the card. If you are making a fast-attacking rapier wielder, stacking critical chance cards will be fairly important. The card selection is mildly diverse, but don’t expect to be investing a lot of time in card swapping since you have a limited allocation of cards for the majority of the game. Unfortunately, unlike weapon swapping, there is no second bar for another destiny card load out. So while quick swapping of weapons is encouraged, that style of play may be hindered due to your primary destiny card specialization.
The economy of the game is one of the first downsides that I noticed. Selling and buying items/weapons really has no purpose in Victor Vran. Gaining gold in the excess of the hundreds of thousands looks nice, but serves no real purpose. The items you find throughout the course of the story will serve you just fine, and in most cases much better than the vendors of Castle Zagoravia. So what else can you do with the excess of loot that you get? Well, eventually you gain access to a transmutation station, which can upgrade properties of current items, or create entirely new ones. Special runes that you also gain access to will be useful in upgrading your primary and secondary weapons. Unfortunately, the rate at which you gain these runes is insignificant during the main campaign. It seems that runes were added to keep your weapons always relevant, but there simply isn’t enough to play around with. Overall, transmuting items can yield various results. Random properties are given out like a slot machine during my time with the system. There are recipes that can guide you, but it detracts from the experience of keeping the flow of the game fluid and fun.
Fortunately, everything outside the main hub of Zagoravia is what you really come to Action RPGs for. Victor Vran makes you feel in control with a W-A-S-D control scheme. Keeping things as fast as possible every player has the ability to dodge and wall jump around the environment. Utilizing dodges in the heat of battle will become second nature, and increase survivability substantially. Enemy attacks are often choreographed, and failing to recognize these animations or build ups will end in your demise. Wall jumps are more of a novelty in Victor Vran, no matter how cool the feature is. Essentially, the only use for wall jumping is to add a platform element to level design. They may assist in reaching secret areas, shortcuts, and quick escaping in tighter corridors. That’s about it, and most of the time the wall jump mechanic isn’t reliable enough to use when you depend on it.
Combat is slick and flashy, numbers pop up in a clean, elegant way. Critical hits feel nice, and a lot of care went into the weapon skills and attack design. Basic attacks are just as important to your load out as your skills. My only gripe is that there seems to be severe shortage of weapon variety. I understand that balancing weapons in Victor Vran is important for the developers, but my first demand of more content would come directly from the weapon variety department. I found the default difficulty rather easy, so scaling it up was my first priority. Victor Vran offers hex cards that can turned on and off depending how intense you want the enemies to act. Some will enhance enemies, giving them more armor, regeneration of health, speed, etc. to all enemies that you will face. You will be rewarded for playing with these activated, just keep in mind that dungeon challenges might be harder to achieve with a bunch of these turned on.
In every combat zone, there will be a variety of side missions for you to accomplish. Doing so will reward you with chests full of weapons/items, experience and gold. The trickiest challenges I found were the weapon specific kills, and the timed events. A hexed zone can reward you in one way but slow you down just as quickly. Either way, the replay-ability of the dungeons is spot on for cooperative or single play. The dungeons are just the right length for you to do a couple at any one sitting. The layouts are diverse and fun enough for the completionist and speed runner alike. New enemies are often discovered, and the sheer quantity on the screen can really force you to maximize all of your abilities to overcome a tough situation. Playing solo definitely provides a great challenge, especially in the last act and with most hexes activated. If that becomes too challenging, there is always online coop.
When playing your character online, there are no pauses, and the scaling of the enemy difficulty will rise and stack with activated hexes. For the most part there are no issues here, but I found having 2 players was incredibly hard, and having 4 players was incredibly easy. This was with my brief experience during this part of the game, but there may be some room for balancing here. Bosses are the biggest reason for you to group up, and it’s incredibly fun to chain abilities and time your special attacks when it is needed most. There is a PvP arena to test your skills, but it’s difficult to find a match since it’s instanced in a specific location on the map in which both parties need to travel first.
The points of interest in Zagoravia are revealed to you as you advance through the campaign. There are plenty of zones to travel to, many with several dungeons to explore and bosses to fight. All the while, you will vaguely focus on the importance of your place in the story. Victor Vran, the main character, is on a redemption quest, and will stop at nothing to defeat the source of evil. From beginning to end, a special narrator talks to you. It’s unclear of his intentions at first, but he does provide a backbone to the story in a very meaningful way. His voice acting helps push the story along more than any of the other characters and cut-scenes can. The monsters you’ll face are demonic, powerful, and mostly undead. There are plenty of spiders to slay as well, so if that’s your thing, you’re in luck.
Maybe it was timing, or just lack of quality Hack ‘n’ Slash RPGs, but Victor Vran is one of those games of the genre that got me addicted to my mouse clicks again. There’s plenty of value in this demon hunter’s adventure to discover. Whether you play online, or by yourself, this tightly packed action RPG will keep you on your toes the entire way. There’s smart dodge mechanics, and a simplified design philosophy to keep you focused on the things that matter: loot and combat. If you’re looking for a deep-progression system, you may want to look elsewhere. If you’re still on the fence, it might be worth holding out for Victor Vran’s upcoming expansion, Motörhead Through the Ages . The developers are ready to rock things around, literally.