The wait for Vampyr may have been pushed into next year, but it’s allowed Dontnod to ensure they capitalize on their past experiences and explore a new kind of video game vampire.
Originally planned for release in October of 2017, Dontnod delayed their newest project into spring of 2018 to ensure the game could be polished and made into the best experience possible. And for good reason: In addition to being a new I.P., Vampyr represents a realization of their experience gained from both the Life is Strange series and Remember Me.
“In a way, we can consider that Vampyr is the child of Dontnod's first two projects: We return to a game mechanic based on fighting and confrontation, as in Remember Me, and at the same time we return to the mechanics of the choices and consequences freely left to the players, as in Life is Strange,” says game director Philippe Moreau.
Following the acclaim Life is Strange received for its narrative, the team has strived to offer an equally engaging tale through their new title. To this end, they settled on an exploration of vampirism and the moral ambiguity surrounding its lore.
“Vampires, in videogames, are most often depicted as enemies. Maybe because they are vicious and deceitful creatures, and it can be hard to play a vampire as the ‘hero,’” says narrative director Stéphane Beauverger. “That was one of the main reasons why we wanted to explore that classic monster: to make the players understand that Jonathan may be the main protagonist of Vampyr, but he is far from being a hero in the usual meaning of the word.”
Playing as the Victorian-era doctor-turned-vampire Jonathan Reid, players encounter a variety of characters throughout the world with their own motivations and goals. As a vampire turned against his will and trying to hold onto his humanity, Jonathan must choose carefully who he feeds on, when, or at all, leaving the player to decide who will or won’t become a target. While choosing not to feed allows Jonathan to keep his cover and abide by his moral code, feeding allows him to utilize his vampiric powers more effectively in combat. Though there isn’t a set morality system in place, choices do carry consequences and aim to make the player think on their decision process.
“Vampyr tends to incite the player to think about his own choices and own morality,” Beauverger says. “Why spare this character but kill this one? Is it because he was not nice to you? Is it because you don’t like his attitude? Does someone who does not share your point of view deserve to die? Just who is the monster, then?”
The game carries heavy inspiration from films and literature related to these topics and themes, ranging from the iconic style of F.W. Mornau’s Nosferatu to the introspective look at the creatures through Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. At the same time, dark and abstract takes on London helped the game’s artists shape the world and its characters.
“I have always loved the haunting figures in some of Phil Hale’s paintings,” says art director Grégory Szucs. “Sculpted, chiseled and bleakly lit with a cold, stroby light. Even the framing can be suffocating at times.”
While the choice to put off the game’s release was a difficult one, the team believes it was the right call and that Vampyr will live up to expectations as a result.
“After the critical acclaim of Life is Strange, there are a lot of expectations,” Moreau says. “People are waiting for us to deliver some very strong storylines, because it’s in Dontnod’s DNA. So, of course this a big challenge for us, but people believe in us and we are confident.”
Players can make their way through the grey and twisted world of Vampyr when it hits PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC next year. For more on the game, check out the latest trailer from this year's E3.