11/09/2018

⚔️๐Ÿ’€ Review: Victor Vran - Overkill Edition (Switch) "A crunchy, satisfying hack and slash action RPG" ๐Ÿ’€⚔️ #GameDev #IndieGame #RPG

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"A crunchy, satisfying hack and slash action RPG with enough personality to sate a group of friends looking for some fantasy tomfoolery ahead of Diablo 3’s upcoming launch.  Definitely one for fans of the genre."
Victor Vran: Overkill Edition review by Neil Merrett (Nintendo Switch)


There is a lot in Victor Vran: Overkill Edition that gamers will have seen before.

A gruff, deep voiced protagonist, fighting his inner demons to bring justice to a demon infested land - check

Hordes of undead enemies, creepy crawlies and skeletons (albeit it ones with enchanted urban dance powers) that set upon the player in an often impressive number – check

A chance to fight and purchase new weapons and even clothing such as a jaunty battle sombrero - check

All this is merged into a top down hack and slash scroller with action RPG elements that is very much in keeping with games like Diablo 3 - itself a few months away from its own release on the Switch.
Yet to the credit of Haemimont Games, an independent development studio from Bulgaria that first released Victor Vran on PC back in 2015, combat in the game is frantic, sometimes strategic and often satisfying, especially when you chance upon your preferred set of dual wielded weapons.  Shotgun, or scythe, magic or hammers, the choice of weapon types is relatively limited, but well realised.

This is probably a good thing as there is a lot of combat, along with some vital inventory management needed to forge new weapons with ludicrous supernatural abilities.  
Things start simple enough.  The top down adventure begins with the character given a simple sword and a limited set of abilities to fight spiders.  This quickly expands to a growing number of combat options such as forward roles and evasive manoeuvres, along with healing and attack potions.
Additional levelling can lead to the ability to dual wield two powerful weapons such as magic, firearms, scythes and battle hammers.  
After about an hour in, there is a pleasing amount of additional complexity in how you begin to shape your character and attempt to control crowds of a pleasing variety of creatures.
By the time that the player is being awarded amusingly named and randomly generated special weapons, such as the brutal hammer of outrageous luck, there is a satisfying crunch to the choice of weapons they choose and a satisfaction to perfectly timing a special move to flatten a horde of enemies.
Experimentation with different types of weapons is actively encouraged and has a legitimate impact on how the game is played, well as much as it can when the aim is always to slay hordes of baddies.  Many will know this type of game, and whether it is for them.
Victor Vran’s appeal is bolstered by online and local multiplayer options, where teams of up to four players can team up, albeit it as the same character.  Thankfully in-game costume changes and dies can be found and won through special tasks to create a different aesthetic for each player.


The multiplayer also allows players to go off individually and seek different quests before reteaming for a major battle or mission.  Mission objectives are limited to players in range however.
These foundations of the gameplay are very much the selling point of the title, which has a somewhat competent but unspectacular graphical style that reflects a mix of environments.  These include somewhat atmospheric outdoor locales such as swamps and war-torn battlefields, to some fairly bland and generic dungeons.
This design style is perhaps forgivable concerning the number of enemies that can set upon the player at a single time, reflecting the combat heavy approach of the game.  A relatively simple story also underpins the game, which focuses on redemption and a wounded hero that offers very thin set up to allow the player to get straight into battle.
There are the usual busty monarchs and merchants one would expect in such a game.
An amusingly acted voiceover does provide a form of disembodied antagonistic commentary on the player’s progress to add some colour to the generic dark, brooding demon hunter’s plot, even if this is mostly poking fun at the player’s fashion choices.
The sensibilities of the game are definitely retro, but not in the traditional sense of the word that we have come to associate with modern titles that ape the 2D graphical styles of 8-bit and 16-bit games.  This is all about challenge and overcoming specific time and mission objectives, with some quests aping the raid model seen in games such as destiny.  
An in-game chatroom allows players to easily team up and share treasure maps and other objectives for the chance of getting new, more powerful loot.
Victor Vran: Overkill Edition is a relatively large trial by combat, with each of the numerous different game areas able to be replayed to conquer around a half dozen missions and player challenges  These offer the opportunity for rarer weapons and abilities to be won by destroying enemies or lairs under special circumstances.
Optional hexes can be toggled on or off at any time to up the risk and reward of specific levels or bosses by imbuing enemies with recharging health, tougher armour, or quicker attacks and will give some replayability to completionists.  
The inclusion of a satisfying wall jump mechanic also rewards exploration of levels to uncover additional secrets even after the battlefield has been cleared of wrongdoers.
A well realised tarot card system also acts as a form of character upgrade system whereby different cards can be shuffled around in an upgradable deck to customise special abilities, buffs and defence moves.
It nicely refines the seemingly simple hack and slash nature of the game to allow for a customised challenge to suit different levels of experience in a team.
At around £35, the cost may be prohibitive for some with Diablo 3 a few months away. 
But the game is a hoot on multiplayer, with lobbies allowing up to four strangers or friends to come together and set up raiding parties to team up.  It would definitely be a recommended multiplayer experience for Switch owners at around £20 to £25 and a fairly solid recommendation for action RPG lovers at full price.

For this price, there is plenty of content, albeit it of the hack and slash action variety, offering solid hours of sometimes samey but fun combat, inventory management and searching for treasures and hidden bosses to get more flamboyant costumes.
Victor Vran on the Switch also includes some surreal, but fairly solid additional game modes that function almost as mods of the main campaign. Notable is one mode where the player can transfer their progress from the main game to battle hellish armies on the battlefields of World War 2 with the support of metal band Motรถrhead. This also adds some new enemy and weapon types along with the heavy metal soundtrack.
Borrowing cues from the main game, the player can win challenges to essentially kit themselves out as members of the band complete with fiery angel wings and battle guitars.  The extra content feels amusingly idiosyncratic and a reflection of what could been done with the generic story of the main game.
Combining elements of camp World War 2 sitcom Allo Allo, Wolfenstein it is a somewhat heartfelt tribute to a major name in Heavy Metal music, not least the band’s iconic frontman, the late Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister, and his endearingly cynical, existential view of history, humanity and music.
The obscurity of the license is given a genuine oddness by the game’s narrator not being a mortal vampiric enemy, but Lloyd Kaufman, the eccentric head of influential shlock jockeys and subversive film legends Troma films.

Summary
You will, by now, probably be pretty sure or not if this is the game for you and as Diablo 3’s recent announcement shows, there is a clear audience on the Switch for long-form hack and slash-ery.  
For puritans of the action RPG genre, Diablo 3 is that long awaited trip to a high-end exclusive eatery with a long standing reputation.  
Victor Vran is that dive bar down the road that offers easy and instant gratification - steaks, beer, bourbon and very loud music to overindulge in.
Lemmy would probably approve.
If the price is right, there is definitely room in your life for both experiences, especially if smashing up demons and devils is your thing.

๐Ÿ’ง❄️ RATING: MELTING ❄️๐Ÿ’ง
Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

Neil Merrett is the co-founder of the sometimes pretentious gaming site www.squareblind.co.uk