Victor Vran: Technical Review
The game has been available on PC for a while, hitting early access in its original form in 2015 and then moved into full PC release a while later. But now packed out with tons of extra content, levels and an equally over the top title, the Overkill edition which is available on PC as DLC content or the same full game on XboxOne and PS4 which is the version I am covering here, so let’s mix up some potions and whip out our weapons as we go demon slaying.
Bulgarian Haemimont Games have been around for a while making City sims, RPG and even enough time to create their very own engine which has been used to power many of these titles and again here with Victor Vran. This is always a double edged sword as in the one corner you have an engine that you have complete control over, from physics, AI logic, animation, shaders the whole shebang. As the source code is all your own some of the issues that can happen when you do not have a huge amount of experience or budget/team size can be fixed or changed directly which will improve performance. On the other hand, this is a much larger overhead to manage versions, source code and bugs as you have to dedicate a portion of your time and budget to maintain the engine rather than making the game itself and mistakes in a path taken can be very costly. This is why Unity is so common in smaller indie titles, being easier to get the basics of making a game down, without all the cumbersome overhead that can happen with other engines and certainly your own, but it needs slightly more TLC to keep performance high a trade for the base higher abstraction. Not an issue for this team who have the skills to manage both and the results are clear to see.
What's the angle?
A standard isometric angle is used that nicely coincides with the engines default views and artists experience/asset use. The right stick controlling the camera so you can spin around and see the enemies, move out from behind walls. Something that is also taken care of with a nice transparency filter that culls any objects between your character and the camera point or clipping plane, having the option to move though is very welcome and helps to explore your surroundings when looking for secret boxes or sections, something the game is crammed full of.You start the game with a choice of which world you want to dive into, Vran is the main story but it does have another 2 we will cover later. It also adds in a jump mechanic meaning ledges, depth and crumbled walls also take on a new slant for you. It also adds in a combat element stomping down in a jump, something added into the combat as certain attacks can scare off enemies, buying you some time to gather your thoughts.
Each world has its own story that plays out with mix of static but well crafted art for characters with decent voice acting. It also has some stylish graphic novel animation reminiscent of the Witcher 3 that unfolds some of the longer story moments. Pre-rendered sections also crop up at times to introduce boss moments that unlock others parts of the map. These are all linked with a central hub and in the main game this is a kingdom that you have arrived to help remove the onslaught of demons and death it is plagued with, for Lemmy’s world this is a pub…fitting indeed. Exploring the gardens, dungeons and catacombs slaying all that dare step your way is the order of the day, earning extra weapons, powers and skills which can be used to ramp up your damage from attacks, extend health all the standard RPG elements. This includes outfitting yourself from a choice of outfits early on and extra free DLC that can get the catwalk look you are after.
2 Weapons can be equipped at any time and quickly flicked between them with the R1 button, these have a standard move and then 2 separate special moves that have a burn meter. Once used they need to build back up before a repeat, this is a nice combat style and mixing up a ranged weapon and a more powerful melee weapon delivers a smooth and satisfying combat system as you string them in combos, rolling out of the way when attack is depleted. Throw in the magic powers and you can rain down the pain on the undead army like a true hunter. The range of enemies is vast in number and variety, you get spiders, skeletons, lumbering hammer thugs, floating ghouls, devil dogs, and many more that can fill the screen at time. Few are fast but the sheer number of them can be overpowering at times. Later on they get much tougher and the need to increase your power and weapons becomes the biggest key to survive the constant onslaught.
Exploration is key, extra side tombs can be tackled with each area having a group of in-game challenges that you can tackle with the game itself. Once done a flag marking your epic heroics is your reward and the more important coin, to spend on whatever trinkets you deem fitting. This is the path of events and even in single lone player this is a ton of fun, but its Diablo aims are even clearer with up to 4 player online co-op allowing you to tackle the demonic world with friends or strangers. This is where the game takes on a new life and can be very enjoyable as you clear out the zones in unison.
Another nice touch is the instant gratification the game has, earning skills, power’s and weapons early on means you do not have to grind your way to become good enough to tackle the bigger enemies, instead you pick an outfit and then pick and choose as you go. The Demon powers, destiny cards can be used to customise and strengthen your avatar as you play rather than locking you into a pre-fixed class at the start, I am a big fan of this. The story is decent but falls well within your standard kingdom under fire category, not hiding its Van Helsing inspiration at all. No shocking revelations, just enough character disposition to keep the game moving with a more tongue in-cheek Motorhead narrative to back up the 3 worlds to choice from.
Sounds & Visuals
The voice work is solid and much unfolds in Bladerunner like self-narration or even voices from above mocking you, teasing you and guiding you along. This is accompanied by a nonintrusive soundtrack that rumbles in the background, or a rock riff from songs you may recognise depending on the story you are partaking in. Sound effects are decent with the mixture of Dialogue and effects allowing them to fade into the background so this is always clear. Deep thuds from gun shots, magical powers or demon arrivals carry presence using spatial mixing with your sound system or earphones of choice. It never stands out as a high point of the title but does not let it down either which is the most appropriate praise I can levy at it.
Visually it is a clean and well crafted game, the sheer number of enemies on-screen and effects is very impressive at times. Filling the screen with explosions, particles and hit markers informing you of your sheer awesomeness. Texture quality is of a high standard and even under close inspection it holds up well with great filtering on all floors and walls. The 1080P display here on PS4 is crisp at all times and the artwork never suffers with shimmer or edges at all, the engine is most likely Forward rendering based with a decent MSAA solution running across all edges, this is helped further with minimal shader specular leaving strong IQ across all sections including texture work. The animated narratives sections also benefit from the sharp image quality the game offers. The XboxOne version does sacrifice this slightly to 900p (UPDATE:- Have been informed that XboxOne also runs Dynamic resolution from 1920x1080 >1600x900 but will try to confirm with a copy or Developer directly) and the PS4pro pushes this beyond both with a dynamic solution in place scaling the resolution from a high native 2880x1620 down to a most likely low of 1920x1080 but counts only seemed to dip as low as 2560x1440, adding extra sharpness that is really appreciated on 4K tv’s. Aside this good use of the extra GPU the games visuals are the same on both Playstation versions.
Screen space effects are used to enhance the quality further from SSAO adding contact shadows across the games surfaces, cubemaps are used to give metallic surfaces a nice shine from the light source area or colour. Some direction lights are used at times to cast shadows from nearby scenery or characters, which are of a high quality, these can error at times though with them turning on or off within the view culling area meaning shadows can appear and disappear along with them. But this is a minor bug and only noticed in small isolated sections. Destruction plays it parts with sections being weak to your attacks, opening up extra gifts, sections or just for the games challenges. Other post effects include a Guassian DoF blur on distant views or when in in the narrative sections. The biggest effects work through comes from the magic attacks, explosions, and enemies in the game.
Alpha transparency from bomb dropping planes, demonic Harry potter like screen warping spectres, to huge snaggletooth machines that fill the screen with fire and brimstone it never lets up on the pyrotechnics and with a vast array of spells, bombs and attacks it deliveries on that level in spades. This also never hampers the games performance to any meaningful degree. From many hours of play the examples you can see are representative of its level of performance. 60fps is the target and it hits is 99% of the time with only very small dips of no more than an extra refresh into the 33ms giving us an all-time low of 56fps, which is another commendable level and shows the teams engine is both impressive and performant along with it being fully adapted to support both console API’s in addition to is PC origins, a tough lessoned they learned from Tropica 5.
They also intelligently alternate the animation, physics, alpha effects etc at times when it becomes very stressed which you may sometimes notices for a second or so as objects, explosions and the camera movement can update in-turn at 33ms intervals. This is not that uncommon in engines with many titles using this from animation ranges and even in the same mixed method here, Frostbite for example also has this option as I have covered before. It stops the game from dropping complete frames and keeps the response rate and refresh as high as possible at the slight cost of animation judder, also only on rare occurrences. Online is as stable as the single player sections with no problems finding games or joining lobbies, I even tested dual PS4’s with capture showing the same game from 2 connections. It is as smooth and solid in SP or MP action, which will be where many will spend the time completing the single player or games other challenge modes.
SummaryAs a new twist on the Action RPG from the likes of The Witcher 3, Dark souls or even the seminal Diablo it fits into and holds up well. Much easier on the player from the start, but with a linear difficulty that ramps up the further you delve into the game. Be this the standard Victor world or the DLC/Overkill editions Motorhead, with Lemmy as a rock god saviour that does not take itself too seriously and the Fractured world, all are varied in design to explore and your character traits, skills and powers are all transferable between worlds with dual play also possible. It does not offer anything brand new over others in the genre, but it is a very competent title in all areas from visuals, story, acting, options and performance. If you are looking for a new story to unfold and demons to slay then you could do far worse than give the game a try. For the base game £15.99 or $20 asking price it packs in a huge amount of content and around 20 hours of story action and many more online co-op ones, DLC or the full pack review here is $40 or £31 pounds, it could really bite into your time.