A driving conception is one of the most important and defining aspect of any game released. Some developers set out to tell a particular story. Yoko Taro is well known for this, with his cult titles like Drakengard or the more popular NieR games praised for their unique storytelling. Others look to create or define a genre, as seen when PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds helped to launch the Battle Royale craze. With Victor Vran Overkill Edition, I truly believe that the developers had a unique concept — to make a game that feels and plays like a campaign of pen and paper RPG Dungeons and Dragons.
A dungeon crawler, Victor Vran Overkill Edition instantly takes me back to a few weeks ago. When I reviewed Titan Quest, I felt that it stood out on Switch as a seemingly lonely member of a niche genre. My time with that game has become even more fleeting. While Titan Quest failed to impress me, Victor Vran has colored me intrigued.
The game gets bonus points for being rather streamlined and simple. Instead of building up through World of Warcraft-like levels of skill trees seen in Titan Quest, your character is built up through his equipment, something more akin to Monster Hunter. Armors and weapons give different attacks, buffs, and powers. There are several types of weapons that only have three attacks: one basic swing and two powers on cooldown. Swords, hammers, shotguns, and tomes make up just a few of the choices, with each bringing different advantages. Each armament not only feels like a viable option, but having the mix of a few of them can make progression that much sweeter.
With quite a few on display, powers are equipped from drops rather than earned upon level ups. From summoning a movable inferno to a damage sponge or healing aura, powers vary differently. However, in combat they almost feel secondary, as to use them you’ll need to build up a charge by attacking with your weapons. Some powers are also situational that does limit their overall viability. Overall, powers end up being more of an extra bonus, and are never harmful to have on standby.
Adding to the list of items you can equip are destiny cards, which really give you the power to customize your character. Similar to a tarot deck, the cards have names like “strength” or “beast”, and they bolster your stats or add new abilities. Some cards, for example, might grant extra critical damage, while others cause an explosive force when you take or deal damage. Being able to equip and remove the cards very easily allows you to build and test them on the fly. For a brute tank like myself, I found a combination of a critical hit healing and critical chance increase to help me survive longer than I probably should with my barbaric playstyle.
All these items result in a strong sense of power growth. Not only will you start collecting weapons with new effects, but their damages are also randomized. Your charged powers also have multiple levels, with unique lengths of effect and damage outputs. Destiny cards have point values you’re are limited to, but I never found myself too worried about them as the amount you can equip is the more restrictive limitation. The cards have an added chance to shake things up more with special cards that grant additional bonuses. Overall, the loot game in Victor Vran is on point, and you have a sizable inventory to boot, making every pick up valuable.
There’s plenty of inventory management, though, and this is one major complaint I have with the game. The menu systems can be a nightmare to navigate and work through. The joystick moves you around through your items, but to switch between the shop owner and your stashes, you have to move it in the spaces of your equipped screen in the center, feeling very clunky. You also need to be careful not to use the D-pad buttons, as these re-organize the items among your inventory. Moving items between pages requires a back and forth transfer with active and storage inventories. This isn’t something you can ignore, as you will need to ensure you have the best weapons equipped, the best powers in place, and the strongest destiny cards empowering you.
While the act of cleaning up your inventory can be stressful, the payoff is well worth it. Prices are pretty fair as you sell things, allowing you to build up a nice cache of coins to buy potions, or new gear from the shops. The unlocked ability to transmogrify your weapons is where the struggles really reap dividends. By burning away multiple rare or greater items, or sacrificing weapon specific powers and cards, you can upgrade damage or boost the abilities of your weapons. This means that if you find a good weapon, you can build it up to be more powerful. The growth is slow, but it makes your loot hold value rather than just pawning them off.
So, earlier I stated Victor Vran Overkill Edition made me feel like I was playing a game of D&D. “How so?”, I hear you ask. Well, dear reader, it’s in the story that the idea is encapsulated wholeheartedly. You play as the title character Victor Vran, a hunter with a dark past who’s visiting the demon overrun lands of Zagoravia to find his friend. As with all games, he ends up being the one to help tip the scales, and solve the problems of the land. As a character, he can be very one-note, but this consistency gives him a strong sense of individuality, just like a player character in a game of D&D would.
Much to Victor’s curse is a strange voice that eggs him on, or taunts him. This unknown speaker is the juxtaposed comical highlight that goes heavy-handed into grim and bleak settings. Making references to other games, media, and even memes, he feels like he exists in a spot outside the game universe. To me, the voice acts like a dungeon master in D&D. Adding in pop culture that has no place in the lore of the world, his remarks are meant to both distract and entertain the player.
The other characters all feel like your true D&D NPCs, fixated to plot specific spots, only really talking to you when they have an exposition to give. They’re very well written, and even the weakest of them are still engaging and interesting. Voice acting helps breathe extra life into them, with the Queen being the strongest of them all. The few remaining hunters in the land are also shining highlights of the character design.
Speaking on the subject, I feel the game doesn’t do enough with the graphics and models. The world is built competently, with a strong aesthetic and a cohesive feel, but it does little to step up or impress. The enemy designs start to repeat, with the same undead, spiders, and elementals all appearing time and again. There are more individual monster to see as the game progresses, though, but overall they don’t invoke a strong artistic reaction.
The enemies overcome their basic designs by exhibiting unique traits. The undead always get a second life, coming back after you have killed them. However, the game brilliantly utilizes an overkill system. If you deal an excess amount of damage to kill them the first time, their regeneration is negated. Spiders are gifted with a multitude of different powers, from exploding upon death, to firing webs to slow you down. Elementals are the toughest to deal with, as they’re large and powerful. When killed, they split into three smaller enemies who are only minor annoyances, but in larger groups they can be devastatingly powerful. These gameplay elements help to convert the unmemorable character models into stand-out antagonists.
During my time with Victor Vran Overkill Edition, I focused on the main Zagoravia storyline, but that’s not all the game has to offer. There’s also a Motӧrhead story, complete with music from the band. Jumping in to simply test the waters, I found it to be just as enjoyable as the Zagoravia storyline. Its world has much warmer colors, and the plot revolves around Victor inserted into Motӧrhead-themed fan fiction. It’s corny and cheesy, but just as fun. Having two different campaigns that are so different to each other means that there’s more content to enjoy.
This does lead me into a very noticeable misstep in the game, and that’s the music. While the use of voice actors is a fantastic addition, the audio design lacks elsewhere. The Motӧrhead world obviously counters this, but Zagoravia is often without any kind of tunes. The music could have been effective to build tension, but this much silence just makes the world lack some extra character it could have definitely used.
Despite some of my gripes, the sum on the whole is a positively bloody good time. The gameplay is rewarding and exhilarating, creating an enjoyable loop that embraces the simplicity of controls by utilizing the complexity of choice. The plot and world are both in great contrast, being humorous when it needs to, but keeping a consistently grimdark tone. The amount of content on display is nothing short of impressive, able to keep me engaged for quite a while, and never coming across as pointless padding. Where I once said that Titan Quest sought to ape a needing market, I’m now convinced that Victor Vran Overkill Edition is set to conquer it. If I could pick anyone to crawl through a dungeon with, Victor Vran would be my number one draft choice.