Victor Vran recently came out of early access and is an attempt by developer Haemimont Games to take on the big boys of the ARPG genre. While the game may not look like much when compared to Diablo 3 or Grim Dawn, there are a lot of great things under the hood that make this game very interesting.
Victor Vran is a monster hunter who has arrived at a mysterious city besieged by monsters in search of his friend and must help the queen take things back while fighting lots and lots of undead monsters. The first thing you’ll noticed about Victor Vran is that it’s a lot more action heavy compared to titles like Diablo 3; you can run, jump, wall jump and dodge out of enemy range. Starting out, you won’t have much in terms of gear and there aren’t really “classes” in the same sense as Diablo, where the class dictates skill progression and strategy.
Instead, your gear and equippables are all customizable and offer a lot of different strategies and builds to the player. Every weapon type has three skills assigned to it; a normal attack and two special. The special skills are what define the weapon such as the hammer that lets you create AOE slams for heavy damage and life steal. After a few levels of play, you’ll unlock the ability to equip 2 weapons which lets you switch between them with a push of a button; essentially giving you 4 special skills to make use of at one time. Your outfit affects how you build up overdrive which is used to power your special skills and they also have special modifiers.
Just like any ARPG, weapons are randomly generated and come in different rarities which can have special effects like increased damage. However Victor Vran doesn’t stop there with the amount of items to equip: There are different potions, armor, Destiny Cards which act as passive buffs and you can choose different special attacks to unleash when your overdrive bar is full; everything I just mentioned can be dropped through play or bought at stores.
After a brief tutorial, you’ll be able to select between normal and hard mode which determines overall difficulty and starts you off with Hexes: Negative Passives that impact the game but will reward you with more gold and greater items.
If you play on normal, those hexes will become available over time and you can choose which to have on while you play. From there it’s time to go monster killing and Victor Vran has a few surprises for you.
Victor Vran’s maps for the first time in recent ARPG memory are completely set pieces and while this may be a shock to ARPG fans, there is a reason for this. Every section in the game has challenges that the player can go after to receive special rewards like more items, extra gold or bonus experience. These challenges are set to each map and run a very wide gambit; beat X enemies with specific attacks, fight without getting hit, find secrets and so on.
These challenges provide a lot of variety to Victor Vran’s hack and slash gameplay and help keep things fresh. Enemies are of the undead variety with skeletons, vampires and nastier things to look out for. Like Diablo 3, you’ll fight champion and tyrant level enemies who have special modifiers and will make life a living hell for you. It’s important to note that outside of shops and chests, you can only find loot from killing these enemies.
What’s interesting about Victor Vran is how different the progression model is compared to other ARPGs out there. You’re not going to be finding loot of a wide scale like in Diablo 3; instead, loot gradually scales up with each level and its more about the modifiers attached to said items. You’re going to get the most mileage out of your destiny cards in terms of passive benefits to your character. Late game play involves finding weapon specific destiny cards that actually modify their respective skills, further defining your build.
This extends into the game’s crafting system or transmutation. How it works is that every item that you can equip can be modified; allowing you to boost its stats, add new properties and generally increase its utility. To do so, you need to combine it with weapons of similar rarity or type and the game lists all the recipes available to you. Once again because of how limited the loot scale is, you’re going to make heavy use of this in order to define your build and increase your capabilities. With the sheer number of personalization aspects available in Victor Vran, it’s one of the best examples of an ARPG that doesn’t have set classes while still giving the player a variety of options.
While the maps are set (there is a bonus arena area,) I love the idea of having challenges to go after that provides meaningful rewards; why no one else has thought of this is anyone’s guess.
Coming from a developer who mainly makes city builders and strategy games, there are a lot of great elements of Victor Vran; however there are some sore spots that may end your monster fighting trip early.
Victor Vran does a lot of things right and different compared to other ARPGs on the market, but there are a few annoying details that hurt it and keep it from overtaking Diablo 3. Because of how limited the progression model is due to the focus on augmenting loot, it means that you’re not going to have that ever increasing power curve that works well in Diablo 3. Instead, Victor Vran is like Diablo 3 from launch and how finding good upgrades is like a needle in a hay stack.
Another problem that I had was that there are no defensive options in Victor Vran; you do get a dodge roll but it does not let you avoid damage. Without having defensive options, I found that there were plenty times where one lone tough enemy was just beating me into the ground or I got surrounded and just wiped out before I could do anything.
Speaking of getting beaten, a major problem with Victor Vran’s loot design and progression is that it’s very hard to get through an area that you’re stuck in. Boss fights can be very frustrating to fight and can kill you fast and usually summon minions to make life even more of a living hell. When you get stuck, you don’t have any options to really get past it; leveling up only gives you more health and the possible chance of finding better loot. This isn’t like Diablo 3 where you could find gear to mitigate the damage or build something tailored to a specific strategy or fight.
Because of that, Victor Vran starts to get a bit repetitive once you enter the mid to late game; unlike in Diablo 3 where the variety of skills and legendary items become available to change how things work. I would have liked to have seen more loot variety or better yet, modified versions of the weapon types that maybe did something a bit differently. Another issue with the limited gear and progression is the fact that there is currently a winner for best strategy and build; weapons that drain health from the enemy are a godsend due to the limited healing and no defensive options.
I’ve been using the same rapier that has life steal for over 5 hours of play and nothing has come close to matching its usefulness and that’s the point. Once you’ve found a weapon that you like, you’re going to be spending your time increasing its potency instead of looking for new loot.
This also affects the difficulty curve as you get further in due to the luck of the draw.If you can’t find weapons and components to enhance the gear that you like or find gear with the attributes that you want, expect to have a lot of difficulty in the later parts of the game when enemies become really nasty.
For instance, in order to improve your armor which is your sole piece of clothing equipment, you need to find legendary or purple rank demon powers. If you get unlucky with drops, you simply will not be able to upgrade that specific gear. Once you get the needed improvements and can start bumping up your gear, the difficulty curve swings the other direction as things become a lot easier. However, this kind of feast or famine like design may frustrate people similar to how Diablo 3 was at the start.
Finally, while the challenge system was a great idea, I would have liked there to be more of an incentive for going after them. The reward of chests was nice, but having some kind of long term reason to do them would have made the system a lot more motivating. Also playing on hard mode, there were some challenges that were inherently frustrating to the point of impossible to complete due to how the hexes affected the game. While you can just turn off hard mode, this felt like a conflict of game systems that could have been solved by having slight variations of challenges for those playing on hard.
At the moment the developers are planning to release one expansion piece of DLC and smaller bits that add in new armor and a new weapon type; after that there are no solid plans for future development.
Despite those misgivings, Victor Vran is currently the surprised gem of the year for me. It’s amazing to see this quality of a game in the ARPG genre from a developer not known for working in it. While it doesn’t beat Diablo 3 in terms of gameplay and replayability, it’s definitely the closest I’ve seen from a title to usurp the ARPG crown.
For more on Victor Vran, you can see the variety of upcoming videos I have on my YouTube channel, starting with this spotlight.