Vampyr has done what other RPGs couldn’t - it made me feel horrible about murdering innocent people

Being a vampire’s victim is a tough break. You’re walking down a dimly-lit street, often at night, then before you know it you’re bleeding in the gutter (if there’s any blood left after the vampire’s finished). Tomorrow morning you’ll be nothing more than a token corpse to be discovered by some poor passer-by. You’re a narrative device designed to kick a gothic story into action. Well, most of the time. Because Vampyr does things a little differently. Sure, the end result is the same - there’s no way anyone’s coming back after Dr Jonathan Reid sticks his incisors into their neck - but, as I found out during a two hour demo, choosing the victim takes some serious deliberation. And a considerable twinge of guilt. 

Bleeding hearts

Pay too much attention to NPCs and their wandering through the streets quickly turns into a mundane routine, their scripted actions becoming repetitive and dull. Vampyr changes all of that with the unique approach they have to these characters, turning them from nameless extras into supporting actors in Dr Reid’s story. Gaze at one using your vampiric vision (also known as pressing down L3), and you’ll be able to see their full name, along with their blood quality, how much XP you’ll get for killing them, and what ailments they’re suffering from. 

A man from Vampyr who has seen better days.

It’s not all about murdering NPCs, though. At least, not straight away. These aren’t just neat little details to help with immersion. Almost every single one can be changed, as Vampyr pushes you towards taking care of the characters milling around the streets with you. Take a shine to one citizen in particular, and you can use your medical knowledge to craft a medicine that’ll cure them of their illness. Which increases their blood quality. Which means you get more XP for sucking them dry… you get where I’m going with this, right? Calculating gamers could nurture their NPCs, making them healthier while simultaneously building a blossoming relationship with them, then drain their body of blood and soak up all that XP for themselves. 

This is your conscience speaking

There’s plenty to feel bad about. Whereas most of us have indulged in the odd quicksave massacre, Vampyr doesn’t give you that kind of scot-free gratification. Even if we forget the fact that you can heal each citizen with loving care before ripping out their carotid artery, picking one at random without reading their stats will still have a domino effect. Each NPC is tangled up in a delicate web of associations with other characters. Go into the menu to see who you’ve met so far, and you’ll be able to see the extent of their social circle: the other NPCs who would notice if they were to ‘disappear’ and would act out in their own ways. Because I only kill one drunkard (who frankly had it coming, judging by the way he murders someone in front of me), there’s no chance for me to see the consequences, though I’d assume some NPCs would become reluctant to speak to you thanks to the whole pesky mourning thing mortals tend to go through. Either way you’d see the impact your midnight snack had on the rest of the district. Which doesn’t exactly help with the whole guilt thing. 

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However, it’s not solely after they’re dead that you’ll start to feel your conscience stir. Spending more time talking to each NPC unlocks dialogue options for the other people in their social circle. As you find out more about their life, they’ll often mention another character, giving you an additional conversation topic to explore with them. I quickly found myself shuttling between two NPCs as they revealed more and more about their friendship. Unknown to me, at the same time the XP attached to each NPC grew. And grew. And grew. It was almost perverse, really. The more emotionally-invested I become in each NPC, the more tempting it is to sink my fangs into them for an easy XP boost to buy one of the vampiric combat abilities I desperately yearn for. 

My abominably low mesmerising ability (the skill that lets me lure citizens somewhere hidden and subdue them) is the only thing standing in the way of me killing what is clearly a main character who’s just ferried me to the hospital. 6000 juicy XP points course through his veins. I’m seriously considering ushering him into the shadows, but then the sun rises and I have to take cover in the hospital I’ve started to work at. Vampyr is out on the June 5, so you’ll have to wait until then to see if you felt as guilty as I did for even contemplating that option. 

Want to know more about Vampyr? Take a look at our article about Vampyr’s 4 types of vampire (so far) and 3 ways to rip people apart?!

Zoe Delahunty-Light

While here at GamesRadar, Zoe was a features writer and video presenter for us. She's since flown the coop and gone on to work at Eurogamer where she's a video producer, and also runs her own Twitch and YouTube channels. She specialises in huge open-world games, true crime, and lore deep-dives.