Pixels & Ink #251 – Goodbye PS3

Pixels & Ink #251 - Goodbye PS3

On this episode of the Pixels and Ink Podcast, Phil is away, so Cody and Brendan call on our resident tech expert Cole to talk gaming. With the PlayStation 3 ceasing production in Japan, the gang talks about their favourite memories with the console, it’s rough launch and how it compared to the current offerings on the market. Cole talks about Portal Knights and Skies of Arcadia and Cody played Victor Vran: Overkill Edition.

Read morePixels & Ink #251 – Goodbye PS3

Victor Vran Makes Its Way to Consoles

Victor Vran Makes Its Way to Consoles

Fans of muscle bound dudes in funky hats have something to look forward to for their home console. Following a strong PC release, Victor Vran is making his way onto Playstation 4 and Xbox One. It is unclear at this time just when the alitteratively named monster hunter will be plying his trade in the frightening world of Sony and Microsoft, but he will be receiving  both digital and retail releases.

For those unfamiliar with the title, Victor Vran is an isometric action role-playing game and survivor of Steam Early Access, that fancies itself more action than RPG. Victor Vran is the child of independent Bulgarian director Haemimont Games, who’s credits are largely strategy focused games, like Tropico. It is nice to see a smaller development team being rewarded for branching out with such an action focused title, even with an expansion in development.

“Our original vision was to shake up the RPG genre by delivering the first all action role playing game, and the response from press and fans alike has been incredible,” said Haemimon Games CEO Gabriel Dobrev in a press release.

Console ports of popular PC titles aren’t always the best. That’s why I’m happy to see the developers taking this transition seriously. They are promising to build the whole thing from the ground up with a proprietary engine running at a solid 60 frames per second, and includes local two player co-op and online four player co-op. Furthermore, Haemimont seems committed to continued support after release with daily and weekly maps.

This is a pretty tall order and the target date for all these exciting exploits is sometime in early 2017. On top of all that, PC owners should see further announcements relatively soon, which I am guessing involves the Motorhead expansion. If all of this goes as planned then 2017 should be off to a pretty strong start.

Victor Vran (PC) Review

Victor Vran (PC) Review

The city of Zagoravia is cursed. Horrors of the night prowl Victorian-esque streets, whilst monsters infest the labyrinthine guts of the city. You play Victor Vran, a dour hero and demon-hunter, recognisably voiced by Doug Cockle (Geralt of Rivia). Whilst a competent and often exciting action RPG, it’s hard not to feel as though the Gothic aesthetic has been wasted. The shallow narrative has a few similarities with Bloodborne and its city Yharnam. Unfortunately, whereas Bloodborne meshes dark, psychological, and often transgressive themes with thoughtful, logical mechanics, Victor Vran is comparably witless, even careless, in its approach to its theme and setting.

The Gothic in Victor Vran is a thin, icon-driven veneer thrown over all-too discernible action RPG mechanics. Icon-wise, it makes a go of its horror setting. You’ll be hacking your way through an assortment of spiders, vampires, ghosts, and reanimated corpses, but Victor Vran never attempts to reach beyond the core cycle of hitting things and looting treasure. The game consists of a number of zones with the option of exploration—a royal garden, a forest, and several city sections. Off of these branch half a dozen or so smaller dungeon levels, each with their own internal challenges (think Achievements/Trophies).
victorvraninsertreview5Released back in 2012, Blizzard’s Diablo 3 marked an attempt to offer a more stripped-down, arcade-style action RPG experience. Whilst Blizzard have done much to reverse and rescind those original design decisions (to the relief of core fans), its launch earlier in the decade is still significant. Victor Vran has followed many of those original Blizzard tenants, such as making the combat feel more immediate and responsive, as well as simplifying and clarifying the choices available to players in regards to character development.

There are no classes in Victor Vran, only rough play styles and several weapons. Each weapon is unique in its animation and effect. Poking foes with the rapier feels very different from slashing at swathes of enemies with the sword. Each weapon has three abilities which work in conjunction. The scythe, for example, builds up charges with its base attack and then dispenses these for a longer stunning effect. The ranged shotgun recharges your abilities for every single-hit kill you achieve, pushing you towards more intelligent targeting, whilst the lightning gun gives you the intricate buzz of firing off orbs of charged electricity and then combining them with devastating effect.

With only a few buttons to press, Victor Vran’s simple-but-satisfying combat is easily mapped to a control pad. The default keyboard-and-mouse controls use a WASD scheme, as opposed to more traditional mouse-based navigation (although the option is available). Alongside the ability to jump, wall-jump, and even dodge-roll, there’s a real emphasis on fast-paced action, to the detriment of character development. There is, of course, loot in the game, although it’s mostly focussed around weapon upgrades and Destiny Cards. These equippable cards help you hone in on a particular play style. Some cards will boost your health and defence, add life stealing or critical hit chances, or trigger magical spells. Finally, there is your Demon Power, a particular spell which you can customise and use when your overcharge meter fills.

Victor Vran has a fair few things going for it. Each of the weapons are satisfying to learn and use, so even if you’re killing spiders and skeletons over and over again, there’s novelty built on top of the immediacy of each button press/click. It’s an enjoyable romp, even if the Gothic trappings never amount to much (it’s not even pulp horror quality, and it’s completely spoiled by spots of dreadful Stanley Parable style meta-textual commentary). With the option of online co-op, plenty of side dungeons and crypts that aren’t necessary to the main story, and hard-mode challenges for the completionists, there’s more to the game than you might expect for something so small budget. Victor Vran is more naturally comparable to Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance than Diablo. There’s very little role-playing and the plot isn’t really worth speaking on, but it’s a game confident in its combat and enjoyable even after repeated hack and slashing.