Early Access games have had a bad reputation since almost it's creation on Steam. Most developers who use Early Access are those who dream big for the game they desire - but the fall is much bigger when the reality sets in that they aren't able to fulfill their promises (RIP Double Fine). Some of the better game that use Early Access let users take a small taste of what the game is like before moving forward to add more content -like Speedrunners or Victor Vran.
I've never really gotten into the whole idea of playing a game before the release date. It never really intrigued me to play a buggy and unfinished product, and Victor Vran was no different. Oh sure, you will sometimes find that game that almost every Let's Player and British reviewers that would lullaby you with FOV sliders talks about, but Early Access is still something I'm rather skeptical about despite the proven success with a handful of games. I didn't expect that Victor Vran would be a better Action RPG than Diablo 3.
That last statement may not be entirely accurate. It certainly isn't the game that would blow other competitors out of the water, but at the same time it's done something I've always wanted in these isometric RPGs - I can jump. The prospect of a completely vertical space to move and place objects, items, or enemies was exciting. The possibilities, in my mind, were astounding.
You could pull off some 9th-level Wizard spells and just hover over all the puny spiders and skeletons, flying around at the speed of sound. Adding a new dimension in something that I've never seen before in an isometric game really was something I loved, but I digress. The jump ability isn't actually used to the ability my imagination may lead it to be. Still, it's cool that players won't get stuck against a wall when completely surrounded by enemies and can't move.
The gameplay was fairly standard. You had the different weapons and skills and spells that would allow you to murder hundreds if not thousands of enemies, which in the very beginning aren't as varied as something in other Action RPG such as, say, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. I was more intrigued at the fact that there weren't any skill trees, and instead the skills are tied to what kind of weapon and what is dropped by enemies or bought.
Each weapon has two types of skills that determine what kind of style the player prefers. The sword has close combat button-mashing style that can slice and dice through hordes of enemies; the hammer has slow build up but has a lifesteal skill that can keep Victor alive for longer; the rapier is far more precise and needs more attention on where Victor is attacking so you can dash from enemy to enemy with armor-piercing swiftness; the shotgun is for clearing hordes of tiny and weak enemies with sustained spreads; and the lightning gun is for that mad scientist in all of us who simply enjoy watching electricity dance between all our foes until they explode with maniacal glee. Instead of picking and choosing which skills you want to invest points in so you can enjoy awesome perks down the road, each weapon gives every player just the right spot for what they prefer to play with.
The passive skills use something closer to a deck building style than the general RPG, giving you a limit on the maximum you can have. More powerful cards use up more of the limit, and eventually you'll have to pick and choose what style of passive skills benefits your playstyle the most. Again, I don't see much variety to these at the moment, but it's a very interesting concept that was extremely well woven into an Action RPG game.
Another aspect I hadn't seen in this genre, or at least from my meager foray into these games, are map challenges. You'll have to perform tasks such as kill a certain number of enemies using only skills with the hammer to more difficult challenged such as kill enemies without taking any damage. This was a simple task to begin with but my desire to get every challenge completed had me start a few maps over more than once out of frustration and sigh with relief when I finally complete it. I'm eager to see what kind of challenges the developers will add in as the game continues to grow.
While an interesting addition to the genre, the challenges don't change gameplay too much, which brings me to the last addition I didn't expect. Does anyone remember the skulls from the Halo games? The ones that would make the game harder if you chose to play with them? They make a return in the form of Hexes, which offer tougher challenges and a 10% experience boost for each Hex.
This is rather interesting, as it's a normal complaint I've heard that few Action RPGs allow for tougher challenges to those already overleveled in the area. At least, it seems like a complaint to those who play like me - methodically scanning the entire map for secrets and hidden goodies. I usually find myself able to eradicate hordes of monsters with little to no challenge, so finding a way to add a little spice to those who want it was an addition I particularly enjoyed.
Overall, this game is completely lacking in story and not too varied on the choices, but the game is extremely solid. Especially for an Early Access game. Victor Vran is short and unfinished at the moment, but it's development may turn out to be extremely interesting as a case for experimenting and tweaking a genre to see what does and doesn't work.
What do you guys think? Does the Early Access tag turn you off from even looking at the game until it's completed? Does the unfinished model looks good enough that you want to help the developers steer the game to being the best game of 2015?
If you want to try the game out for yourself, the game is available on Steam.
The reviewer was given a copy of this game from the developer.
(Updated: minor copy errors were fixed)