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Victor Vran

By elethio01-10-2015
Victor Vran

The Defence

Haemimont Games
EuroVideo Medien
Action, Indie, Role Playing
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core i5 2.5 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 560
AMD Radeon HD 5800
8 GB
4 GB
9.0c, 11

The Case

Victor Vran is the Action RPG from developers Haemimont Games. Haemimont have made a name for themselves as strategy specialists with Tropico 3, 4, and 5, as well as other management games too. So this begs the questions: what can a team of strategy specialists bring to make a genre that has very little strategy? And why did they then decide to ignore well established trends for that genre, removing even more strategy from it? Are Haemimont just pulling our chain, like an artist who’s thrown some paint at a canvas and called it abstract, or do they have an actual plan at work here? Are Haemimont the new Monet?

The Trial

Victor Vran is an unapologetic tribute to “getting your hammer off”. The violence is stylish, perpetual, and very satisfying, and if that sounds disturbing, then just remember that you’re only killing monsters, and of course, that makes it all alright.

Other ARPG’s (Action Role Playing Games) do tend to “apologise” for their violence. They pile in features to distract you from it, and hamper the action with a host of strategic options. They almost seem to use the action as an extra to the game, as the cherry on top of your role play dessert. VV (Victor Vran) takes a very different stance: its focus is the action, sometimes things like the narration and settings distract you a bit, but that’s just to provide some pacing, a brief pause between one sword swing and the next. All the other parts of the game are there as a backdrop to the action, to give it just a bit of context and never to overshadow it.

Confucius says: You can never have too much overkill.

Confucius says: You can never have too much overkill.

Character development is present in VV, even though it’s nowhere near as complex as in other ARPG’s. Levelling up mainly gives you extra health, but it also gives you a choice between various special items such as weapons, potions, demon powers, and destiny cards. All these items are found in regular drops, although the ones you choose when levelling are generally rarer and more powerful. Many weapons are locked to levels, so some of the items you find will be unusable until you level up.

Destiny cards are a way for you to customise your character. As you level up you will be able to equip cards of higher values. In truth customizing Victor changes him very little; the thing that alters Victor the most is your choice of weapon and all other character tweaks should be designed around this choice. Each main weapon type is very distinct and satisfying, having awesome effects, animations, and two special abilities each (triggered by the Q and E keys). The seven main weapon types are: hammer, sword, rapier, scythe, shotgun, mortar, and electric gun. Individual weapons have their own name, stats and extra abilities, all of which may be customized via the crafting system. As well as the main weapons there are also many special weapons like the Pumpkin Hammer, Chicken Gun, Storm Sword and various Lightsabers. All of these special weapons have their own unique abilities.

Each type of weapon has a unique style and advantage in different situations. Even the swords and rapiers differ greatly; the swords giving you fast sweeping attacks to hit many enemies at once, and the rapiers giving even faster pierce attacks that can devastate individual foes.

Dancing zombies... Psy has a lot to answer for.

Dancing zombies... Psy has a lot to answer for.

Spells in VV are labelled as “demon powers”, and mana is “overdrive”. The spells in VV are very varied, unique and powerful, although there are less of them available than in other games, and you won’t use them all that often. VV is very restrained in its use of overdrive; most of the time gaining overdrive is linked to hammering some skulls in, or just taking damage yourself. Overdrive mechanics can be altered by your costume (which is of course a complete contrivance, but that’s a minor issue). The truth of the matter is that costumes are just there to let you pimp Victor out the way you want and to add just a bit more style to your ridiculous character.

VV maintains a masterful air of dark foreboding, but there is just a enough “tongue in cheek” to it, to stop it being pretentious. Every now and then, something happens that breaks the spell of seriousness, whether it’s finding the chicken gun, having a dance off with zombies, or best of all, just listening to the narrator Kevin Brighting. Kevin’s sarcastic humour has been well received in other games such as The Stanley Parable and Dungeons 2, and he puts his sharp wit to good use again in Victor Vran. Kevin manifests as a voice in Victor’s head, an arch demon who delights in mocking and goading Victor. At times he will question Victor's morality by comparing him to the monsters he kills; other times he gleefully narrates the action, as hordes of enemies try to kill Victor.

Combat is very fast and visceral with well thought out controls that allow you to fire off various moves/combos almost instinctively, such as: attacking, dodging, special abilities, and wall jumping. Demon powers (spells), potions, and bombs are not quite as easy to use as they are linked to the number keys, but this makes them no more difficult to use than in other ARPGs.

Once you trash the undead you can trash the furnishings too. It’s really quite therapeutic.

Once you trash the undead you can trash the furnishings too. It’s really quite therapeutic.

From the start, the unapologetic violence is also unapologetically easy. Each swing of your hammer leaves shattered foes strewn around you; you will fire off spectacular special attacks easily and leave your enemies stunned or running away in fear. Levelling up has only a minor effect on your fighting abilities; in order to become more powerful you need to find and craft better weapons. The difficulty gradually increases as you access new maps and levels. When exploring levels you will find doorways to new maps and once you get close to one of these doors, the new maps become accessible any time directly from the hub (castle Zaragrovia). The castle is also somewhere to progress the story from; to buy, sell and store items; and later on to craft and upgrade your items too.

There is no procedural generation in Victor Vran, so when replaying a level the types of enemies and whole layout of the map stay the same. However, all the maps are extremely well designed and fun. Every map in the game includes five challenges for the player to complete. These challenges do not progress the story, but they greatly increase the replayability of every level. Some challenges are easy such as “kill X number of zombies”; others are harder such as “kill all enemies within X number of seconds”. Many of the levels also include secrets as challenges. Secrets are never too hard to find as the face on your UI lights up when you get close to a one. Some challenges also include “complete level using particular hexes” and this is where things get particularly interesting.

There are five different types of hex in VV, and they work in a similar manner to difficulty settings. When entering a level with particular hexes active, a number of effects take place such as: monsters move faster, regenerate health, have more armour or sometimes spawn as mini bosses. For each hex that you activate, Victor gains a boost to experience, money and item drops for that level. This is a clever system that allows earlier levels to remain challenging to players even on the third, fourth or fifth play through.

Next week Victor will be appearing on the cover of esquire magazine.

Next week Victor will be appearing on the cover of esquire magazine.

As a result players can progress swiftly through the campaign until they reach a point where their abilities start to become tested, they can then push on stretching their skills further or return to earlier levels to boost their income and experience before progressing. This is essentially grinding but with gameplay that focuses on making the combat fun and rewarding, grinding does not seem the right term, indeed I’ve replayed many levels, sometimes just because I enjoyed them, and sometimes for the purpose of finding all the secrets or completing all the challenges. VV’s aesthetic is extremely well designed, from the glittering ice canyons, to the sprawling rooftop views of the doomed city, even the marshlands have that esoteric feeling of lonely beauty.

VV has a co-op multiplayer mode although I’d advise turning up the difficulty level or turning on hexes before you start a co-op match, as having more hunters definitely makes the game easier. Loot and item drops appear individually for each player so you won’t see what your friends pick up, but you don’t have to worry about getting to the chest first either. Multiplayer is the only slightly unpolished area I’ve come across in the game, as there are a couple of glitches like: friends characters might become invisible; or some story events might not trigger for both players, therefore some maps may need completing twice. On the whole though, co-op is a lot of fun.

The Verdict

Victor Vran breaks from the norm for ARPG’s in a number of ways: spells take a back seat to combat, progression is less important than weapons, maps are replayable but not procedural, and even the dark and foreboding story is lampooned by its narrator. All these contradictions still work to create a game that is combat focussed, well balanced, well paced and thoroughly enjoyable.

Victor Vran, is an ARPG with only one character to play: Victor. You won’t even alter his character all that much during the game, although the weapons do add a lot of flexibility to his play style, and it’s still fun maximising his character for different weapon combos. Combat is also augmented by the addition of dodging and jumping mechanics, something not often seen in an ARPG. Haemimont also been ingenious in the way they instilled replayability to all maps, without using procedural generation. Essentially they’ve let the quality of the game be your incentive for replaying it. Yes there are extra challenges to attempt, and secrets and unique weapons to find, but none of that would matter if you didn’t enjoy every second of the monster mashing goodness on offer. Some ARPG’s take themselves very seriously, but I’m glad to say that VV isn’t one of these. There is a deep vein of silliness running through it VV, and the narrator especially, does a great job of keeping light hearted.

VV gets full marks for design and execution. A lot of love has gone into this game, and its quality is top notch. What Haemimont have created is not your average ARPG, there aren’t pages of stats to sort through, the story isn’t Lord Of The Rings, but they have created a well paced adventure with just enough loot and customisation to keep things interesting, and combat stays enjoyable throughout. There is no filler here, just game. With combat as the game’s main focus this is an ideal title for someone new to ARPG’s. It won’t dislodge Diablo as the benchmark for this type of game, but veteran of ARPG’s will still find enough innovation and style here to make this worth a try.

Case Review

  • Is That A Shotgun In Your Pocket?: Sexy combat.
  • Smell The Roses: Surprisingly beautiful.
  • Full Of Bright Moments: Great narration and humour.
  • Bleeding Edge: Innovative mechanics.
  • Witch Handicap?: Hexes give you more choice over the difficulty.
  • Hobson's Choice: Less story and customisation than other ARPGs.
  • Not War & Peace: Less gameplay than other ARPGs but still many hours of fun.
Score: 4/5
Simple, scenic, funny, and full of action.


Victor Vran is an excellent entry into the action RPG genre. The focus is definitely on combat, with satisfying weapon abilities and direct keyboard control of Victor coupled with active dodge and jump functions make it feel more engaging than other ARPGs. You're restricted in the amount of stuff you can equip at once, limiting your options to a handful of possibilities so it's a welcoming game to genre newcomers but deep enough for veterans to get a kick out of it.

Hexes, challenges and secrets provide plenty of value for completionists and masochists alike but the main story on normal difficulty never really impedes you so long as you keep your equipment and spells up to date with the various drops. Similarly you'll never really be short of gold, it's a game that wants you to worry about how you're going to smash the next group of enemies, not worry about how you're going to afford a new sword or fit it into your bag.

Co-op play is also an absolute blast but not without its glitches, from invisible characters to quests not completing for one character it made for a little confusion and backtracking but never really got frustrating, even when playing on hard with all the hexes active. Overall it's a game worthy of playing solo or with friends, at turns both light and dark in tone thanks to voice actors from The Stanley Parable and The Witcher basically playing the same roles and even lampooning those, and other games.

Score: 4/5
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