At Vampyr‘s core is the moral dilemma of a doctor that becomes a vampire – how can you possibly do no harm with a thirst for blood surging within you?
As a doctor, you have a sworn oath to do no harm. As a vampire – well, in order to survive you must feast on blood. This moral dilemma is at the heart of Vampyr, the latest from DONTNOD studios, creators of Life is Strange. We threw a few questions at Stephane Beauverger, narrative director on the title, to find out what we can expect from the new game.
Vampyr follows the story of Jonathan Reid, a practising doctor who must come to terms with his new affliction: vampirism. Torn between his Hippocratic Oath to serve the people and his thirst for blood, Jonathan must struggle to find his way in the plague-ravaged city of London, England.
According to Beauverger, the game has been in development for three and a half years, and the team decided on vampires because they are ”among the coolest monsters to play, and there are already too many games about zombies.”
Right from the beginning of development, the team wanted the moral dilemma surrounding the protagonist’s profession and his thirst for blood to be the driving force behind the story.
”Since we wanted to approach the theme of the vampire through the prism of duality and moral challenge, to create a vampire doctor who has vowed to save lives and is now compelled to take them was a perfect symbol of dualism for us. Plus, by giving the main character a strong scientific background, it was even more interesting to put him in the unpleasant situation of discovering that darkness exists, supernatural creatures too, and that the challenging concept of doomed immortality may be something he has to wrap his mind around.”
Beauverger notes that DONTNOD had more than one reason for setting the game after the outbreak of the Spanish Flu at the beginning of the 20th Century.
”First of all, we wanted an era when science is making huge progress, when people believed that science would bring a new golden age to mankind. An era when old concepts and ancestral beliefs had been challenged by scientific discoveries.”
This made the beginning of the 20th Century the perfect setting for the game. ”We also wanted an era of disorder, an era when suffering, pestilence and death could explain the return of dark forces like vampires, who love nothing more than taking advantage of crumbling or shaken societies. 1918, with the deadly Spanish Flu epidemic and the millions dead during the First World War, was a perfect setting for us. Especially in London, which was such a Gothic city at the time.”
If you’re wondering what kind of vampires you can expect in Vampyr, the team has definitely done their research.
”We watched a lot of movies and TV shows and read a lot of books – Interview with the Vampire, True Blood, Byzantium, Let the Right One In, What We Do In the Shadows, Carmilla, He Never Died, 30 Days of Night, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night… I could go on like this endlessly. I even watched Twilight, just to be sure that was not what we wanted to do,” chuckles Beauverger. ”Concerning the inspirations, I suppose we picked up all the material that could relate to the Gothic figure of the vampire. Dracula by Bram Stoker was a major inspiration.”
As far as gameplay is concerned, there are plenty of interesting aspects to look forward to. While there isn’t necessarily a ’morality’ system, each choice does have its consequences.
”Yes, [there will be a morality system] since the game will count each Londoner’s life the player takes during the game, and no [there won’t be], since there will not be a reward for killing ’bad’ or ’evil’ characters. To take a life as a vampire will always be a murder. So the moral challenge will be more along the lines of ’will I kill or not’? But since large amounts of XP are given to the player each time they choose to kill a victim in Vampyr (as an incentive), you could say that often the question will also be: ‘who will I kill and who will I spare?’”
The story follows a linear narrative arc that will be affected by Jonathan’s choices in the game, and will have four available endings. Choices the player makes in-game have an impact on each of London’s different districts.
”Our London is divided into four districts. Within each of them, people are trying to survive the epidemic while left to themselves. Each time the player chooses to kill a citizen, it will have an impact on the family or neighbour of the victims. If you kill too many people, too quickly, you may even lose an entire district, since the disease spreads too fast. That means the district will be full of vampire-like creatures, and you will lose all its human content: quests, merchants, etc. But the game will not punish you for that: you have the right to play as a blood-craving vampire. The only rule is that you will have to face the consequences of your actions. Sometimes, the game will also ask you to decide what to do with a community pillar: a prominent figure in a district. This decision (for instance: to kill, to spare, to turn into a vampire) will have major consequences on the game and the surviving citizens.”
If you happen to enjoy Vampyr once it releases, you’re in luck, as DONTNOD still have a number of games up their sleeves.
”DONTNOD teams are working on three new projects. I can’t reveal much more for now, but stay tuned to get news from our studio very soon.”