The "What's Next" event, which has just ended in Paris, was an opportunity for the Dontnod team to tell us more about its next game, Vampyr ahead of its release on June 5. After two critically acclaimed titles, Remember Me and Life is Strange, the developer has decided to venture into darker and more atmospheric territory. Unfortunately, we couldn't try the game ourselves, but the developers showed it to us in great detail for a full half an hour.
Philippe Moreau, the game's director, introduced us to the district of Whitechapel. This is where Jonathan E. Reid, a charismatic doctor who just happens to be a vampire, lives. It's the year 1918 and London is a dark and frightening place. During the first seconds of the game's opening we see, off in the distance and hidden in the fog, a man shooting another man from point-blank range; now you understand the atmosphere that Dontnod is aiming for. It's night time, as you'd expect for a vampire (after all, it's best not to get burned by the sunlight), and there are very few people out on the streets. Moreau explains that they've more deeply explored each character with this game, as it's not about strolling in a city crowded with a soulless people who bump into you every time, like in Assassin's Creed. No - here each inhabitant has an impact on the neighbourhood and on their neighbours. They each have their own stories, a temperament all of their own, with secrets to hide and a life to live.
So as a vampire, killing your prey disrupts the thread of their story. For example, if you kill a married man, his wife will sink into depression and its impact on the storytelling will be different. However, drinking the blood of the locals is the best way to gain experience, so it's not as easy as simply leaving them be. While we were told that it'll be possible to finish the game without killing anyone, that path would impose limitations on Reid's vampiric skills. Your abilities will inlude invisibility, teleportation, super-powered senses, and controlling NPCs, and you can choose to improve them or not. To use your experience points, you'll have to rest before spending them as you see fit, although one must keep in mind that there is evil at work in the British capital, an evil that awakens lifeless bodies and reincarnates them as murderous creatures. As you can see, killing the locals will help you gain experience and improve your otherworldly abilities, which will be helpful when taking down the reincarnated inhabitants.
In the mission presented to us in Paris, Dr. Reid's goal was to retrieve information about a character who had denied him access to a building. To find a way to convince him, Reid decides to investigate, and en route he meets some creatures; a good opportunity to show off the fighting system if ever we saw one. This encounter saw the devs mix up some vampire powers with stabby skills. You can, however, get all kinds of weapons on your travels, from bludgeons to saws.
During the adventure you'll meet monsters with both superhuman powers and an inhuman appearance. Some will be directly related to the story, others simple henchmen, however, they won't be your only enemies in London Town, because a militia founded by humans to fight back against the monsters and evil creatures will also be hunting you. These humans will attack with an arsenal designed with killing vampires in mind, so you have to juggle your skills while keeping an eye on your endurance gauge, which is more flexible than something like Dark Souls, but essential to the combos. Jonathan also has the ability to pour all his rage into a devastating and spectacular attack on any surrounding enemies.
You will be faced with sometimes difficult choices, as we were shown during the presentation. After Reid finally makes his way into the building, he finds another doctor already inside and in the middle of surgery on a visibly dying patient. Dr. Reid offers to help but the sight of blood could also drive a vampire into an out of control bloodlust... such is the difficulty faced by a vampire trying to do good.
What makes this feel distinctly Dontnod is that this sequence is punctuated by choices. Here, despite the best efforts of the attending doctors, the patient didn't survive. After a few words are exchanged between the doctor and Jonathan (that we'll avoid disclosing here), the choice is offered to kill her or not. And therein lies the decisive moment. If you kill her, she won't be able to treat the inhabitants of the district, which will inevitably help spread the disease. If you don't kill her... well, you'll have to find that out for yourselves.
At the very end of the presentation the developers showed us a short video revealing the Bloodbornian-looking city. We can see London's boroughs devastated by fire, ransacked by the monsters that roam the streets. "That's what happens if you decide to kill everyone," says Moreau. Everything is connected: the inhabitants, their personal story, their lives, the disease, the experience, the skills, the monsters - all being intrinsically linked to the morality of the player. This is ultimately what will determinate the fate of Jonathan E. Reid, the vampire doctor, as well as the fate of the whole city of London. We cannot wait to discover this universe, controllers in hand this time.