Nearly 20 years ago, Blizzard Entertainment released the original Diablo, arguably the title that brought the genre of point-and-click, hack-and-slash action RPG games to life. Since then, Blizzard itself has created a massive following with the subsequent releases of Diablo II and Diablo III, while the action RPG genre has flourished with games like Path of Exile, Marvel Heroes and the Torchlight series. The latest entry to join the genre is from Haemimont Games, best known for its work on the Tropico series. And yes, it’s a bit peculiar that a company with experience developing sim games would plunge into the action RPG territory, but we’re really glad it did because Victor Vran is a welcomed and valuable entry to the market.
Before we dive into Victor Vran, we have to say that Haemimont Games missed a real good opportunity to release a game called El Presidente and bring the star of its Tropico series to the forefront in an action RPG. Seriously, how awesome would it have been if El Presidente was the protagonist in an action RPG?! Anyways, we digress and let’s take a look at Victor Vran shall we?
What makes Victor Vran unique is that in addition to your standard action RPG point-and-click elements, the game can be played using a WADS control set, which we actually preferred. Along with being able to control Victor Vran with a keyboard and using your mouse to attack, players can jump and roll through the environment and it’s not just a simple gimmick. Jumping allows you to avoid incoming damage and you’re also able to wall jump to traverse through the environment looking for secret treasure chests. Rolling becomes an integral part of combat and it’s such a welcomed addition to the genre that we hope other games look to do the same in the future. Overall, the controls of the game play nice and tight, which is really important for an action RPG to be successful. You can also use a controller if you’d like!
The world of Zagoravia is filled with monsters and secrets to conquer
Now if you’re heading into Victor Vran expecting a deep and memorable story, you might be in for some disappointment. The journey is compelling and will keep you somewhat interested, but the story itself is unfortunately generic. However, don’t let that stop you from experiencing what is otherwise an extremely good game, because let’s be honest here – who is really playing an action RPG for the story? What Victor Vran does quite well is developing the aspects that make an action RPG great: combat and diversified loot.
In the game, Victor Vran eventually unlocks two weapon slots meaning that you can quickly switch from one weapon to another. Each weapon comes with two different skills (along with a basic attack) and each type of weapon varies gameplay in a positive way. Weapon types include hammers, swords, rapiers and scythes for melee, while range users can utilize a shotgun, mortar or lightning gun. Along with the two weapons, players can equip two Demon Powers, an outfit and two consumable items. Demon Power skills are varied and are essentially spells, ranging from Purging Flame (moving pillar of flames) to a defensive Sanguine Aura (healing and armor). In total, players have access to six different skills by swapping weapons and Demon Powers while consumables can also include offensive potions and trinkets.
As a result, combat is action packed and although the game starts off slowly to ease the player into the hordes of monsters they’ll eventually face, the pacing is good enough so that players can learn to spam their skills and switch weapons strategically to avoid an untimely death. Each weapon plays differently and there’s likely a pair that will suit your playstyle. For example, hammers swing slowly but deal massive AOE damage while swords and rapiers encourage quick attacks that synergize with building up your Demon Power (Overdrive) meter. Even the ranged weapons have their own specialties and you’ll want to try each one out to see which you enjoy. Lastly, players get to choose an outfit that has passive effects including armor buffs, how quickly your Overdrive fills and health bonuses.
Each zone is packed with Challenges and Elite Challenges to clear
Now to the most important part: itemization. Each weapon has a damage range, armor penetration rating, critical hit chance, critical hit damage and affixes. Affixes come in pairs and there’s a decent variety of them, from your basic bonuses to critical hit chance and critical hit damage to life on hit and quicker weapon skill cooldowns. There are also chances to inflict debuffs on enemies such as Daze on crit as well as weapons to help you demolish certain enemy types, such as bonus damage against spiders.
Now the affixes on weapons aren’t varied enough to result in complex builds and combinations, but that comes into play through your Destiny Cards and Destiny Points. As you progress through Victor Vran, you’ll unlock more Destiny Card slots which essentially allows you to customize your character in ways other action RPGs simply don’t. As simple as the system is, it’s overwhelmingly effective in opening up a variety of builds. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the Destiny Cards and their benefits:
- The Runner – increased movement speed
- The Knight – increased armor
- Hope – increased health
- The Vampire – life steal
- The Bishop – gain health on crit
- The Slayer – gain health on kill
- Strength – critical chance
- The Rogue – increased critical damage
- The Archer – increased ranged damage
- The Warrior – increased melee damage
- The Beast – armor penetration
- The Executioner – bonus damage against enemies with health below 50 percent
- The Oak – increased duration of buffs
- Justice – thorns damage
- The Moon – cause a frost explosion on crit
- The Sun – cause an explosion on overkill
- The Tower – overdrive bar fills faster
- Death – increased damage but lose max health
- Greed – increased gold from monsters
And that doesn’t even get into the Legendary Destiny Cards that when paired with Legendary weapons can truly result in what action RPGers like to call, game-breaking builds. The Blademaster for example, adds critical damage with swords and the ability to Gain Regeneration (health per second) for 10 seconds when you score a crit with a Sword Slash and Dash Attacks. Pair that with a Lucky Rabbit’s Foot trinket (consumable) that gives 100-percent critical chance for five seconds and you can only imagine the possibilities.
Hexes are an interesting feature to increase the difficulty of the game
Throughout the game, you’ll find yourself mixing and matching Destiny Cards to flesh out your weapon and Demon Power sets. Are you interested in taking on the role of a tank while your teammates shoot from afar? You can easily do that. Need to switch to a maximum DPS role for ranged attacks? Just swap in some new cards. What Victor Vran does so brilliantly is forgoing the traditional class system by drawing inspiration from games like Guild Wars 2, and the result is varied gameplay that always has you hunting for more loot.
As you can expect, nearly everything in the game can be upgraded thanks to the Transmutation system. You’ll want to pick up any and all items since you can take three whites and upgrade it to a green. Then you can take three greens and upgrade it to a yellow. Then you can take three yellows and have a chance at upgrading it to a purple Legendary. If you have a weapon you really love, you can transmute it with three of the same rarity items in order to give it more damage. You can even increase its critical hit chance. No item is complete junk in Victor Vran and that’s like a breath of fresh air in the action RPG genre.
Best of all, you’ll never need to worry about inventory space or stash space, because as far as we can tell, it’s virtually infinite. Fill up a page of your inventory and another one just opens up. You can store pages upon pages of weapons, consumables, Demon Powers and Destiny Cards to your heart’s content. And you’ll want to do so in order to upgrade your weapons, Demon Powers and Destiny Cards. With the ability of being able to upgrade nearly everything in the game, Victor Vran makes loot hunting fulfilling even if you aren’t getting Legendary drops left and right.
Victor Vran‘s Transmutation system is one of the best in the action RPG genre
Now the next important question is how is the end game? Considering most action RPG enthusiasts believe the game doesn’t truly start until you reach max level, how does Victor Vran play beyond the grind to level 50 and finishing the story? Well, you’re treated to hundreds of Challenges and Elite Challenges on each map, some of which are actually challenging to do (imagine that). Enemy types are varied enough that this isn’t your typical click-mashing game and destroying hordes of mobs left and right. It requires a bit more focus than that. And if clearing Challenges isn’t really your thing, there’s a PvP arena and the Bottomless Pit, an arena where you’ll fend off round after round of enemies to see how far you can go. Leading up to launch, Haemimont Games recently added Bounties and Treasure Hunts, which are codes that can be easily shared throughout the community. Each one will have you venturing to several different locations in order to either hunt down a certain mob or locate a treasure map. Clearing a Bounty or Treasure Hunt will shower you with loot, and who doesn’t love loot?
Then there’s the Hex system that allows you to passively increase how challenging the game is whenever you like. There are five Hexes currently available in the game:
- Hex of Malice – Monsters hit for 50 percent more damage and cause Cripple for two seconds on crit
- Hex of Pain – Victor Vran loses health periodically
- Hex of Tenacity – Monsters gain 120 armor and Regeneration
- Hex of Time – Monsters move and attack faster
- Hex of Tyranny – Some monsters become Champions. Tyrant Champions are not counted towards challenges
Enabling each Hex will increase your XP gain by 10 percent and gives you a buff to find 5 percent more items. That benefit stacks, so once you’re strong enough to hunt down enemies with all five Hexes equipped, you’ll be getting a 50 percent bonus to XP and a 25 percent chance to find more items.
Further highlighting the combat system are the boss battles in Victor Vran, all of which are fun and much more complex than your typical hack-and-slash normally found in other action RPGs. Veterans of MMORPGs will appreciate how Victor Vran‘s boss fights are inspired by raid battles, where the boss has different phases and tactics for each phase. Even your first boss encounter will be more fun than what you’ll find in 90 percent of the so-called boss fights you’ll find in other action RPGs – we’re looking at you, Diablo III.
The fundamental core to any successful action RPG: Loot, loot and more loot
Now one of the more interesting design decisions that Haemimont Games chose is the inability to switch from Normal to Hard, even if you’ve completed the game. For those seeking the ultimate challenge, you’ll want to start the game on Hard mode, otherwise you’ll have to start all over again after you beat it on Normal. But not all is lost if you choose to play the game on Normal, since there are Hexes available to make it all the more challenging.
It’s worth noting that throughout the Steam Early Access program, Haemimont Games worked very closely with the community and was steadfast in adding more content to the game while listening to feedback and criticism in order to improve the gameplay experience. And it all shows in the result with Victor Vran being head and shoulders above the run-of-the-mill action RPGs out there. Victor Vran will officially leave Steam Early Access on July 24.
If you’re an action RPG fan, don’t hesitate to give Victor Vran a try, especially at its $19.99 price point. There’s certainly deals to be had considering the game is on Steam, but we highly recommend it at its retail price.
Who knows, maybe one day Haemimont Games will lift the hat from Victor Vran’s face and the company will reveal that it was El Presidente all along. One can dream.
Victor Vran Review – What We Liked
- Varied weapon gameplay
- Solid system with Demon Powers and Destiny Cards, allowing a variety of builds that suit your playstyle
- Good amount of engaging end-game features
- Challenging boss battles that actually requires more than hacking and slashing
- Transmutation System is top notch
- PvP Arena offers enjoyable side fun
- Endless Pit is a great way to gauge just how powerful your characters have become, and how well you play the game
Victor Vran Review – What We Would’ve Liked to See
- More loot drops, especially early on in the game
- Better voice acting
- A more compelling story
- Ability to switch from Normal to Hard with the same character once you completed the game
- Leaderboard for Endless Pit
- El Presidente, damnit!