With Diablo III on the horizon, it seems like a perfect time to re-introduce another top down action RPG to the Switch. Victor Vran is a sort of Van Helsing on steroids, with a bit of demon magic thrown in for good measure, and he’s brought some friends.
While the game isn’t new, it arrived on PC back in 2015, it has the advantage of containing all the content added from the overkill edition, namely a new mode for the main game and an interesting trip to a world inspired by Motorhead.
The main game sees our hero, Victor, answering a call from a demon hunter friend to help save the city of Zagoravia and rescue him. Victor bursts through the city gates and starts kicking monster butt as soon as he arrives. The story unravels the reason why Zagoravia is under attack from the demons, but don’t expect anything too deep here. What you might notice, though, is a familiar voice. Victor is voiced by the same actor as Geralt of Rivia in The Witcher games. Talk about typecasting!
The game follows the standard Diablo-style action RPG approach, though there are no character classes as such here, just different outfits which allow you to tailor your play style by giving you the energy required for the game’s special demon powers, but more on that later. On top of this you get cards which expand your powers and, as you’d expect, loot to collect in the form of plenty of weapons.
Starting off slowly with simple enemies in small, tight maps, you soon learn about Overdrive, the power bar which fills as you fight and allows you to pull off the demon powers. This bar will be dependent on those initial costume choices but it also fills faster when you use different attacks which, in turn, pushes players to use more varied methods of dispatching the giant spiders, scorpion demons and other monsters. You can, of course, spam the buttons in hope but it won’t get you far with some of the pretty tough later enemies, especially when they start ganging up on you.
Weapons determine your demon powers but you also get destiny cards, which expand your powers or health and levelling up brings you more weapons, dress styles and items to use. It’s an interesting system which, at first, seems at odds with a game like this. There’s no real levelling up as such, but the weapon choices also change up the way you play as your attacks differ. Shotguns and other ranged attacks allow you to keep your distance while some close up weapons give you quick fire attacks and others are slower but more powerful. Thankfully, you can wield two weapons on the go and swap between them easily.
As you progress the enemies get larger and the screen fills with weapon-fire, monster blood and glowing magic. It’s like fireworks night at a rave concert in Dracula’s castle and it helps disguise the fact that the action tends to grow a little samey after a while. Thankfully, new weapons and some good map design also help to keep your attention until the final showdown.
One thing of note is the narrator who can’t help but insult you at each step of the way. Coming off as something like a cross between the narrator in Bastion and Bioshock, he adds a little spice to the game with his pithy comments and references to pop culture.
The add-ons on Switch provide a dungeon creator style mode, which provides random dungeons and is useful for those who’ve finished the main game but is also designed for those who’ve really mastered the game. It also brings the unusual Motorhead based DLC which is like a game in itself and swaps the arenas, weapons and special powers for something a bit more fitting for the infamous metal band. Yes, that means you get to fight with weaponised electric guitars in a World War II style setting to the sound of classic Motorhead songs. I actually loved this add-on more than the main game, though there are noticeable times when the music isn’t playing in the background and it loses a little of its charm. Constant references to Lemmy and the band are nice.
So how does the game fare on Switch? Considering that the console versions had dips in frame rate the Switch edition doesn’t feel too bad. For the most part it’s a fairly smooth ride, only dropping frames when there are huge load of bigger enemies on screen with a lot of pyrotechnics around. Even on handheld mode the game manages to feel responsive and still looks good, though the small characters do look even smaller on the small screen, naturally, and the menus could have done with a bigger font. The Pro Controller is certainly more responsive than the Joycons for a game like this, but having played using both, the Joycons still manage to do a good enough job when you need them.
Victor Vran manages to add something new to the genre and also fits well on Switch. With Diablo III coming some may say it’s on borrowed time, but the two are different enough that it’s worth having both if you’re a fan of ARPGs. The Motorhead add-on is worth the price alone and it’s good to see more games like this appearing on Nintendo’s console.