I love a video game with a good story. It doesn’t matter if it comes from a JRPG like Persona 4 (the rest of them are amazing, too, so calm down), or a visual novel like Steins;Gate; a game that can hook me with a good story is one that I’ll likely remember forever. But a good story isn’t always necessary. Sometimes, you don’t want to deal with plots that trigger pesky things like emotions or thoughts. Sometimes you just want to get into the thick of it. To kill hordes of monsters, and collect as much loot as possible. To simply play a game and not have to think about what you’re doing. I don’t care who you are, nor how much you claim to love story-driven games (because I’m right there with you); we all like to play mindlessly fun games sometimes. And that’s exactly why titles like Victor Vran: Overkill Edition exist.
Victor Vran: Overkill Edition is the kind of game to let you wander off and do your own thing. Sure, there’s a story. But it doesn’t matter all too much. The only thing that really matters is shooting (or slicing, or smashing), grabbing loot — most of which you’ll never even touch — and wolfing down as much EXP and gold as you can get your pseudo-demonic little hands on. Yes, Overkill Edition is yet another mindless looter. It doesn’t do anything particularly innovative, nor will it most likely leave a lasting impression on you. But it’s fun, and it’s got a lot of content. And that’s okay with me.
The Vran with a Plan
Victor Vran: Overkill Edition‘s primary campaign takes place in Zagoravia; a once-beautiful and prosperous city which has now found itself completely overtaken by demons. Seeking to restore the city to its former glory, many demon hunters have traveled to the city in order to slay its demonic captors — only to themselves be slain in the end. Now Victor Vran finds himself in front of Zagoravia, but not for the sake of liberating it from demons as his demon hunting brothers-in-arms attempted to do. Rather, he was guided there by a letter from his longtime friend Adrian which claims that the city has “what he seeks”. Determined to both claim what he has been searching for and save his friend from the demonic clutches of the city in the process, Victor steps into Zagoravia — both aware of and ready for the many demons who will be standing in his way.
Despite its undeniably gritty setup, I actually found it hard to take the story itself seriously at times — primarily due to the confusing way which it tended to play out. While the story itself wasn’t confusing, there were times where I wasn’t entirely sure whether I was supposed to be taking the story seriously, and at face value, or if Victor Vran was — rather subtly, might I add — satirical in nature. The story felt very shallow, something that isn’t uncommon for loot-centric ARPGs, but Victor Vran‘s occasional over-indulgence in “edginess”, combined with its oddly placed “humor” (the “mysterious voice” that talks to Victor throughout the game is an especially good example of this) left me feeling very confused as to how I was supposed to actually interpret the story. And this questionable interpretation is even more confusing when you throw in Overkill Edition‘s Mötorhead — which is all about heavy metal, rebellion, and “badassery” — and Fractured Worlds — which tells a story of Victor attempting to restore his lost humanity — DLC stories, which seem to almost entirely conflict with one another in terms of narration tone.
Hunting the Horde
When it comes to Overkill Edition‘s approach to the isometric ARPG, what you see is what you get. Never straying too far from the “hack, slash, loot” mentality, Overkill Edtion delivers unto its players a generous helping of monster killing, goody collecting content over the span of its 40+ levels that, while admittedly lacking in depth, still ends up being enjoyable thanks to how varied many of its levels are from one another and, perhaps most especially, its decision to include optional (but worthwhile!) challenges and hidden treasure chests within said levels.
Things aren’t all sunshine and daisies with this game, however. While I enjoyed what the core of this game has to offer, I’m not sure how likely it is to draw in the more seasoned ARPG players out there. Level variance and fun challenges aside, Victor Vran does feel a little bare-bones — something which became even more obvious to me as I struggled to write about it in the last paragraph. After all, there are only so many ways a game can construct itself around “kill baddie, get shiny” before it needs to start getting creative — and, though I do feel as though Overkill Edition tries, it doesn’t try as hard as it could. The pool of enemies present within this game is minimal, consisting of little more than elemental spirits, spiders, zombies/skeletons, and spiders, and the lack of any semblance of a skill tree ends up making combat feel shallow — two big no-nos for a game like this.
Overkill Edition also includes the Mötorhead and Fractured Worlds DLC stories which, although similar to the main campaign, do manage to spice things up at least a little bit. Along with the inclusions of new and unique levels, enemies, stage hazards, and loot (gotta love killing enemies with the guitar’s literal power chords) these two additional campaigns help to break up potential tedium with in-level gimmicks. A good number of Mötorhead‘s levels include what are known as “Monuments of Rock” which, when touched, activate a gauntlet of enemies that players must kill in one go (as dying resets all progress). Fractured Worlds, on the other hand, is basically just a bunch of ridiculously hard, procedurally generated dungeons — something that (and I’m not saying this ironically) every ARPG most definitely needs. After all, procedural generation almost always leads to the best loot… if you’re patient enough. And trust me, you’ll need patience for what Fractured Worlds throws at you.
I’ve already mentioned that Overkill Edition is lacking in the skill tree department, but, unfortunately, things don’t stop there. Customization isn’t just an issue when it comes to skills; it’s a problem that spans across the entirety of this game’s character-building process. Before I dig into things too much, I’ll give credit where it’s due; Overkill Edition does most definitely have some elements of character customization. Because the game doesn’t rely on classes, players are able to freely use any of the game’s 10 unique weapon types — consisting of melee weapons like hammers and swords, and ranged weapons like shotguns and magic tomes — which each come with their own special properties and skill sets, power-bestowing talismans, special Demon Powers that can be used by consuming the Overdrive Meter, and outfits which not only grant Armor bonuses, but also change how Victor replenishes his Overdrive Meter. And, if that still isn’t enough, Overkill Edition allows players to make use of “Destiny Cards” which, when equipped, can grant passive buffs to stats, special abilities like vampirism, and more. So yes, Victor Vran: Overkill Edition does indeed allow players to customize their very own Victor. But I still think that they could have done more.
Despite what is in Overkill Edition in terms of customization, there’s so much that isn’t. And, if you ask me, most of the fault lies within the way this game handles weapons. I get that this game wanted to do something unique by linking skills with weapons, and I’m totally fine with that, but the lack of actual skill diversity means that you’ll be stuck with the same two (or four, if you take both weapons into account) skills for the entirety of the game. As someone who’s done that (hammer and guitar are my go-to pair), I can tell you that that starts to get stale after a while. The ability to fuse items into weapons to power up their passive abilities (which also aren’t as fleshed out as they could be) is already present; why not go one step further, and allow players to swap out skills that way as well? Even if you only added one extra skill for players to pick from, that’s still a 50% skill pool boost. The fact that weapons aren’t nearly as diverse as they should be, despite the ludicrous amount of loot that you end up getting, not only doesn’t help the game out in any way but actively ends up working against it.
Loot’s Still Loot
Bringing with it both positive aspects — like its unique levels, fun challenges, and overall accessibility — as well as negative ones — such as its strange narration tone, and watered-down customization options — Victor Vran: Overkill Edition is a loot-centric ARGP that comfortably plants itself somewhere between “okay” and “good”. Despite my issues with it, I really did have a fun time, and I’m glad that I got to play it, but it’s ultimately unremarkable. If you want something quick, fun, and saturated with loot, then this game might not be a bad choice. But, for those of you looking for something with a little more substance, keep in mind that this isn’t the only ARPG set to grace the Switch this year.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC ; Publisher: Haemimont Games ; Developer: Haemimont Games ; Players: 1 – 4 ; Released: August 28, 2018 ; ESRB: M for Mature ; MSRP: $39.99 (Switch)
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Victor Vran: Overkill Edition given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.