Move over, Diablo! There’s a new name in action RPGs and it’s Victor Vran.

, | Game reviews

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who recognized the brilliance of Sacred 2 and those who don’t like to think when they’re playing an action RPG. In Sacred 2’s German variation on the Diablo formula, you assembled intricate character builds. You might have had to actually read a manual and take notes to know what you were doing (keep in mind this was back in 2008). Then your Teutonic clockwork assemblage roamed around an open world, maybe following the main quest marker but maybe not. It didn’t really matter. All that mattered was leveling up. Sacred 2 was an action RPG for gearheads. Later, Path of Exile from New Zealand would come along to re-fill the niche with its Antipodean clockwork.

Victor Vran, another German take on the Diablo formula, is actually Bulgarian, but close enough. There’s enough wide-ranging intricacy in Victor Vran to warm the clockwork cockles of a Sacred 2 fan’s heart. But Victor Vran lives very comfortably in a post-Diablo III world. Whereas Sacred 2 was fussy and elaborate, Victor Vran is accessible and splashy, brimming with personality and broad variety. “Dumbed down” you might say if you’re impatient with people who don’t like to think when they’re playing an action RPG. “Also for them” if you aren’t.

After the jump, a cerebral action RPG for dummies.

Like Diablo III, you can reconfigure your character — always and only the eponymous Victor Vran — at any time. The game constantly encourages you to play around with different builds, but if you just want to brute force your way with your favorite build, have at it. And like Diablo III, the degree of difficulty is mostly in your hands. A potentially ugly power curve rises up near the end of the game, but that’s mainly because Victor Vran doesn’t have much of an endgame, so it needs to delay you on the way to the final boss. Along the way, you get to decide what sort of experience point multiplier and magic find bonus you want. How do you feel about champions with special abilities to stress test the tactical interplay? Do you want monsters to have extra armor and regeneration? How about speeding them up? Basically, how much do you want the monsters to push back?

One area where Victor Vran won’t push back is death. There is no penalty for dying. No experience point setback, no financial ding, no repair costs, no respawned monsters. The worst that happens is that you might have to run back a few screen lengths to where you died. It’s an odd oversight that sometimes makes the whole enterprise feel pointless. But when you play in hardcore mode with permadeath, suddenly the game becomes– Oh, wait, there is no hardcore mode or permadeath. So, yeah, sometimes the whole enterprise feels pointless. For an action RPG otherwise so well tuned, the insignificance of Victor Vran’s deaths are conspicuous. Why make a game that can be this challenging but with zero stakes? Risk/reward only counts when there’s actual, you know, risk.

VV_5

You’d think it would be hard to convey much personality with only one character class. As I mentioned, your class is always and only Victor Vran. But you do get to choose two weapons, which stand in for your class. Not in the sense that each weapons has something as cluttered as, say, a skill tree. Instead, every weapon has three attacks (you’d think Victor Vran was built from the ground up to play well with gamepads). And these weapons all have some sort of skill-based component. Not skill-based in the sense of putting points into your character’s skill so that a sword is only as good as you’ve paid to make it. Skill-based in the sense of you have to get good at them. Timing tricks or synergy patterns are a part of how you use each weapon. Sure, you can just mash the buttons. But to get the most out of a weapon, you’ll want to learn it. You’ll want to practice its particular rhythms and idiosyncracies. The shotgun timing, the hammer positioning, the lightning gun’s homing balls, the build-up and release of the scythe, picking your targets carefully with the rapier.

And, of course, the other elements of your character build feed into or from your choice of weapons. You have a flexible set of passive abilities based on cards. You can choose two potions, two spells, and an outfit that determines how you fuel your spells. And that’s all there is to it. This is not about slotting a whole mess of stuff into a paper doll. There are no pauldrons, no rings, no amulets, no hats. It’s only those few things: weapons, cards, potions, spells, and outfit. If you decide a build isn’t working in a particular situation — the enemies interact in distinct ways with the different weapons — it’s a simple matter to rebuild your Victor Vran on the fly. It’s a post-Diablo III world. Getting locked into permanent choices is so passe these days.

VV_3

The loot churn in Victor Vran is distinct from other action RPGs in a few ways. Because this is a game without pauldrons, rings, amulets, and hats, you aren’t constantly hoovering up junk. With fewer types of loot, there is simply less loot. What’s more, your equipment doesn’t have a level. That’s not how levels work here. The power curve isn’t a growing number of hit points or an escalating damage-per-second stat that will obsolete anything you find a few levels later. When Victor levels up, he mostly gets more flexibility for his character build, such as a greater capacity for passive bonuses. He only occasionally gets hit point boosts, but not to the degree you see in the average RPG. At level 1, I had 1,000 hit points. At level 30, I’ve got 2,900 hit points. Similarly, monsters don’t have levels either. I can still get into trouble in early areas if I use hexes — similar to skulls in Halo — to boost the difficulty level for extra experience points and a magic find bonus. This means going back for treasure hunts, bounties, and those alluring challenges on every level is still relevant. This is what passes for the endgame in Victor Vran and, for the most part, it’ll do.

A corollary of this unconventional power curve is that a weapon I found at level 10 can still be relevant at level 30. Gear is distinguished by rarity, so those amazing purple legendaries won’t fade with time. You might actually resent being trapped by their greatness. I have a legendary shotgun and a legendary hammer. I feel like I’m slumming it when I decide to use a character build based on one of my lowly rare weapons. But sometimes you just have to mix it up. This is too smart, too meticulous, and too skill-based an action RPG to just live by hammer and shotgun alone, no matter how awesome they are. The crafting gets a little crazy for how you can throw extra loot into the hopper for incremental improvements to your favorite gear, or to just roll the dice and see what new loot you get. There’s no real moneysink in Victor Vran, so save up your coins for the times you find a merchant selling a legendary, or to just buy up gear to throw into the crafting hopper. You’ll definitely appreciate that you don’t have an inventory limit. It’s nice to be able to haul pages upon pages of loot until you’re ready to sit down and chuck it into the crafting machine. It’s a pretty intricate machine. You might have to take notes. Make a cup of coffee and take your time.

VV_2

That’s Victor Vran in a nutshell. It’s splashy and accessible, but intricate and skill-based. It’s alternately frantic and methodical. You can just plow through it mindlessly or you can optimize your character build and hone your favorite gear. You can tweak the difficulty as you go, keep it breezy, or crank it up to 11. Explore the wide-openness or follow the main quest marker to the end. But if you’re into action RPGs, whether you’re a Sacred 2 fanatic or Diablo III weekender or someone in between, Victor Vran is a name worth noting.

  • Victor Vran

  • Rating:

  • PC
  • Victor Vran is the isometric action-RPG where your skill is just as essential as your character build and gear. Experience intense combat action: dodge, jump and unleash powerful skills to finish off your enemies! Not just for Sacred 2 fans!
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