Four months after the release of the final episode of Life Is Strange, Dontnod Entertainment has released a concept trailer for its new game. About vampires. So, what the hell is a vampire game in the hands of the folks that brought us playable sadness going to look like?
Framed as a “darkly atmospheric Action-RPG” by the studio, Vampyr takes place in 1918 London, following the First World War. The city is plagued by an epidemic of Spanish influenza, and Jonathan Reid, a military surgeon, must balance his conscience and his will to survive after he finds himself a cardholding member of the Undead Club.
At first glance, the decision to dip into the vampire genre might seem like an odd one, but given Dontnod’s previous releases, it seems an almost natural fit. Now that the studio has been to the dystopian future and tinkered with the threatened present, going back in time feels like a logical next step. Beyond that, vampire tales are nothing if not fraught with moral dilemmas — an essential piece of Dontnod games.
Dontnod’s other releases, Life Is Strange and Remember Me, are wildly different games, but they do boil down to two common elements: a strong narrative and an emphasis on the importance of choice.
Life Is Strange tells the story of Max Caulfield, who discovers that she has the power to control time and change events in the midst of a mysterious event that threatens to destroy Arcadia Bay, the coastal town where she lives. A narrative-driven game, it doesn’t have much in the way of complex controls. Instead, it focuses on world exploration and interaction with key objects that reveal and drive the plot.
Though Life Is Strange occasionally feels it was written by a man who’d once had lunch with a teenage girl and spent the entire time taking notes as she spoke, shaking his head and muttering, “Fascinating,” under his breath, it’s a deeply impactful game. Poignant in its insistence upon difficult choices and pitch-perfect in its nostalgic tone and aesthetic, Life Is Strange was largely well-received and well-loved.
Remember Me, by way of contrast, is an adventure game that follows Nilin, a memory hunter who escapes prison and sets out on a mission to retrieve her own stolen memories. Though it also focuses narrative and choice, Remember Me includes combat controls and character movements that extend beyond Life Is Strange’s walking and interacting with objects.
So, with Dontnod’s previous games in mind, what will Vampyr look like?
First off, it’s a safe bet that it’s going to look more like Remember Me than Life Is Strange. That said, it may not bear much resemblance to either. Dontnod has certainly proved its ability to create games that bear almost no practical resemblance to one another and there’s a very good chance that Vampyr will throw something new into the mix as it steps back in time and grapples with an age-old element of horror.
Following a gameplay demo, IGN reports that while ambitious, at this early stage the combat controls lack real purpose and meaning within the context of the game — instead, they seem to be included to broaden the game’s appeal.
Combat elements aside, though, it’s a good bet that Dontnod isn’t about to abandon its propensity for forcing players to make difficult choices in the game. At a time when the city is strapped for resources and struggling under the weight of a devastating illness, many of those difficult choices will center around whether or not there’s a good way to take a life as the game examines the ripple effect that appears in the wake of loss.
Vampyr will let players choose their victims carefully, taking into account their position within the narrative and their connections with other characters. This seems right in line with what we’d expect from Dontnod: a game that has players agonizing over decisions and carefully considering consequences.
Though the game doesn’t come out until next year (with no specific release date yet), it’s a good bet that Vampyr will bear the marks of a Dontnod release: a focus on narrative and plenty of game-shaping difficult decisions.