Nearly two years after being released on PCs and Mac, the Diablo III-esque dungeon crawler Victor Vran has finally come to consoles as Victor Vran Overkill Edition (PlayStation 4, Xbox One), which also includes the game’s two major add-ons, an expanded edition that’s also available on PC. But while this adventure game is decidedly Diablo-esque, it manages to distinguish itself by employing some different, and fundamental, mechanics.
Like other games of this kind, the Victor Vran Overkill Edition is an action-RPG in which you use both melee and ranged attacks. While you spend the bulk of your time mashing buttons, your main attack is augmented by special ones that have to recharge over time, as well as demon powers that are basically magic attacks. All of which comes in handy as you embark on quests that are part exploration, part survival, and part picking up all the cool stuff you find from looking around, looting the dead bodies of your enemies, and smashing things that may have a stash of gold inside. All of which can be done solo or with friends both online and sitting next to you on the couch (couch not included).
But while the Victor Vran Overkill Edition clearly owes a debt of gratitude to the Diablo series, there are some distinct differences, albeit ones that aren’t uncommon for this genre. For starters, the aerial perspective isn’t fixed, like it is in Diablo III. Instead, you can rotate it left or right to get a better vantage point. Though unlike some dungeon crawlers, you can’t zoom in or out.
The Victor Vran Overkill Edition also lets you jump, and even do a bit of ground pound. There are also instances when you can do a sort of Prince Of Persia-esque move by jumping up a wall and, by hitting the jump button a second or even third time, go sailing up and in the opposite direction, hopefully into a secret area full of loot. Similarly, you can do a God Of War-esque forward roll, which comes in handy when you’re surrounded. Or somewhere with a sticky floor.
The setting of the Victor Vran Overkill Edition also makes a difference. While Diablo and other games of its kind are typically set in medieval fantasy realms heavily influenced by The Lord Of The Rings and similar books, Victor Vran takes place in a Victorian English-esque world that’s more inspired by gothic fantasy, with just a hint of steampunk. Which is why you use shotguns and pistols instead of bows and arrows, and why some of these weapons have electrical augmentations. It’s also why you’re not fighting trolls, goblins, and orcs, but are instead taking on vampires, the undead, and gargoyles. Oh, and spiders. So many spiders.
Using shotguns against giant spiders isn’t the only reason why combat in the Victor Vran Overkill Edition feel differently than your typical dungeon crawler, though. At times, you’ll face swarms of enemies, far more than you usually do in this kind of game. But because they’re not pushovers, fighting these large battles makes this feel less like a Dynasty Warriors game, which is like cutting grass with a sharp machete, and more like such twin-stick shooters as Alienation or Dead Nation, in that you feel like you’re constantly on the brink of being overwhelmed.
Victor Vran Overkill Edition also doesn’t have a class system per se. Instead, you initially chose from one of four outfits, which impact how often you get to use your demon powers (though later outfit options have different qualities). As a result of both this, and the fact that your demon powers are rechargeable like your special attacks, the Victor Vran Overkill Edition is decidedly more for fans of hack & slash action games or top-down shooters than those who like to fight with magic.
Further differentiate it from other action/adventure games, the Victor Vran Overkill Edition doesn’t have side quests (though most battlefields do have whole sections that are off the beaten path). Instead, every area you visit has five secondary objectives. These include such challenges as killing a certain number of enemies in a specific amount of time or without being injured; destroying a certain number of objects, such as spider eggs or urns; or using melee attacks to kill a set number of a specific kind of enemy. Completing these not only gives you a gold star, but also gold coins and other goodies.
For all of its differences, though, the Victor Vran Overkill Edition still largely feels like Diablo III. Sure, some of the special attacks are unique, as is having a shotgun instead of a bow and arrow. But at its core, it’s still a button mashing hack & slash action game, one that will feel familiar to Diablo fans.
All of the above tenets apply to the main part of Victor Vran Overkill Edition, as well as the two included expansions. But the same can’t be said in reverse.
First off, there’s “Fractured Worlds,” in which players get to challenge themselves by fighting their way through four levels. What sets it apart is that those levels are randomly generated, which means you can keep playing this mode indefinitely. Or at least you could if it seemed necessary; because the main game is already so long, playing this mode more than once or twice seems unnecessary.
What’s far more interesting is the second add-on, “Motorhead Through The Ages.” Which, yes, was inspired by the titular rock band. Specifically, the imagery of their album covers and lyrics, and the fascination that lead singer/bassist Lemmy Kilmeister had with World War II. But while the infusion of rock & roll makes this a bit silly at times, like when you get a weapon called the Guitar Of Vampirism, this actually works to its advantage because it gives the game a different tone, while maintaining its solid action. It’s basically what Brutal Legend should’ve been. They even got Lloyd Kaufman, the actor and over-the-top impresario behind The Toxic Avenger and Trauma Entertainment to be the narrator. And the bartender.
While both the main game in the Victor Vran Overkill Edition and the “Motorhead Through The Ages” expansion are engaging, they’re not without their problems. For starters, there’s an aggravating glitch in its inventory system that often prevents you from highlighting the item you want. Instead of, say, letting you grab that cool new sword the giant spider just dropped, it might move a different item to whatever inventory box you move the cursor to, or it may just change that box to an empty one. Granted, this issue does typically correct itself when you leave the menu and come back, but it’s still infuriating when a spider drops a cool new sword and you can’t equip it right away.
It also doesn’t help that the story in the main game is rather rote and uninteresting. Or that it’s told with static images, as opposed to cutscenes. Or that the voice in Victor’s head is annoying and sometimes spoils secrets. Or that the humor in the main game falls flat and often feed dated.
There’s also aspects of the Victor Vran Overkill Edition that, while common to dungeon crawlers, are not fun no matter what game they’re in. Like how you can’t move and attack at the same time. Or how you can’t just chug health potions whenever you want, you have to wait a few seconds between doses. Though at least you don’t have to worry about weapon wear and tear; y’know, it’s so much fun when your super cool sword breaks during a boss fight.
Victor Vran Overkill Edition also suffers from a problem so common that I now just cut and paste this paragraph from other game reviews and change the particulars: the type is too small. If you sit at a reasonable distance from your television — y’know, like your mama told you to — you’ll have trouble reading the menus and most of the on-screen messages.
In the end, while the Victor Vran Overkill Edition is Diablo III-esque, it’s just not as good as Diablo III. Especially in the story department. But it’s still a solid dungeon crawler that, more importantly, does enough that’s unique and different to prevent it from feeling like yet another Diablo clone. So much so that anyone who loves Diablo III, shotguns, and spiders, will have fun hacking, slashing, shooting, and casting their way through it.