If you’re in the mood for a game that starts with a pinch of Diablo III, adds a dash of God of War, and stirs it all together with Geralt’s voice from the Witcher series, then Victor Vran is literally your best option.
Originally released on the PC five years ago, developer Haemimont Games brought their isometric action RPG to every current console within the last year or so. The studio is most- famous for their Tropico series of building/strategy games, but every once in a while they randomly churn out a fun action game. Victor Vran is their best effort in the action genre so far, with gameplay that perfectly blends the loot-focused fun of a click-heavy Diablo-style game with action that’s more demanding of player skill.
Each weapon type in the game has a different move set, with a unique feel and speed. You’ll have to learn to effectively time your attacks, dodges, and jumps in order to complete the many available challenges. The game is split into a huge list of linear levels, and each level also has a set of five bonus challenges. Completing these challenges earns Victor extra gold, items, and experience points.
The combat feels more like a character action game and less like a click-fest than the typical game in this genre. It’s a great design choice, and makes the constant combat more engaging than it otherwise would be. You’re encouraged to switch weapons frequently, both to try out the new movesets and to complete specific challenges. The game hands out new loot often enough that it’s easy to mix up your playstyle whenever you’d like.
The storyline in Victor Vran is fully voiced, and you’ll probably recognize the gravelly tones of Witcher star Doug Cockle in the title role. It feels like he wasn’t given any direction beyond “do the Geralt voice,” and that’s a strange decision. Doug has range and years of acting experience, but here he was asked to copy his most iconic performance. The tone of voice, sarcastic edge, and general pace of his voice are all exact copies of his Witcher choices, and it makes it hard to take the story seriously.
Graphically, the game looks great on all platforms save for the Switch. The world of Zagoravia is a vibrant and slightly stylized collection of fantasy tropes. You’ll wander through pristine cities, old castles, and numerous dungeons and tombs. The game’s camera is steadfastly locked to one wide zoom level, which works fine on a TV but is a little too zoomed-out on the Switch’s portable screen.
On the PS4 and Xbox One the game runs locked at 60 frames per second, with graphics mimicking the high settings from the PC. You’ll see lots of particles, real-time shadows, and destructive elements with modeled physics. The game doesn’t really slow down on these platforms even when there’s lots going on. For fans of rumble support, the Xbox version makes extensive use of the Impulse Triggers, and the Switch version has great HD rumble support.
The Switch version cuts a number of graphical effects, and general assets are softer-looking across the board, thanks to a lower resolution. The lighting system is greatly reduced, with almost no shadows appearing in the game whatsoever. Frame rate also struggles during heavy moments, though the game still plays okay on Nintendo’s console. The UI elements haven’t been re-scaled in portable mode, so some of the text and menus are a little small if you decide to play on the go.
As someone who enjoys game audio, the Switch’s large cuts to the sound are worse than its visual sacrifices. Victor Vran has a wonderful orchestral score, with real instruments and singers. Unfortunately, the Switch version has heavily compressed audio, and it’s all been reduced down to one mono channel for playback. While I’ve played a few other Switch games that have had noticeably compressed audio, I can’t think of any other game on the system that lost its stereo mix in favor of mono. There’s a reverb option in the settings menu you can toggle on that helps the compressed mono audio sound a little more open, but in general the Switch version has disappointing sound.
Regardless of the platform you choose, Victor Vran serves up hours and hours of enjoyable fast-paced isometric action combat, and a story that’s more involved than the typical action RPG. The “Overkill Edition” includes two large expansion packs, one of which was a collaboration with the band Motörhead, so that’s fun. I can’t really recommend the Switch version, unless you’re sure that you can put up with the compromised graphics and the borderline-terrible sound quality.