Vampyr: Beginner tips and best upgrades

If our recent review of Dontnod’s new grimdark RPG Vampyr inspired you to pick up the game for yourself, you might end up being a little lost and/or overwhelmed after stepping into the game’s unique take on Victorian-era London. As a story-based RPG, Vampyr works rather well, but trying to master the game’s unique combat and vampirism-based gameplay mechanics can oftentimes be tedious at best, and outright frustrating at worst. This guide should help to alleviate any growing pains you feel as you acclimate to Vampyr’s gameplay and ultimately help you appreciate the darkly beautiful tapestry nestled within its rough edges.

Understanding Combat

Vampyr’s combat mechanics come off as a bit unrefined and erratic, which is unfortunate since you’ll spend a large amount of time during your Vampyr playthrough locked in battle with a variety of different foes. However, as long as you understand exactly how combat works and what your limitations as a vampire are, it can actually be quite thrilling, and in some cases even fun.

If you’ve ever played any of the Dark Souls games or similar games like Bloodborne, Vampyr’s combat stamina system should look somewhat familiar. Performing actions like basic melee attacks and dodges drains stamina, and you have to be careful that you don’t run out of stamina at an inopportune time since you’ll be exposed to enemy retaliation. However, enemies have a stamina gauge too, and if you can fully drain an enemy’s stamina, they’ll be stunned, allowing you to move in for a bite attack and/or land a few free hits.

Biting enemies is good since it not only damages them and lowers their total recovery threshold (i.e. the amount of health they can recover over time), it also awards you blood points which are needed to use your own vampiric powers. Later on, you can purchase upgrades for your melee weapons which allow them to award blood points whenever you land a hit, but during the early hours of your Vampyr playthrough, your main method of blood point acquisition will be biting enemies.

Therefore, you should find an off-hand stunning weapon (like a stake or a police baton) you feel comfortable using and stick with it. The stake is a solid option since you can eventually find more powerful stakes which can be upgraded so that they drain less stamina when swung and inflict more stamina damage on enemies.

This cycle of stunning and biting enemies to get blood points is also important since using your blood-based vampirism powers doesn’t use up stamina, which means that they can help you keep up a combo chain or get you out of a tight spot.

In fact, if you can get the drop on an enemy (walking up to an unaware enemy from behind allows you to score a free stun/bite attack), you can sometimes keep pelting them with melee attacks, stuns, and vampirism attacks to the point where they have no opportunity to counter-attack before they’re dead.

Essential Combat Upgrades

If you’re wondering which upgrades you should spend your Blood XP on first, passive upgrades are always a solid bet. Beefing up your total health and stamina can help you survive tougher encounters, especially when you’re pitted against more than one foe at once, and eventually you’ll want to upgrade your bite damage, total blood point capacity, and the amount of blood points you gain from a successful bite.

Upgrading the total number of gun bullets and syringes you can carry is less-essential, but it still helps since syringes can also be handy in a pinch, and firearms can help to soften up tougher enemies (especially bosses) if you don’t have access to a blood-based ranged attack like blood spear.

You should always purchase as many upgrades as you can whenever you rest since every upgrade bought will contribute to your overall character level. When you reach level 10, you can purchase an “ultimate” ability that, if used at the right moment, can quickly turn the odds in your favor if things are going south. Along with your ultimate ability, you can have up to four standard vampirism powers equipped at any one time, and it helps if you can balance those powers between offensive and defensive options.

The Best Methods For Gaining XP

Successfully defeating enemies awards a small amount of XP, but your main method of acquiring XP in Vampyr isn’t combat. The game encourages you to mesmerize and “embrace” (i.e. kill) non-hostile NPC’s to gain large XP bonuses, and you can increase the amount of XP a particular NPC grants by improving their “blood quality.” This is done via two different methods: curing the NPC of a disease (if they have one), and unlocking all of their dialogue options by acquiring hints about their life and personality.

When you talk to an NPC for the first time, you’ll notice that certain dialogue paths are blocked off unless you have the appropriate hint. You can gain hints for a particular NPC either by exhausting their existing conversation topics, talking about them with other NPC’s in their social circle, or finding specific items out in the world.

Even if you don’t plan on killing an NPC for their XP, acquiring hints and unlocking new conversation topics is important since it can also lead to those NPC’s giving you side quests. Completing side quests awards unique items and large XP bonuses, providing an alternate path for those who don’t want to take innocent lives. Thanks to the large XP payouts awarded from completing both main and side quests, it’s entirely possible to beat Vampyr without taking a single innocent life, you’ll just progress a bit more slowly than you otherwise would if you did kill a non-hostile NPC here and there.

Favorable Odds

Speaking of progressing slowly, you’ll likely find that enemies start to out-level you as you progress further into Vampyr’s story, especially if you opt not to take any innocent lives. However, attempting to fight higher level enemies won’t result in guaranteed defeat, even if the difference in levels is significantly wide. If you’re patient and careful, it is possible to take down foes that are five, even ten levels higher than your own, just be cautious since such enemies can often inflict large amounts of damage very quickly, making even the slightest mistake a costly one.

If you find yourself facing a group of high-level foes, one effective strategy is to soften them up with a few attacks and then run away far enough that they lose interest and give up the chase. Oftentimes, they won’t bother to restore the health they lost as they slowly walk back to their designated patrol spot, allowing you to rush in and deal more damage (or even corner off a single foe), rinsing and repeating until they’re all defeated. Sure, it’s not the most honorable or courageous strategy, but honor doesn’t do you a whole lot of good if you’re dead.

Here’s hoping the above tips and strategies can help in making your Vampyr playthrough a little bit easier. Vampyr is available now for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.