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In Life is Strange dev’s next game, Vampyr, players choose a monster’s moral compass

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Will they be Jack the Ripper, or Dexter?

The world first learned of Dontnod’s Vampyr on the eve of the launch of its last title, Life is Strange. Since then, the French development team has given regular updates on its progress. Now that it’s in the final stretch, it’s also producing a demo for this summer’s Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. The real challenge will be getting across the main character’s motivations in such a short period of time.

Vampyr is a third-person action role-playing game set in 1918 London. Players take on the role of a physician named Jonathan Reid. The demo will feature a new look at the game’s combat system, but it will also take time to explore Reid’s own background.

“Dr. Jonathan Reid was in the war,” said Gregory Szucs, Vampire’s art director. “He was trained as a soldier at some point and he brought back some ideas, so he will definitely use that, like trench clubs and things he brought back with him. He still uses his service weapon — a Webley — and a blade. And the combat will happen in the streets, in the sewers. It's not going to be about mortar shells.”

Reid wakes up in a mass grave during the Spanish flu epidemic in London. The early game will be about coming to grips with being a vampire, while the arc of the game will focus on how he deals with the malady and his quest for a cure. The team said it chose 1918 because it was such a period of dramatic cultural change, a time when a vampire could perhaps secretly find a safe place to live alongside mortals.

“It was interesting for us because there were a lot of scientific progress and discoveries that emerged during this period,” said Philippe Moreau, Vampyr’s game director. “It was really, I would say, the first time that science could challenge religion and mysticism in a sense that science could provide answers that religion would never have been able to.”

Because of what Reid has seen in the war, and because of his ethical obligations as a medical doctor, Dontnod said they plan to play with preconceptions of what motivates a classical vampire to feed or take a human life.

“One interesting question we want the player to ask themselves is, ‘Who am I going to kill and who am I going to spare?’” said Moreau. “We have created a wide variety of citizen archetypes, very different archetypes, so you can really decide to play the game like Dexter, as he would do in the TV show. Or you can decide to do it the other way, be like Jack the Ripper and take lives and just feed and be in full possession of your supernatural skills.

“You can navigate between these two extreme paths. There is no good or bad decision. We don't want to influence you on your moral choices. It's really up to you how you want to experience the game.”

Where other vampire games might weaken players if they don’t feed, Szucs and Moreau talked more in terms of how Reid’s choice to kill citizens would grant him evolutionary powers. One conflict they hope to play with is Reid’s own need for self preservation. In Vampyr, a powerful group of vampire hunters are hot on the doctor’s trail, and only by increasing his own combat abilities can he stay alive long enough to cure himself.

Throughout the interview, the team stressed that Reid had a rational, scientific mind. We asked if someone like that, given his experiences during the war and his horrible affliction, might consider allowing the vampire hunters to simply kill him, or even go so far as to take their own life.

“That's a very interesting question,” said Szucs wryly. “Jonathan has a lot of trouble accepting the situation at first and it will definitely approach it in a rational way, so he will conduct experiences and he will come to some conclusions. But then it is going to be up to the player, really. There are a lot of ways you can deal with the situation.”

Vampyr is expected to arrive this year for Windows PC, as well as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Unlike Life is Strange, it will be a single, non-episodic product. The team tells us players should put aside between 15 and 30 hours to experience it all.