Review: Vapour: Part 1 (PC)
When I saw that I had procured a copy of Vapour for review, I was intrigued. A local indie effort with tons of gore and a horror theme? As a horror hound, it certainly perked my interest. But the eternal question that I’m here to answer today is: is the game any good?
First, some backstory. You play the role of human/demonic hybrid fellow with sorcerous skills and psychotic sensibilities. Born and bred by a cult for unholy purposes, your life has been nothing but ritualistic abuse. After a murderous rampage, you manage to miss eternal damnation by the hair of your chin. Stuck somewhere between Hell and Purgatory, with only a fraction of your power intact, you set out to regain your abilities and eventually return to Earth to wreak havoc upon your former captors once more.
It’s absolutely gushing with horror tropes, and the best kind at that; locales are dank, creepy and gothic, with literal rivers of blood, obscuring mist and assorted tortured bodies to remind you that you’re not in Kansas anymore. It throws in some jump scares too, ranging from ghostly apparitions passing your way to disembodied heads appearing out of nowhere and vanishing as suddenly as he appeared. They are quick scares of the cheapest variety and they’re alarmingly effective.
So the theme is in the right place, but how does it play? Sadly, here’s where the game falters; mechanics are a bit messy and assorted bugs complicate matters further. To illustrate, the player encounters a confusing dead-end merely a few seconds into play. You’ll run up against a locked gate, a locked cabin door and little to indicate where exactly you must go and what you must do. Exploration is key here and with enough poking around and a willingness to peek in every nook and cranny, you’ll eventually figure out how the pieces all fit. But dumping players into a confusing scenario from the get-go isn’t a good game design decision. It would serve both the developers and players to have the basic mechanics introduced in a gradual way.
The alternative is a “hints” mode which flat-out tells you exactly what you need to do next. This absolutely ruins the gameplay and is the direct opposite of the problem mentioned above. It should be removed entirely and instead replaced with a more thorough tutorial or least an introductory level of some kind.
Rough introduction aside, it plays out like a smorgasbord of differing genres: There’s a lot of exploration, a smidgen of ledge-jumping and platforming and, naturally, a nod to FPSes and even first-person fighters such as Zeno Clash. In keeping with the occult theme, you won’t find a shotgun or rocket launcher, but instead players will make use of their character’s sorcerous potential, utilizing several spells to attack and maim the assorted abominations that roam the landscape. While the enemy design is fantastic – hopping skulls and human-headed spiders are among the dramatis personae – the actual combat feels somewhat lacking. It’s difficult to lock onto a moving target and the use of melee never quite feels satisfying enough.
Then there’s the bugs and overall performance. The game suffers from frequent, random lag spikes even at the lowest settings and even with a reasonably beefed-up rig. It’s quite annoying when you’re trying to explore the landscape and a simple turn has the sensation of freezing a frame in time. Then there’s the graphical glitches: objects clip in and out of existence occasionally and sometimes inexplicable duplications take place, such as the player spawning extra hands. Finally, the most unforgivable of offenses, my saved game simply disappeared and I had to start over. That really felt like a kick in the teeth.
These bugs are pretty inexcusable, but that’s not what brings Vapour down. The biggest problem is that it’s never sure if it wants to be an ambient adventure game, a survival horror or a fragfest and subsequently doesn’t succeed in any of these endeavors. I won’t lie, I actually liked it a lot and had fun playing it, but as it stands, it’s simply not a good game yet. It hits all the right notes with the creepy atmosphere, occult aesthetics, gritty voice acting and buckets of blood, and the fusion of various styles shows a lot of potential. I just can’t shake the feeling that it shouldn’t have been released yet and there’s a lot of tweaking, balancing and bug-testing to still be done.
Sorry, Skobbejak Games. Your effort clearly shows, but I just can’t recommend this one. Keep at it and it could very well evolve into something special. It’s just not there yet.