Vlad The Impaler

Blood paints the streets of Istanbul, a darkness has fallen upon the city. This is what you are told in the introduction of Vlad The Impaler. Many people before you have been sent to investigate and not returned. As a trusted and skilled individual, you are sent to find out the truth.

Vlad The Impaler is a text based adventure set in Istanbul as you investigate certain areas of the city. Before playing you choose from three characters; explorer, soldier or mage (I went with soldier; imagining I'd be fighting a lot) and choose one specific area of the city per turn. There are fifteen turns in total before the conclusion. The events of each turn will effect your statistics - agility, dexterity, strength, intelligence among others either in a positive or negative manner. The statistics you build up (or deplete) are taking into account during the conclusion of the game. While this structure is a little simplistic, Vlad The Impaler shines in many aspects.

Vlad The Impaler

At the start of each turn you are presented with the map of Istanbul. There will be several locations available for you to spend this turn in; starting with the port, square and bazaar. Following your selection you'll be shown a scenario and ultimately a choice. You'll always discover an event; most likely something horrible. The choice involves two options where you decide the actions of your character. Do you kill an abductor yourself or call for the guards? Do you meet a stranger in person or pay someone to impersonate you? The choices were really interesting to think through. Most of the time both options were undesirable and the consequences were often unpredictable. Depending on what happened you'll increase some stats or some will decrease. It was much of a gamble each time; only one choice I encountered had a straight up positive description and outcome.

The writing is of a high quality and tonally consistent throughout but boy, it's grim. There are terrible events happening around Istanbul and Vlad The Impaler isn't afraid to write gory, unpleasant and nauseating descriptions of these scenes. Some of the scenarios may be too much for some. As you go through the fifteen of these scenarios it feels like the game is beating you down, though I was engrossed the whole time.

Vlad The Impaler

There are beautiful black and white art pieces throughout to accompany each of the locations and situations. They almost have the appearance of skilled biro scribbles and fit the tone of the narrative effectively. Each area and its scenarios has unique art and there are sections at the start of each chapter which depict a major story event, of which you have no interaction with, that your character encounters.

There is a strong soundtrack that plays along your investigation that matches the melancholy tone of the game with its sorrowful strings. As you become engrossed in the events of the game, the visuals, audio and text come together to create a surprisingly strong atmosphere of doom and gloom. This is one of the most impressive parts of the game; just how much it sucks you in to its world. It's not a nice world, but you'll form quick opinions about the people you meet and want to protect the innocent and helpless.

I did encounter some problems during my play through. It sometimes felt that my actions during a turn had little to no contextual consequence. On one turn I went to the palace and ended up killing almost everyone inside. I returned in the next turn and the guards happily opened the gate (though insisting I was unarmed) and allowed me into the grounds. A few turns later I was there again for a Visitor's Council. Considering my character had committed a massacre I had imagined the area would be closed off or there would be at least some suspicion, but no. There was no impact at all and that made me feel that everything else I did was of no real importance. This made the game take a big hit. It ultimately felt that I was only collecting skill points in the interest of giving myself a chance in the final section.

Vlad The Impaler

Despite that issue taking me out of the world a little, I was still fully intrigued in what the narrative was building towards. Thankfully, Vlad The Impaler doesn't disappoint in this regard. There is a really interesting main story and the conclusion is satisfying in both narrative and gameplay aspects. The well written events of turns serve as context for the world, to give you an understanding so that you'll care about the overall narrative. In this regard it was very successful. I did care about the world; just left a little despondent over my character's unimportant actions.

Vlad The Impaler is intended to be played multiple times, with three characters and many more events that you can see in just fifteen turns. My play through took just under an hour and I was ultimately unsuccessful. While I may play it again, I don't feel like going through it any time soon. I did enjoy the game but feel I've got enough for the time being. This is the first game of this type I've played (The Yawhg is the only other similar game I can think of) and it was an intriguing experience. Some of the things you'll encounter in Istanbul will really hit you.


In Short

  • + Fantastic art accompanies your investigation
    + Characters and events are well written
    + The sorrowful music matches the tone
    + Events are dark, unpleasant and surprising..

  • - ..but may be too violent and detailed for some
    - Some of my character's decisions didn't have consequence


Posted at 6:53am on Friday 21st July 2017


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