After a shipwreck, stranded in the middle of an ocean, on an island stands a gigantic tower. The hero has to find out what the place is, what happened there, and most importantly, who he is. The story is pretty much thin on the ground but I was still interested to find out more.
The first order of business is to decide the Hero’s Exo Rig; Vaporum’s class system. I decided on the Assualt class for risk-reward gameplay; the less Integrity (health), the more damage the Hero will do. There is a Tank class and a Gunner class to give you a further choice.
Within Vaporum, the Exo Rig allows for equipment to be equipped, as well as weapons. Weapons can be swapped on the fly between two load outs to make gameplay smoother and to enable the hero to handle different situations. Weapons have pros and cons, for instance, blunt weapons do extra damage to robots but are not as effective against living enemies — the right tool for the right job is, of course, essential. Along with weapons, gadgets can be equipped with up to four possible. Gadgets are the games take on magic. They take energy and can only be used when energised. Energy does self regenerate, but items can be used for an instant boost.
While the Hero is dismantling robots and pulverising other things, the Exo Rig will collect Fumium, Vaporum’s experience points. Once the Fumium bar is full, the rig will level up, allowing the Hero to unlock a circuit which work as skill trees. Opening a circuit will augment some statistics, e.g. increase base weapon damage, improve integrity, energy, and etc. The circuits are soft capped (locking upgrades till the character hits the required level to unlock it) allowing for smoother gameplay experience.
All About The Stats
Vaporum is very stat heavy, with 32 different stats to wrap your head around. Fear not intrepid Hero, it will seem overwhelming at first, but it is not. Even so, just knowing the amount of stats to look at will put some players off right away. In RPGs like this, understanding the stats are the difference between life and death.
For the first handful of Exo Rig’s available, you will be figuring out your preferred play style as well as what is best at doing what. I found it helpful to concentrate on survivability at lower levels (especially if new to the game genre). Once you spend a bit more time with the game, you will figure out the rest pretty quickly.
Moving And The Map
Movement is in a grid-based system and moving the character is a simple affair. Press up on the L Stick the Hero will move one tile forward, pull back on the L Stick will move the Hero backwards, all while facing the same way. Turning is done on the tile that the hero is standing on. Move the R Stick left, or right will turn the Hero 90°on the current tile. Vaporum’s controls are a little sensitive, and for those not used to this type of game may feel somewhat alien, but you soon get used to them.
Enemies also move in the same way. Vaporum, unlike some dungeon crawlers, plays in real-time action. The enemies will move and attack at their own pace, whereas other dungeon crawlers, the enemies move every time the player moves. Making the game a lot more fluid and amps up the tension in the fights.
No good dungeon crawler would be complete without the map that fills itself in as the Hero ventures around the level. I have always been a fan of these games for this aspect; fumbling around with no clue where to go. If I had time, I would have had the grid paper out drawing my own map, used to love doing that while playing.
Our Hero will encounter plenty of things that want to kill him, so he needs to be able to fight or this will be a short trip up the tower.
Like I stated, the game plays out in real time, this also includes the fights. This means enemies and the Hero attack in real time; however, the abilities all have a cooldown. Having this in place stops both the Hero and the hordes of enemies attacking over and over. Understanding the enemies’ attack patterns and cooldowns is the only way to survive as most fights. It will see the Hero darting in for an attack and then moving out the way of the enemy attack, then darting back in for an attack, and moving out the way (or at least, that’s how I play).
Dodging attacks is a core mechanic on these types of games, as failing to do so will just end up in a quick demise.
I found some of the button mapping to be awkward. I kept pressing the wrong buttons to access the inventory and went to the map a lot. It was mainly due to the fact I am used to RPGs having a similar button layout. The button layout got easier, more comfortable the more I played. This was not a significant issue, just annoying.
There is a mouse pointer in the game that is activated by pressing RZ; it is also used to interact with objects within the game. If an object is interact-able, it will highlight it, and pressing A will interact with the object. There are loads of secrets to be found that will not be highlighted but will need to be manually found. The system works fine, but due to the small size of the description box during the tutorial, as well as playing in handheld, I missed what I was to do and spent WAY too long having no idea how to progress.
The audio is not about the soundtrack, and more about the ambient noise and the noises of the mechanical and human enemies. The lack of a soundtrack leads to the atmosphere that anything can happen and that the Hero needs to be on guard at all times.
Walking through the dark corridors with vague ambient lights, showing little bits of the surrounding area, to then hear the quick clatter of the spider bots’ legs moving in the dark – it was so creepy. It was made worse as this will be the only noise you will hear.
The tension brought by the surrounding noise is outstanding. I am sure there will be some players disappointed in the lack of a soundtrack.
Visuals & Performance
Vaporum looks amazing.
The enemies are well detailed, and movement is smooth. By far the best-looking thing within the game, maybe even on the Switch. From the small spider bots and their legs all working in tandem, to the hulking Big Daddy wannabes trying to punch the Hero’s face in. Also, there is a gallery that shows off each enemy and they look so good.
Lighting from both attacks as well as the surrounding ambient light is impressive. The corridors are a little bland in places and repeating; this is to be expected in this type of game. Let’s be honest, who will be looking at the corridor walls when a Big Daddy Wannabe is trying to smite you?
On the surface, Vaporum seems a bit on the expensive side especially at full price at
$24.99 $19.99 USD, £19.99 £15.99 GBP (sale price on till 18/04/2019) being a dungeon crawler, but with the amount that is on offer, it is a reasonably priced. The replayability of the different suits, the massive amount of weapons, and the enemies will keep fans of dungeon crawlers busy for a while.
If you like the look of Vaporum but not too sure on the dungeon crawling aspect, I would grab it now with the money off or wait for a sale down the line.
Physical – Yes
Some of the best looking enemies on the Switch
In-depth RPG mechanics
Loads of weapons
Lack of a soundtrack
Small and cramped HUD in handheld
Confusing menus at the start