[Review] Vigor – Nintendo Switch

Written by Richard Strachan
  • Developer: Bohemia Interactive
  • Publisher: Bohemia Interactive
  • Release date: 8/7/2020
  • Price: £17.99 / $19.99
  • Review code provided by Bohemia Interactive

Introducing: Vigor Nintendo Switch Review

How time flies! We first took a look at Bohemia Interactive’s Vigor when it was in Closed Beta back in April (check out our preview here). We had to check our calendars to see if that was pre-lockdown. I was amazed to realise that the preview went live a whole month into our very own apocalypse. How fitting it was that the game is post-apocalyptic survival battle royale.

Back in April we found that the game was pretty solid overall with a few bugs, which, not game breaking, could have done with polishing before launch. The good news is Bohemia have done a great job of delivering a stable final build. We also had a few reservations about some graphical issues. Have Bohemia been able to sort those out? Read on, my friend, to find out more!

Norwegian Wood

Vigor is set in Norway after the conclusion of World War 3, which ended in Mutually Assured Destruction. Norway was one of the few countries which was not completely irradiated. There isn’t a whole lot of story beyond that, other than that you play as an unnamed survivor who must restore an old crumbling house to become your safe haven.

The game alternates between your homestead and a third-person battle royale-style mode with some interesting mechanics. Your house and the land around it serve as a hub of sorts. You can access crafting benches, get in some target practice or access the main menus by accessing the appropriate part of your homestead. By accessing the giant map on your wall, you can browse through various game modes and get into the meat of the experience.

Once you load into the battle royale mode of the game you are paired with up to 11 other “Outlanders,” as survivors are called in Vigor. The Outlanders all spawn in different parts of a vast map set in the Norwegian wilderness, with the option to play solo or in doubles. There are a few maps available, which ensures variety. When I initially approached this mode I assumed it was the same as any other battle royale, where the last man standing wins. Instead the game turns the genre on its head, by focusing the gameplay loop around survival above anything else, even if it means literally running away from fights.

In each encounter you make your way through the map, be it through a small town or across a mountain range or forest. You must pick your way through any buildings or vehicles – scavenging resources and any weapons or equipment you can find. You often encounter other Outlanders along the way, but combat is rarely the best option.

Like any other battle royale death is permanent, however Vigor makes things even more punishing by forcing you to choose your loadout before you enter an encounter, from a pool of gear you have stashed at your house. You start the game with a small stockpile of ten pistols and assault rifles. You can choose to tool up heavily or go in light. There’s a nice balance of risk versus reward at play, as death means you lose that gear, plus anything else you had found in an encounter. Each encounter generally involved me slowly picking my way stealthily across the environment trying to scavenge as much as I could whilst avoiding confrontation. It felt very fresh to be playing a shooter where my main aim was to avoid shooting at any cost.

Call of looty

The gunplay in the game is very unforgiving and feels similar to the likes of Counter Strike, where success relies on careful placement of shots and controlled bursts of fire. Weapons hit hard and shootouts can be over in a flash. The ability to choose your own loadout can lead to some wildly unbalanced shootouts, which helps maintain a lot of tension. I found I was really struggling to survive in my first few battles, so started taking less elaborate loadouts. This lowered the risk of losing valuable gear but made things even harder when I did find someone heavily armed. I was always torn between taking better gear to get the edge on my opponents or going in light to reduce the risk and hopefully scavenge my way to success.

Each map has a few locations marked at the start of each round, including a barricaded house which includes a safe. This location guarantees some seriously good loot, but requires you to break your way in. This takes some time, and carries a huge risk given that everyone else has this location marked on their map. To make things worse, once you start to crack the safe it takes a few minutes before the safe opens. During this time everyone will be alerted that someone is trying to open the safe. This quite often results in an influx of greedy enemy players looking for a piece of your hard-earned pie!

The game also marks an area for an airdrop at the start of each encounter, using a broad circle. This helps focus the gameplay and helps to set up some interesting standoffs. A crate full of loot is usually dropped into that area after a few minutes, resulting in a mad scramble to grab it and then extract the contents from the map. Each map includes a number of comms towers which can be used to redirect the airdrop and can also give you buffs or give your enemies debuffs which affect their ability to capture the drop.

In Vigor the game doesn’t end at a set time, rather you need to get to one of several marked extraction points with any loot you may have. If you manage to capture the airdrop, which is no mean feat in itself, you are marked on the map for all players to target. This means a mad dash to the nearest exit! I found I had my best success when I planned an escape route before grabbing the crate.

Encounters can play out in a number of ways, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to play through a whole game avoiding combat and heading to the extraction point early when I found some decent gear. As well as looting guns and ammo, you find resources such as fuel, nails and glass which can be used to upgrade your home and improve your ability to craft stronger weapons. Once you start to pull together some decent resources you feel empowered to begin entering encounters with better gear, safe in the knowledge you can craft more if it all goes wrong.

The game’s post-apocalyptic setting is used to good effect to keep encounters moving. The map at the start of each round shows the wind direction. Some time into each encounter you get a notification that radiation is closing in and you need to start heading to the exit. Unlike most other battle royale games, the radiation comes in as a wave from whatever direction the wind blows. This means you need to plan an extraction point in advance and start moving when the warning comes to avoid a slow death by radiation. Clever players will plan a route and move with the wave to try and spend as much time as possible looting the best gear.

If you are “lucky” enough to capture the airdrop you are marked on the map for all players to see. This then turns the game into a breakneck chase as you make a mad dash for the nearest exit. It can be quite unnerving knowing that any surviving players are likely headed your way. It can also lead to some fun scenarios when you realise you are closer to the extraction point than the player with the drop. I’ve found myself laying in wait ready to spoil someone’s hard work.

Stay at home

The workbench in your home lets you build weapons as well as upgrade your homestead via a deep skill tree. Each upgrade provides an ability or resource which then feeds back into the encounters and also visually improves the look of your home. Early upgrades see your roof covered in a tarpaulin, whereas later repairs start to bring the building together to something more presentable. This provides a nice sense of progress and helps the outcomes of each of the encounters to feel like they have a real tangible effect.

The overall feel of the game, from the bleak survivalist premise to the quick and messy combat, reminds me of the multiplayer mode in The Last of Us. The tension in encounters is sky high, even compared to other battle royale games. There is very little in the way of an in-game HUD and the game doesn’t notify you when other players are killed or leave the encounter. This keeps you constantly guessing, as late in the game you could be the last man standing or could walk into a trap as some enterprising Outlander camps near an extraction point ready to wipe you out and steal your hard-earned gear.

When crafting or building improvements to your house there is a timer before these builds are completed. Timers were very brief, with nothing I unlocked taking more than twenty minutes to build in the earlier game. Crowns, which can be used to speed up builds and can also be used to unlock cosmetics such as outfits or weapons skins. I wasn’t aware of any pay to win-style transactions, so things seem positive in that regard. Pricing of cosmetics seem reasonable, but without the windfall of the Founders Pack, I didn’t go splashing out.

Crowns can be earned by completing daily achievements, so there does seem to be some provision for those who don’t want to pay. They can also be used to upgrade the loot pool before a match, with the effect improving the overall loot for all players. The pre-game lobby also allows players to spend some Crowns as insurance to prevent the loss of any loot upon death.

Vaseline visage

Overall, Vigor is fairly pretty to look at. When we previewed the game we did comment that resolution and detail took a real hit in handheld. Unfortunately that hasn’t improved, which can make it difficult to pick out targets at range. The lighting and general art style can look beautiful and times and do provide some really atmospheric environments. The game does play quite smoothly which is a bonus and helps during hectic firefights.

It was disappointing to see the graphics haven’t really improved since the beta, but the game is still a real blast and can look pretty at times.

There are some strange shimmering effects which can be observed on the edge on your character when you turn the camera around which can be quite distracting. This effect seems quite common in Unreal Engine 4-based Switch games.

The performance issues do detract from the game a little, but the moment to moment gameplay is good, tense fun and manages to make up for it.

The audio in the game is strangely mixed, with your own footsteps being abnormally loud. Many a time I’ve stopped in my tracks scanning my surroundings for an enemy only to realise I could hear myself. Sadly, there’s no way to mix the sound of your footsteps down, so this seems like it will be an ongoing issue. It was also present in the Beta, so it doesn’t seem to have been picked up from the feedback.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed my time in post-apocalyptic Norway! Vigor offers something really unique when compared with other battle royale games. Its slow pace and cruel risk versus reward mechanics won’t be for everyone, but I think it will definitely find a good home on the Switch. The game is already out on the Xbox One series of consoles and will apparently offer cross-platform functionality in the future. This should help ensure a strong community once implemented. The real game-breaking issues found in the Beta have thankfully been addressed, leaving a relatively well-polished experience for those who take the plunge. The prospect of the game being free to play down the line seems especially generous having had the chance to properly see what’s on offer.

There have been some minor changes to the layout of your homestead since the Beta, with the addition of a Hitman-style garage where all your weapons and blueprints are laid out on the walls. This gives a real nice sense of progression as you gather more and more weapons and build a collection of killing machines.

Pros

  • Delivers a tense experience
  • Base building is genuinely enjoyable
  • Shootouts are taut and breathless

Cons

  • Handheld detail takes a real hit
  • Frustrating sound mix

Verdict

Vigor is a tense and stressful survival looter-shooter which also manages to be great fun. Some minor graphical issues aside, this is a great package which will only increase its appeal once it goes free to play!

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