Loot, Shoot, And Free To Boot: Vigor Review
The term “looter-shooter” is seen everywhere nowadays. The incorporation of a grindy, item-based progression system has found its way into many acclaimed titles this generation. However, the titles of which succeed in the space often have a price tag attached. Bohemia Interactive strips that way and offers Vigor as a free-to-play game.
Many games that fit into the looter-shooter mould have quickly become some of my favourites this generation. The Division has arguably mastered the craft of composing a satisfying grind of hunting for better armour and weapons. Destiny also finds its rightful place in the conversation. Borderlands was one of the first games to popularize the sub-genre and helped it become a mainstay. So what happens when a smaller studio looks to take a slice of the pie by opening the gates at a zero dollar cost? Well, the results are mixed.
There are quite a few interesting elements brought to the table by Vigor. Aside from being a free-to-play title, Vigor seems to take inspiration from various different games and splices them together. It’s part The Division, part PUBG, and part Fallout 76. That’s not to say what Bohemia Interactive has developed is not original, it’s that the studio took pieces from separate puzzles to create their own picture.
Vigor is a third-person, online survival game. As an Outlander, you are alone in a post-apocalyptic Norway. You must restore an old farmhouse, and build the resources needed to survive in this harsh world. In order to repair generators, gather food supplies, and give the property a makeover, you must venture out into small segments of the Norwegian wilderness and forage for tools, weapons, and healing items. The game gives you a selection of six semi-open world maps to explore. However, you won’t be alone. Upon selecting a map, you’ll be paired with up to 11 other players—each with the same objective as yours: Hunt, gather, survive.
You’re able to freely explore the small section of the map for 20 minutes, bringing weapons and healing items with you to help you survive. However, there’s a big catch in Vigor. If you die, everything you have on your person is lost for good. Your body will drop an item box containing the weapons and ammo you've brought, plus anything you’ve collected in the match regardless if another player picks them up or not.
The start of each match you and your opponents will be placed along the outskirts of the map. Similar to the beginning of a battle royale game, it’s a race to begin collecting items and additional weapons while keeping your eye on the horizon. You never know when or where another opponent may appear. This is perhaps Vigor’s primary strength. There is so much on the line during a match that the game can get quite tense. You have to be deliberate in every action you take. You can choose to play Vigor passively, scrounging for items in all reaches of the map, avoid conflict and leave once your backpack is full.
You can also play Vigor quite aggressively, and there are perks for doing so. As mentioned, killing another Outlander will drop their items. Sure it may only be a weapon or two, but it’s more than what you had before. The longer the match goes, the more each opponent is likely to have on them, so killing an Outlander deep into a match will offer many rewards. During each match, a high-tiered package will be airdropped in. Every player will be able to see its location of the drop via their map, so you’ll have to take the risks into consideration. Even if you manage to pick the crate up, your location will be seen by every player left on the map until you reach one of the exits. You have to be well-stocked and ready for a fight if you want to snag an airdrop.
Aggressive players aren’t the only thing to keep an eye out for. It’s not before long that a wave of radiation will wash over the map. Once alerted, the radiation will slowly creep across, forcing you to leave the map. Overstay, and you’ll die of radiation poisoning. It’s a great mechanic for putting a hard stop to a game that could otherwise go on for hours. From collecting items to getting the drop on other players, Vigor feels like a smaller, contained battle royale game that has a greater objective than claiming a chicken dinner. In Apex Legends, Fortnite, or PUBG, nothing you pick up matters as the slate is wiped clean for the next match. Here, you have a greater sense of purpose. Everything you find and collect can be used to not only upgrade your arsenal but your shelter as well.
Arriving back at your hub, you can upgrade the shelter with the items you’ve collected. Upgrades take real-world time to build. Some may take as little as 10 minutes, while others can take upwards of 12 hours. This means that on top of the grind of locating and finding the necessary items, you’ll have a time sink on your hands when upgrading the shelter. Thankfully, the game clocks the time if your playing another game or have the Xbox One turned off.
Graphically, Vigor is less than stellar. There are some great weather effects that can mask you and other players, making them harder to see. Although, the maps can be fairly bland and geometric. Vigor does offer a range of sceneries. You'll find a map located in a snowy biome, while another is a lush green farm settling. You’ve also got harbour setting to explore as well. That said, the gameplay steals the show, making lacklustre visuals an afterthought.
The shooting mechanics aren’t anything to write home about. They’re an improvement from a game like PUBG but aren’t nearly as refined as most modern shooters. The advantage here is that all players have one hand tied behind their back, making shootouts slightly less threatening. While the game is played from a third-person perspective, ironsights can be used when clicking in the right thumbstick.
Finally, we must acknowledge the microtransactions within Vigor. Being a free-to-play title, it’s not egregious to see the implementation of microtransactions within the game. Truth be told, Bohemia Interactive does a fairly good job of not smacking you upside the head with propositions of you breaking out your wallet. Vigor turns real-world money and converts them into in-game coins, which can be used on cosmetic items, be it a hat, a weapon skin, or a new jacket.
The other use of in-game currency is used at the beginning of each match. Players can opt-in and spend coins to pool their resources together for better loot in the game. For every player that spends 30 coins for “More Loot”, additional loot will generate. The same goes for airdrops. For every 45 coins spent by a player, higher-tiered loot can be acquired once capturing the airdrop crate. Rewards aren’t guaranteed as you may opt-in and raise the percentages, only to be gunned down in the first few minutes and walk away empty-handed.
We’ve discussed the likelihood of losing all your items when killed during a match. Vigor offers a solution via a 60-coin “Insurance” purchase prior to a match, guaranteeing you keep all items if you die during your match. I’m conflicted when it comes to the insurance mechanic. It’s not to say that the inclusion is nefarious, but it does seem a bit off-balance. Those that invest a heavy amount of real-world money into purchasing insurance before each match will experience less grind when it comes to obtaining high-tiered loot and shelter upgrades, which has an effect on those that choose to never invest in microtransactions. It is worth noting that Vigor does grant players a small sum of in-game coins via shelter upgrades, which is only rewarded after an already thorough grind.
Vigor weaves many interesting mechanics together to make a satisfying free-to-play game. Those first few hours can be incredibly tense as all your weapons and munitions much go a long way in order to succeed. As Vigor only has one standard game mode and a set of six maps, the stickiness of the post-apocalyptic game is still undecided. With enough care to the community and support, Vigor could carve out a large enough niche to sustain itself while continuously bringing in new players. However, if the platform becomes stagnant, I fear that interest will waiver sooner rather than later.
Available: August 19th, 2019
Platform: Xbox One
A Starter Kit code for Vigor was provided on Xbox One for review purposes.