By Chris Picone, 29 November 2022
I snoozed on Vampire Survivors for the longest time. It looked like a decent enough top-down shooter but never struck me as anything special. But after a recent update I thought I'd better finally check it out and all I can say is: How wrong I was! Vampire Survivors is exceptional. And super addictive!
The art style initially comes across as a little "budget" - the sprites themselves look decent, animations are minimal and sometimes feel like the sprites are simply cut-outs moving around in front of the map screen, and the levels are okay but extremely spartan - but as you start actually playing the game, you quickly realise this is as much out of necessity as anything else. Once you get past level 10 the game gets absolutely bonkers and starts throwing insane swarms of monsters at you that would kill even the most powerful processors out there if the devs hadn't done their best to keep it all clean.
This is very much a horde game. You're on your lonesome, fighting off an endless swarm of monsters that attack you wave after wave. Surprisingly, the devs have opted for an "idler" style of gameplay where all your weapons automatically shoot on a timer. You have a little control over some of them as they shoot directionally but others strike randomly or the closest enemy or have areas of effect and so on. Whenever you kill an enemy they drop a shard; picking it up gives you XP, and every time you level up you choose an upgrade from a randomised selection. There is a staggering variety of weapons and upgrades. The monsters may all look very different but essentially they all follow the same attack pattern and the only thing that really changes is their health points and damage output. Occasionally you get to kill a glowing monster that will drop treasure, giving you money and a bonus upgrade. This is where the game gains its replayability; the levels and upgrades you gain in each run drop off but the coins can be used to buy permanent upgrades. Also, as you progress you will constantly unlock new weapons, characters, and even maps, meaning you have a constant stream of new toys to play with. The developers have absolutely nailed the "curve" of the game; aside from the constant dopamine hits, the game seems to know when you're about to get bored of it and then throw something new at you, effectively creating a "one more turn" effect.
If you're a fan of bullet hells or zombie horde-style top-down shooters, you won't want to miss Vampire Survivors. It's a master class in its genre. You'll load it up for a quick go after dinner and before you know it the sun's coming up.