Vampire Survivors (Review)

Though being out on Steam Early Access for some time, I only jumped into Poncle’s Vampire Survivors when it became an addition to the November release to Xbox Game Pass. And I am glad to have done so because it just became my new “go to” game for addictive gameplay in short bursts.

If I were to describe Vampire Survivors it’s like a combination of a shooter like Geometry Wars combined with Rogue-lite upgrades from Dead Cells with an additional twist: you only control the movement of your character as your weapons and abilities run on timers. It’s also been described as a reverse bullet hell shooter where you are the one responsible for the fountains of death death dealing projectiles and that seems appropriate too. As the player your main task is moving your character around the screen constantly to get into the best position for the weapons you are dealt with get used to their maximum effect.

The challenge seems simple: survive thirty minutes. And it doesn’t seem too bad when you unlock few abilities and take down the hordes… And the swarms kick in and the bosses show up turning the screen into mediaeval fantasy bullet hell. Early on you’ll die but one you learn the quirks of the tools you have at your disposal you quickly turn that around and can do some serious monster mashing.

Tip: Garlic is a good item to be using early on as a protective barrier and when evolved is a great assist in reaching the end. It’s not the ultimate solution for everything you face but it’ll help get you started.

What I am in most awe of is just how perfectly the gameplay loop fits together. The player is only concerned about movement and with the amount of enemies rushing you that’s a smart idea. With them all homing in on you the only advantage you have it knowing which are the weaker ones and carve out safe corridors based on how your weapons and abilities work. As you gain enough items to fill out your inventory you may get a chance to evolve weapons that can be even more devastating. In play it all makes sense – you level up what you have and try to get effective combinations of different weapons that give you the best way to clean up enemies.

After completing certain objectives/achievements the game will unlock access to other characters and abilities that allow you to boost your abilities in subsequent runs. This can also influence how you choose to tackle a run, such as choosing a character and what map to play, and with so many objectives to do (142 tied to achievements at this time on Xbox) there is a lot of replay value here as it will be rare to collect more that a couple past those early attempts.

Visually it’s very 8/16 bit with designs that may evoke some similarities to a certain Konami vampire hunting series. The designs are serviceable and easily identifiable which is useful when adjusting your tactics. When the enemies are on screen in large numbers you don’t see much slowdown at all so you definitely can’t blame lag if you fail! The soundtrack is really catchy – be warned it may not leave your head when you go bed after a lengthy session of playing.

The hype about Vampire Survivors is real – this is a little game that plays so well it’ll become an addiction that could easily make you forget about playing bigger, more expensive games. That it is being sold for less than ten dollars makes it not only one of the best games of the year but the best deal of the year too. VERY highly recommended. 🙂

Vampire Survivors is out now on PC and Xbox.

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