Sometimes all we want is fast-paced, instantly rewarding action. Sometimes, all a game needs are numbers that flash, bars that fill, and pixelated monsters that can be vanquished. Vampire Survivors is such a game. It’s an exercise in simplicity, but one that executes its elevator pitch concept brilliantly.
The game largely plays itself and, at first glance, it appears to be no more than a straightforward arcade title. You move around the stage, your attacks performing on automatic timers, as hordes of enemies continuously stream toward you. You simply survive for as long as you can in typical roguelike fashion, accruing temporary and permanent upgrades along the way. Vampire Survivors’ deceptively simple loop hides a rich and rewarding depth that will leave you unable to stop playing.
The maps are seemingly endless, stretching on in every direction, but you’ll need to circle back on yourself to collect the gems and coins that enemies drop. Gems go toward leveling up and unlocking new capabilities, while coins allow you to purchase permanent power-ups and new characters between runs. This risk/reward loop is what gives Vampire Survivors much of its excitement and tension.
Furthermore, exploration of the game’s progressively more challenging maps is essential. Each stage hides bonus items and relics, permanent upgrades that add or enhance new mechanics. The game may seem sparse at first, but you have simply yet to find the map, compass, and other things that evolve Vampire Survivors into a richer, deeper experience.
By reaching certain milestones, such as surviving 30 minutes or hitting level 50 in a single run, you can unlock more characters. Each of the game’s many characters starts with a different weapon, whether that’s a whip or holy water, as well as varying stats and bonuses. One may start with faster movement speed, while another earns more EXP. You’ll undoubtedly find a favorite, but mixing things up can lead to more unlocks and further variety.
Fans of Castlevania will be immediately familiar with the game’s aesthetic. Using an array of vampiric weaponry that spans from holy water to whips and bibles, you’ll be fighting off waves of gothic ghoulies, such as bats, skeletons, and zombies. Pair that with a rocking 16-bit soundtrack and mouth-watering roast chickens that heal you, and you’ll be wondering if this isn’t an unofficial spin-off of the classic franchise.
The game’s style is incredibly simple. It almost has the appearance of a Flash game. The sprites are minimal in detail, while the stage art is basic and repeats often. Vampire Survivors isn’t going to win any awards for style or originality, but its simple aesthetic is somewhat charming in a cheap, retro sort of way.
Vampire Survivors offers thrills and spills aplenty, and we just can’t get enough. Though the game is available on PC and Xbox, we have yet to see the game arrive on Switch, which seems the ideal platform for the fast-paced, run-based action.
Have you been enjoying the chaos, or are you waiting for a portable version before jumping in? Let us know in the comments below!