Vampire Survivors is currently just £1.88 on Steam. I’ve clocked just under thirty hours in it and earned every achievement currently possible. It’s in Early Access, and only really involves pushing four directional buttons. So why couldn’t I stop playing it?
Obviously, there’s more to Vampire Survivors than meets the eye. The way it was described to me was “Castlevania meets Dynasty Warriors meets roguelite”, and that kind of sums it up perfectly. What it presents is a very simple gameplay loop. You’ve got to survive for as long as possible against steadily increasing waves of supernatural foes. As you slay enemies, you level up, which rewards you with upgrades and an arsenal of powerful weapons.
These all start fairly simple – think Castlevania classics like whips, knives and axes. These all fire automatically – all you have to do is steer your character away from enemies and into the experience orbs, they drop. Weapons and passive items can be upgraded and potentially evolve into more powerful versions, and at this point in time, you can come up with some truly broken combinations. The more achievements you earn, the more characters you unlock, which bring different bonuses and their own unique weapons too.
It’s that old “one more run” philosophy honed down to a fine, simple art. You’ll be unlocking new stuff left and right in your first few hours with the game. You will die – even if you survive for the full thirty minutes of a run, Death will just take matters into his own hands – but you’ll have earned gold to increase your stats for the next one. This constant sense of progression makes Vampire Survivors’ simple formula genuinely addictive. The game makes it nice and easy to see what you’ve got left to unlock, and even offers hints as to how to get there.
It’s possible to stick with your favourites. Unlike a Binding of Isaac run, it’s possible to hold out for as long as possible to get the items you want. The item pool in Vampire Survivors just isn’t big enough to exclude them all from a thirty-minute game yet. If you do that though, you won’t unlock anything else, so you’re forced to experiment in order to progress.
This is, in many ways, the most approachable roguelite of its kind. Yes, death is inevitable. But you’ve usually got a purpose and a sense of reward beyond just getting as far as you can. It has a few mysteries, sure – but Vampire Survivors wants you to have fun with it, and in that regard, it succeeds.
One of my favourite moments was unlocking a character who literally just launched minecarts as his starting weapon. Not only was this hilarious to watch, but it also seemed quite powerful – and instantly got me thinking about which passive items I could combine with it to cause some absolute mayhem. I managed to stack extra damage, projectile speed, projectile size and weapon cooldown reductions on top, and the combination absolutely wrecked. Towards the end, I had three incredibly fast minecarts hurtling from side to side, melting bosses and mowing down the horde.
Vampire Survivors is still in Early Access, so I’m sure as the game expands these things will be balanced out. Right now it’s genuinely fun to play within such a raw state though. It’s almost impossible to have a bad run due to poor luck or unfortunate enemy combinations, so you know you’re either going to have a good time or a great time.
Eventually, you can tighten up the stages with “hyper” and “hurry” modes, which can deliver a much faster experience. That thirty-minute run-time to complete a stage does get a bit exhausting, especially when you’ve powered up enough to clear all the challenges with ease. If I were to offer one major criticism about Vampire Survivors right now, it’s that it doesn’t have too much to offer in the later stages. Bosses late in the game are powerful enough to clear your health bar in a couple of hits – but the tactic doesn’t change much beyond “stay away and let your auto attacks work their magic”.
That doesn’t change the fact that Vampire Survivors is probably the best £2 you’ll ever spend.
Seriously, go and grab it. It’s hours of fun for less than the price of a cup of coffee. Eh – get the coffee as well. Treat yourself. It’s Easter.
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