I want to inject Vampire Survivors directly into my veins. I dream in blue gems and the pings of my enemy’s destruction. My steam informs me I’ve played 13.2 hours in 2 days, and those were work days when I really needed the sleep. I have no regrets. I have experienced the joyous and triumphant Garlic.
Vampire Survivors launched into 1.0 on 20th October after a killer ten months in early access. With a staggering 97% positive rating on Steam, I can at least rely on the other 129,807 people who recommend it understand my addiction. They have seen the rivers of bats and the swarming undead witches. They have known the nigh-invulnerable hag, the Dragon Shrimp, and the Flame Dragon Shrimp! And the flowers! And they have seen them turn to dust and gems.
Vampire Survivors is not a long, short, deep, or particularly hard game. It makes no pretence of having a story or lore and deep characters. The player characters are nothing more than a name, a sprite, a starting attack, and a perk. It is all about finding the fastest, most reliable, and most efficient way to kill wave after wave of vampire minions. It describes itself as “a time survival game with minimalistic gameplay and roguelite elements”, and I’ll emphasise that that’s it. That’s the game. And yet!
The steady collection of new characters, abilities, and semi-permanent upgrades is very well-balanced and keeps things fresh as each wave cascades into the next. Once the 30-second loop has its hooks in you, the game reveals layer after layer of bonus content, secret characters, new optional abilities, and permanent boosts that make each run more dramatic than the next. It isn’t enough to find your comfort zone and stick with the same character and abilities each run. Unlocking new content and weapon upgrades requires experimentation. To cap all that off, there is an optional semi-permanent boost that makes enemies faster and stronger, and waves more frequent. This excellent addition ratchets up the tension as a player’s confidence spikes with each victory, or near victory.
As each run concludes and the character pools into a puddle of pixel-blood on screen, finally overwhelmed by the enemy, I instinctively click into the menu, ready for another round. Luckily, it’s 2 more clicks to start another run. My cursor hovers over the START button, like “Next Turn” in a CIV title. It’s a well-known sensation, the same feeling mobile games strive for. If Vampire Survivors were stuffed with microtransactions, it would be downright distasteful. But here, you’ve already paid, and you have the whole package. You slapped $5 down and now it’s all yours, no time gating, no microtransactions, no b*******. How far can I get this time?
Initially developed solo by Luca Galante (as poncle), Vampire Survivors deserves its sensational reception. Built on a shoestring budget of around £1100 ($2000 AUD) that went to asset packs or sprites, music, and animations, it’s no small feat that Galante managed to put together such an exceptional game. Thankfully, the budget has been recouped.
Vampire Survivors already earns five stars for its well-tuned, well-paced, and impeccably addictive gameplay. All that for $ 7.49 AUD? It’s worth every cent.
Vampire Survivors is available on Steam (Windows and macOS).
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