Vampire Survivors Review

The New Twitch Chat Integration Is Insane Chaos in Vampire Survivors 1.0
The New Twitch Chat Integration Is Insane Chaos in Vampire Survivors 1.0

Vampire Survivors Review

Vampire Survivors Review

The chatter in the room has been building to a crescendo for about 20 minutes now, but as the leader arrives, people begin to hush. Some of them have noticed the larger hirsute gentleman sitting with them for the first time, but nobody’s yet spoken to him. This isn’t because they don’t care, it’s more of an unwritten rule about letting new people decide for themselves if they’re ready to speak yet.

“Good evening everyone” says the smart-suited host of the evening, “lovely to see so many of you here, and I see a new face. Would you like to introduce yourself, friend?”. The new entrant stands up, licks his lips nervously, and with a shake in his voice, he utters the ten simple words that will begin the healing process: “My name is Dominoid, and I’m addicted to Vampire Survivors”

If you aren’t already aware, Vampire Survivors is the debut title from lone indie developer Luca Galante, and it’s caused something of a stir since its release in early access last year. What started as a passion project eventually took on a life of its own, allowing Galante to leave his day job and work full-time on the game in 2022. Now, after nearly a year in early access, the full release is upon us, and it’s just as glorious as we all hoped it would be.

There are vampires, and you must survive. How hard could it be?

The premise of this title is blisteringly simple: you have to survive. The controls consist of up, down, left, and right and nothing else, with weapons being automatically fired and needing no player input. You play as one of a number of characters who have been tasked with the aforementioned seemingly easy mission, but as the number of enemies ramps up, you’ll soon come to see that it’s a lot more difficult than it looks.

The action plays out much like a twin-stick shooter, with waves of enemies coming at you to be destroyed. As they die, they drop gems which give your character experience points, leading to a rising level. Each time you level up, you get the opportunity to choose either a new weapon, an upgrade for one of your existing weapons, or a buff to your character such as extra damage or shorter weapon cool downs. This is where a layer of strategy comes in, as the choices you make at levelling will determine whether you manage to live the full 30 minutes of the stage or die amidst a cloud of vampire bats.

In addition to levelling in-stage, there are permanent bonuses that can be purchased in the main menu with coins that enemies drop. These give you the power to survive the vast onslaught of beasties that often end up so numerous that they fill the screen. Don’t be surprised if you get overwhelmed long before the end of the level in your first few stages, it’s a slow progression.

Oh, you wanted to see what’s going on? No, that’s not how this works.

Despite being so slow, the sheer quantity of mobs you blast through on the way to the magical 30 minute mark makes you feel like an absolute legend, and this is probably where the addictive nature comes in. It’s just a constant slew of dopamine bursts that are never interrupted by such unnecessary things as plot or cut scenes!

The graphics and sound are both intentionally lo-fi, with pixel art reminiscent of the great arcade games of the late ’80s and early ’90s like Gauntlet and Smash TV. The audio also has a “blast processed” mode, which makes it sound more like it was released on a Mega Drive.

Because of the old-school arcade nature of Vampire Survivors, it’s a particularly accessible game. You can play with just a joystick if necessary and only one button is needed to select things. None of the audio is directional and there’s no voice acting so subtitles are de facto. There are a lot of flashes and quickly changing light effects due to the nature of the game so do be aware if you are photosensitive. There are options to tone them down but they can’t be completely turned off. I didn’t see a colour blind mode either, but as you usually reach a point where you can’t tell the enemies apart anyway because of how many there are on screen at once, it probably won’t be too much of an issue.

Some of the lighting effects are really pretty, but often the action is too quick to truly appreciate them.

In terms of description, there’s not much else to say about Vampire Survivors. It’s pure arcade and the majority of the magic is in the gameplay, chasing high scores and unlockables: there are a tonne of those to hunt for. The extras range from palette swaps of existing characters to entirely new play modes, with all kinds of cool things in between. Throughout the early access period, a slew of new characters were released and the roster is now absolutely massive.

When it comes down to the nuts and bolts of it, gaming is all about the action for me. Vampire Survivors may not have super high-res raytraced graphics or a full orchestral soundtrack, but what it has got is a massive amount of compressed joy. It absolutely captures the spirit and aesthetic of classic wave-based shooters but gives a modern twist with unlockables, literal screenfulls of enemies, and even Twitch integration. I simply could not stop playing it and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

You can’t catch me!

Vampire Survivors (Reviewed on Windows)

Outstanding. Why do you not have this game already?

Vampire Survivors is one of the most addictive games I’ve played since Tetris! Apologies to my partner, who has hardly seen me for a few months now. Just one more game, I promise…

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