Vampire Survivors – The Snack Food of Video Games

Vampire Survivors Cover Art

Released on: 17 December 2021 (Early Access)

Available Platforms: PC, MacOS

Price: $2.99 (CAD and US)

Developed by: poncle Published by: poncle

It is pretty surprising to see what game makes the rounds online these days. A couple of weeks ago, I started noticing a trend that the VTubers I follow started playing Vampire Survivors: a game I had never heard of before. While I did see more and more people playing it, I thought the name sounded a little too generic for me. Thus I initially passed on it.

Then, one night, I caught a live stream of someone playing Vampire Survivors. It looked like a classic arcade-style “shoot everything” kind of game. That is when my curiosity soared. I checked the Steam listing to see how much the game cost. Having purchased Elden Ring not too long before, I approached the page cautiously. When I saw that the game was $2.99 (CAD and US), I was sold. Does Vampire Survivors have what it takes to survive the night?

From what I can gather, the player controls one of many heroes on their mission to survive the onslaught of monsters for as long as they can. At the player’s disposal are a myriad of weapons that fire automatically. The character that the player selects dictates what weapon they start with.

Even with games that don’t have an overall plot, I can usually write a few more sentences to explain the story. Vampire Survivors offers very little narrative other than the game’s name and the characters. However, this does not detract from the game, as Vampire Survivors knows precisely what it is and what kind of experience it offers.

Those who enjoy visually stunning games might pass on Vampire Survivors at first. The game has an aesthetic reminiscent of old-school Nintendo games (primarily, the Castlevania games). While I do appreciate graphically gorgeous games, they are not what makes a game. Vampire Survivors wears its 8-bit style graphics with pride, and I salute it for that. Still, I understand that old-school graphics aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Vampire Survivors Graphics example
The big advantage with retro style graphics is that it makes it easy for any computer to run the game.

The gameplay in Vampire Survivors is straightforward. The player walks around a map defeating monsters while also collecting gold. If the player gathers enough experience points, they level up. Leveling up will grant the payer a choice between three weapons or upgrades (four if they are lucky). Upon subsequent level gains, if they pick a weapon or upgrade they already have, it will be stronger (fire more projectiles, pierce more enemies, etc.) The player must choose their gear carefully, as the longer they survive, the more enemies try to overwhelm them through numbers and stronger foes.

During the course of a run, the player will come across unique enemies. These are much stronger than the current mob. If the player kills these unique monsters, they will drop a treasure chest. These contain upgrades to items the player already has and a whole bunch of gold. I love running into these, as the prize they give helps immensely with survival.

Vampire Survivors treasure.
What the player gets in the chest is randomized, but it is helpful every time. That and the gold it gives is nothing to sneeze at.

I heard someone online describe Vampire Survivors as the snack food of video games. I agree with that statement wholeheartedly. The game has a roguelike approach, as dying sends the player back to the title screen. Once there, they can spend the gold they earned in their previous run on upgrading passive abilities (like more health or luck) or unlocking more characters. I often find myself going “just one more run” after dying. Vampire Survivors has an addicting quality, like a bag of chips.

At first, I was confused when I reached the thirty-minute mark. At the time, I was fighting off a massive hoard of baddies that could not get past my infinite ring of holiness. Suddenly, every monster disappeared, and the Grim Reaper showed up out of nowhere and slew me. I was perplexed until the screen showed “Stage Clear” and offered me a lot of gold as a bonus. After trying another run afterward, I noticed I unlocked a new area. While it isn’t a gripe per se, it did leave me scratching my head and wondering: “Did I win?”

Players who are not used to this kind of game might not handle the vast number of things on screen very well. When the player gets unbeatable gear, it doesn’t matter in the end. Still, when I saw gameplay footage of Vampire Survivors, I had to look closely to find out what was going on. Even when I finally figured it out, I still didn’t know if the projectiles were from the player or enemies.

Vampire Survivors mob example
Would you believe me if I said this is only the beginning of the run, and that it gets much crazier?

For players interested in Vampire Survivors, one word of caution: the game is still in Early Access. This means that the game is technically not finished and will have more content on the way. One omission I noticed is that, despite the game being called Vampire Survivors, I have yet to come across a single vampire.

Vampire Survivors offers a lot of fun for its price point. It is incredibly addicting and keeps me coming back for more. Despite the visual chaos and the lack of vampires (as of right now), I would recommend Vampire Survivors to anyone curious.

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