Vampire Survivors (2022)

I very rarely get so into a game that it can suck a full weekend away without much thought, but due to some very crappy infection issues, I was forced to occupy my time inside and luckily I found a game that completely took my mind off the situation. I rarely get into modern games that focus solely on mechanics and gameplay. I like games to have a balance of both gameplay and story, but that’s not a requirement either, just my preferred style.

Vampire Survivors takes what feels like a classic game and modernizes it, but at the same time, there isn’t anything else that I’ve ever played like it either. You take on the role of a single character, who gets placed in a map in a top down perspective, and has to survive an onslaught of gothic monsters. The only thing you can do is move. All attacking is done automatically and at the outset you have a single attack that has a cooldown time.

As you maneuver around the map, avoiding monsters, flanking and attacking them and dodging their attacks in the process, the monsters will drop gems that serve as your experience. As you gain experience points, you start to level up. And with each level up, you unlock a selection menu that allows you to choose from a couple different options. You can either upgrade your current attack, allowing more hits or a longer range or lower cooldown time. Or you can add onto your inventory with another attack with its own cooldown time. Within the first two minutes, you’ll already level up several times, and that’s what keeps this game from becoming stale.

As with most modern late 2010/ Early 2020 games, this is a run based game that focuses on you learning how the game works, dying while learning, and then starting over again. Luckily, that process of starting a new run is quick, painless and also satisfying as you get back into the groove relatively quickly. You aren’t forced to spend several minutes going through the first several waves that feel slow as molasses. Like I previously mentioned, you’ll be up and running with a large assortment of weapons and attacks and leveling up within mere moments from starting up the next run.

What I think sets the game apart is two separate but both utterly important pieces of the game. One, is that the game features constant progress. Each run lets you gain XP, which will be lost when you die, but the coins that are gained during that run stays with you in the main menu. And those coins allow you to purchase permanent upgrades across the entire game. Some of those upgrades can be more health, lower cooldown on weapons, more unlockable items in the game, or even extra characters to play as. Each character has their own stats, and some are much more useful than others.

The other reason why I think the game stands above most, is that there is an unbelievable amount of “what is even going on?!” gameplay. Back in 2005, on the Xbox 360. Geometry Wars was so colorful and crazy to watch, that my friends and I called it the gaming equivalent of “Speed on Crack”. Vampire Survivors takes that concept of having so much going on screen at once that it almost defies understanding in a way. With literally hundreds, if not around a thousand enemies on screen at once, all with their own damage numbers, and a uncountable amount of attacks being hurled from your character at the same time, along with all the movement of trying to dodge enemies as well as their attacks and projectiles… The game can be almost too hard to concentrate on what’s actually happening.

It’s a game that requires you to get into a “zone”, and again, the game does such a great job of getting you there quickly and painlessly, that you can’t help but shout “Just one more run!” when you eventually die. However, that might be my one fault with the game as well. Within just the sixth run or so, I was able to basically break the game on the second level, and level up and create such a powerful barrage of attacks and projectiles, that I was able to just set the controller down and watch as enemies tried to swarm me, but ultimately fell to my attacks.

It’s not a bad problem to have, and the phrase “Ultimate power fantasy” definitely came to my mind multiple times while playing and wanting to write the review for it. I’ve rarely felt so overpowered, yet completely satisfied with a game in such a long time.

While the game still is in Early Access as of now, it did get a massive “almost, but not the one” update, bringing it very close to a 1.0 release. Finalizing some more balancing, and even adding in a secret cheat code menu that needs to be unlocked by hardcore players to really unlock everything the game has going for it, I can’t seem much more they could add. With already over a dozen playable characters, around 20+ permanently unlockable skills, and a ton of different weapons and attacks… The game seems pretty full featured.

The only thing I can really see is more levels and different enemy types. However there is a generous amount already as well. With 4 main levels, each boasting a 30 minute time limit, and then several bonus levels, each with different objectives and buffs and debuffs added onto them.

As of now, If you are able to survive till the time limit of the level, the Grim Reaper shows up and straight up instantly murders your character and it’s game over. However, I do know through a unlock checklist in the main menu, there is a way to survive past the level’s time limit… I’m just not sure how it’s done yet. And while I do want to play more, I have unlocked pretty much the majority of everything in the game within a single weekend… But that’s also with a 15 hour playtime already.

For a single $5 game (or free on GamePass)  I can’t think of any better way to spend your money or time on a game right now. It’s quick, fast, frantic, fun, and over all just a blast to play and fulfills that very hard to define “classic” style of video game, where you just have unadulterated fun from the moment you pick up the controller and will continue thinking about the game, long after you turned the game off.