Vampire Survivors: More Riveting than a Wooden Stake Through the Heart

Steam game Vampire Survivors takes elements from third-person survival games and dungeon-crawlers to create an immersive and intense gaming experience that lasts up to thirty minutes a run. 

Ever wanted to feel like an untouchable god in a game? Or like the idea of being thrust into the chaos of a Castlevania-style world, fighting off hordes of mutated plants and bloodthirsty vampires that’s reminiscent of the pixelated art style used in Gameboy Advance games? If you said yes to any of these questions, then Vampire Survivors may be the perfect game for you.

Vampire Survivors is a roguelite game that was released in early access in December 2021 on Steam. This means that the game has elements of dungeon-crawling through levels with some randomly-generated aspects, yet progress persists after character death. At only five dollars, Vampire Survivors should be a staple in everyone’s Steam library. The game starts off by giving you a character and a map to start on. Soon, swarms of bats start gravitating toward your character. The goal is to survive as long as possible. Players do this by killing as many enemies as they can in order to level up or evolve weapons. Vampire Survivors stands out from the competition in its sophisticated complexity and ability to customize your character to hone in on a particular synergy. For example, the garlic weapon creates a sphere of damage around your character. When paired with the regeneration heart and both are at max level, the garlic transforms into a more powerful version of itself. This then works well with other area-based weapons if you don’t mind standing still for a few minutes, or you could pair it with long-ranged weapons to hit multiple enemies regardless of how close they get to your character. 

From the simple premise of mindless run-and-gun games, Vampire Survivors builds a very unique and deep mechanical roguelike experience. Each character starts with certain buffs or perks, as well as with a single weapon. You can use coins earned on previous runs to buy other characters or levels. Vampire Survivors offers you more options for run customization than a classic midwestern all-you-can-eat buffet. In one run, you could use the default character and maximize enemy kills to out-scale incoming waves, while in another you could use garlic and never have to move because the enemies are mowed down before they can reach you.

On top of all this, Vampire Survivors uses a map pool. When you start, only one map is available, but depending on how long you survive or how many enemies of a certain type you kill, you can also unlock more maps and characters. By unlocking maps in this way, the game provides another layer of secrets. I also find myself coming back to the same map even when I had unlocked the new one because the developer sprinkles secret unlocks throughout each of the maps. 

Within the past few months, the developer added an “unlocks” page where you can check your progress in unlocking everything, as well as some helpful hints for unlocking the next item. Some may find the hints unnecessary, but I find them useful because they allow me to maximize my gameplay time and steer me in a new direction when gameplay gets stale. Having these hints can also be helpful since the maps are so massive. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially if you’re constantly being badgered by enemies, so having hints gives players a sense of direction.

If all that wasn’t enough to convince you to play Vampire Survivors, the developer is also constantly pumping out new updates, which helps keep gameplay fresh while also fleshing out unexpected lore. The updates range from balancing certain characters, to adding more maps, or even new weapons. Since you may find yourself using a certain character repeatedly on a certain map with little variation between runs, finding a new feature or item could get you invested in the game again.

For being just an early-access game, it never ceases to amaze me how much love and care is put into Vampire Survivors, and it certainly shows. So please, if you’re ever in a position where you really want to order some Doordash in between study sessions, consider spending that money on Vampire Survivors and eating at the cafeteria instead. I promise you won’t regret it.

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