Rarely does a video game create a new subgenre. Vampire Survivors introduced a new arcade genre in December’s Early Access. The game admits to being heavily inspired by Android-only Magic Survival, but its good luck and low pricing helped it become popular. Despite its lack of plot, the scenario being more of a gothic visual theme than a coherent world, and the initial character and enemy designs being too close to Castlevania for comfort, Vampire Survivors was able to gain a large enough fanbase to become the titan it is today because of the feeling of wielding overwhelming and ever-growing power against even more overwhelming odds.
Players shouldn’t have problems entering into this genre as there are numerous titles. The player starts with a basic weapon and popcorn enemies in a field. It looks like a twin-stick shooter but has no firing or dual sticks. The player’s sole task is to manoeuvre to maximise their weapon’s firing pattern, which might be a dagger, axe, or minecart. Depending on the player’s direction, the whip shoots left or right every few seconds, sending axes up and down (despite the fact that this is a top-down perspective and the axes are really flying north and then arcing south). Too many adversaries to bother about weapon mechanics (because there are). Except for a few themed pairs, all weapons are unique.
Every slain enemy drops an experience gem, and levelling up unlocks three new weapons and abilities. Upgrading or buying a new weapon provides you more options for defeating opponents. However, increasing shooting speed or gem picking experience may be beneficial. While you decide, the game will calmly halt. Choose cautiously since most objects have a max strength of 8, and you can only utilise twelve each run.
After a choice is made, it’s back to the battlefield to do it again and again until you have such a massive arsenal that it’s shooting at everything in sight and would be invincible if the opponent weren’t also becoming stronger. In fight, you feel invincible and anxious to survive until the next power surge. As an assistance, most enemies only employ one attack pattern: slowly approaching you to deal damage before dying. When hundreds of animals crowd the screen, this seems straightforward but becomes overwhelming.
Destructible candelabras drop temporary powerups throughout combat. Most drops are gold coins or bags of various sizes. Gold is only used between runs to buy permanent, progressive skill upgrades until a merchant comes later in the game. Upgrades for weapon power, armour, movement speed, weapon speed, health, health regeneration, and more may be found during a run and stack. Gold may hire new heroes with their own armament and stat enhancements.
Vampire Survivors’ nearly infinite secrets make it a great game that might compete with the best arcade games. Weapon upgrades are easy to find. After finding the treasure box pickup, certain weapons and items will sync up and become stronger. If used with the pummarola, which heals a few HP every second, the garlic’s protective circle may become a pulsing black aura that turns damage into player health. If you’re carrying an item that can unlock an evolution, it will light up as a level-up option, and the grimoire, accessible from the pause menu, lists all combinations.
New characters found by pursuing hints on the level map or weapons that won’t be included to the level-up possibilities until they’re discovered and mastered need extra effort to uncover. The game is full of mysteries, from playable characters to events to stages with perks to arcana cards that provide another layer of power-up possibilities, and once you figure out the unlock flow, it feels like there’s always something valuable around the corner.
Vampire Survivors appears like a pleasant, quick adventure you may play anytime you want to be the centre of bullet hell instead of the target.
After unlocking the prize route, the game becomes much more than a fun time waster. Each new discovery, whether it’s greater power, a new level, new characters, or the exhilarating feeling of progress leading to battlefield mayhem, makes it nearly impossible to resist starting another run. Even simple games need a careful balance between polishing a tried-and-true build, exploring new options, and responding to poor loot drops due to the large number of playable characters and upgrades. Vampire Survivors is the best example of the subgenre it created, even if it was not the first.