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Core points of Gamers

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Core points of Gamers

Vampire Survivors Review – Single-Stick Masterpiece


Since Early Access arrived on Steam last December, the cult of Vampire Survivors has grown and spread their gospel far and wide. Over the past year, the seemingly simple game has been expanded with a steady stream of free updates that add staggering amounts of depth and content. The fantastic gameplay and attractive progression system, combined with a ridiculously low price, made Vampire Survivors highly recommended. That tradition continues in the game’s full release, making over 50 hours of pure in-game bliss accessible to a wider audience.

Vampire Survivors starts out pretty simple. You only use the left analog stick to move and your attacks happen automatically at regular intervals. Monsters are steadily approaching from all directions as you dodge gaps and make sure they are in your attack radius. The Castlevania influence is clear as you start with a whip and take on creepy creatures from classic horror games, plus imaginative original creations. If you can last 30 minutes, Death will swoop in for an instant kill, but you can consider that as “beating” the level.

Each attempt starts you at a base level with just your character’s starting weapon. While they may seem insufficient at first, almost every offensive option can be built to feel amazing. Shoot a fire hose of knives in front of you to clear the way. Melt down a colony of bats as you run through them with the circular field of garlic. Take refuge in a cloud of fighting cats. All the types of weapons I could imagine and several things I would never have dreamed of were at my fingertips.

You are constantly making decisions, weighing the pros and cons of each random item presented during the leveling process. At most, you can have six weapons firing at once plus six weapon- and gameplay-modifying attachments, such as increasing projectile size, reducing cooldown, or increasing experience gain rate. On top of that, certain weapon and accessory combos provide ultra-powerful evolutions that can turn the tide in your darkest hour. It’s hard to convey the supreme satisfaction you feel when your incomprehensible barrage of attacks makes it impossible for enemies to harm you, no matter how hard you try to kick the hornet’s nest. I rarely take screenshots or videos of the games I’m playing, but Vampire Survivors puts on such a glorious show based on its smart choices that I couldn’t help but share it.

Developer Poncle has expertly balanced the implementation of unlocks so that you never feel overwhelmed by the combination of weapons and powers, but you also never tire of them. There’s always a new character, weapon, accessory, or mechanic to look forward to until the end. The initially daunting list of goals provides a sense of direction and leads you to experiment outside of your comfort zone. One run, I’d mess it up or take a bad hit with the level up options and die without scoring any targets, but the next, I’d have a perfect run and accomplish a dozen tasks. Unlocks/achievements rain down in a rewarding flurry of dopamine hits. Even when you fail, you learn something and earn more gold to unlock permanent upgrades in the in-game store.

Just about every rule you come across (including many of the mechanics described above) is completely altered or twisted as you progress through the game. Vampire Survivors loves to set your expectations and completely subvert them. At various points, I exclaimed, “What the hell is going on? Wait, then I can do East now?” It’s all designed to make it impossible to resist the next run. “Well, I’ve got to see how this crazy-looking new character plays out.” “What’s this haunting new stage?” “This other strategy has to work. This can’t wait until tomorrow.”

My only hesitation in recommending it to Xbox gamers is the unwanted presence of launch bugs that prevent stages and achievements from being unlocked for some and other odd details. Patching has helped so far, and hopefully soon it will be relatively free of issues like the PC versions.

Despite these early console hiccups, Vampire Survivors has quickly become one of my favorite games of all time. Consider this me grabbing the sides of his head and yelling, “Play Vampire Survivors, you fool!”



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