Game experience: Vampire Survivors


Vampire Survivors title screen.

This game is something else. I feel like it was a craze for a brief moment, and that moment has already passed, but it managed to spawn a number of imitators, so it's still worth talking about.

But what is Vampire Survivors? It's one of the best indie games of 2022 (almost got GOTY award), so it must be something really good and original! And it is. If I were to describe it in two (three I guess) words it would be reverse bullet hell. You might say, that it's not a new concept, and that there were games like that before. You would probably be right. But I didn't know one before Vampire Survivors, and so didn't many others.

Core gameplay is deceptively simple, just like it's graphics. You select a character, and then you are dropped onto a huge map (infinite even? don't know, never managed to reach the end), where you are assaulted by hordes of monsters from all directions. But, unlike in other, similar games, you can't attack them. Not in a controlled way, at least. Your character does posses some kind of weapon, and they will automatically attack. So what do you do then? You can walk to avoid enemies, collect XP crystals and occasional chest, gold and health drops, and then you pick your level up bonuses - weapons and items. Your main goal is to just survive for 30 minutes, facing increasingly difficult monsters. And when the time comes, and you are still alive, Death itself comes and claims you, with an instakill attack. I've heard it is possible to defeat Death in this game, but I never managed to do so.

But aside from just running and surviving, there is more depth to this than you can spot at first. Game has a very extensive achievements system, and unlocking them awards you with gold, skills and new characters. You can then spend said gold on enabling said skills and characters. As you get better, new stages are unlocked, with different layouts, themes and enemies.

Game will present you with more options every time you finish a run - unique relics that need to be found on stages. Characters trapped in coffins. Items, when leveled up, can be combined with certain other items, and then transformed into a new, enchanced forms. There is a stage with all enemies being stationary and passive plants. There is a vendor selling you stuff on stages, that can be aquired. There is a pesky Reaper flooding stages with water that kills you. There is a DLC that I haven't even managed to get to yet!

All of this is combined with simple, yet pleasant graphics and sounds, so that it can be easily played on almost any device (a late-game whirlwind of death created by combined might of multiple weapons can slay not even demons, but your CPU as well). It's equally great to play on keybord with mouse, and on a gamepad. Most of my sessions happened on the Steam Deck, and it's a great platform for a game like that.

So far, all stages were either fixed to 15 or 30 minutes of gameplay (although you can cut that in half by enabling fast mode), which makes this game uniquely suitable in filling in that time between meetings, as it is very predictable. I really like it about this game, probably even more since I started playing Everspace on streams and a single run can take anywhere between 5 minutes and 4 hours - you just never know.

If you are looking for a smaller game to fill in the time, this is it! And it's also cheap! If you are considering buying Vampire Survivors then give it a go - I know I would!