Like most gamers, I saw a ton of reviews about how good Vampire Survivors is. It’s inexpensive, but I never bothered, assuming I’d hate the dated graphics. Once it came to Game Pass, that all changed. Despite how dated the graphics are and how simplistic the gameplay appears, I absolutely love it.
My Hesitations to Even Try Vampire Survivors
Considering all the expensive gaming hardware I’ve purchased, I hardly even considered playing an old pixel style game. I’m all in on Ray Traced lighting, HDR and high FPS, it’s almost sacrilegious to play such a graphically dated game. I also believe it started as a mobile phone game, so yuck
It’s a very snobby reason, I know. That’s especially true considering the price is 5 whole dollars. During Steam sales, I think it went lower than that. The low price and rave reviews from almost everyone tempted me, but sometimes I’m stubborn.
That attitude all changed when two things happened. First, it dropped on Game Pass. Second, Phil Spencer, CEO of Xbox Game Studios, took time to play through all the game’s achievements. The guy has access to games not even out yet, so that was telling.
I started playing it on Game Pass/Xcloud via my Steam Deck. It’s a perfect match and I’m so happy I played.
How Did Vampire Survivors Nab Game of the Year Nods?
I’m not wrong that the graphics are dated and gameplay simple, but wow the game is so much fun. When I say the gameplay is simple, it’s possible to play the entire game with one hand. There’s no pressing a button to activate a weapon, that happens automatically at timed intervals. Like the starting whip. It only whips every second or so.
The only action I’d take was moving my character around on screen to either hit or avoid enemies. Each kill scored gems to upgrade my level. Each level offered a random selection of weapons or power ups to add to my strength (but just for that run). It was fun, but I didn’t think I’d play long. That’s when “just one more run” turned into hours.
I died a lot in the beginning, but where the Vampire Survivors addiction really started was purchasing permanent power ups with coins I earned. Things like more health, damage, speed, etc., slowly increased my survival time. That led to hours of seeing how far I could get in the next run.
Surviving longer led to tougher enemies, but killing them also dropped treasure chests. Those chests really brought home the casino slot machine comparison people make of this game. They racked up coin rewards and weapons or powerups like a casino slot jackpot. I’m sure that dopamine dump added to my play hours.
Simple, but with Plenty of Depth
There a ton of unlockable weapons to power up each run, but my favorites were: Garlic, King James Bible, Magic Wand and Lightning Ring. Garlic is my favorite. It surrounds the character like a shield that damages enemies. Bats, especially, I could run right through to kill off a ton by just walking through them and collecting their gems.
King James Bible also offered perimeter protection, but with more damage and a wider arc around my character. A bible would literally float in a circle around the player after it’s cooldown. Garlic and this bible helped me keep distance from the monsters.
The Magic Wand was a great alternative to start runs. It shots at the nearest enemy. Just weaker to start with than the other two since it only damages one enemy at a time. A Lightning Ring is great for random spots of high damage. The lightning would sometimes take out stronger enemies for me.
Beyond the Vampire Survivors weapons, there were also passive items to reduce cooldown times, increase damage area, increase damage level and more. There’s plenty of depth there, but Evolutions and Unions combine those items with weapons for even more.
Evolutions and Unions take certain combinations of passive item(s) and weapon to create an overpowered version of the weapon. The Death Spiral is my favorite weapon Evolution with it’s continuous full ring of scythes. Kills or repels almost everything around
There’s even more depth to the game with unlockable map of hidden items, those items themselves, coffins full of unlockable characters, new maps and more. All contributed to increasing my survival times.
Surviving to the End?
Once I had the Vampire Survivors permanent power ups maxed out and knowledge of Evolutions, I was able to last to the 30 minute limit. I felt accomplished and invincible, until the Grim Reaper literally swooped in at that 30 minute mark and killed me instantly. I thought maybe that was the “end”, but turns out I could kill him with the right items.
Unlocking Hurry mode helped speed up my progress by doubling the passing of time (15 minute runs instead of 30mins). It hooked me in even more at a time the 30 minute grew tiring. That was key to quickly unlock items I needed to take on the Reaper.
It took several hours more, but I unlocked the Evolutions for the Infinite Corridor and Red Shroud. The Infinite Corridor constantly froze nearby enemies, while the Red Shroud is near invincibility. With both of those, I was able to kill the Grim Reaper. Success, until a Gray Reaper stopped everything and killed me again.
The Vampire Survivors End is Not the End
I lasted 40 minutes and read that Gray Reaper was the end of the game, but after several updates there’s a whole lot left to unlock to defeat the true big bad, the Director. I’m 30hrs in, so I’ll take a bit of break to play other games, but I’m amazed how much fun this game is. There’s even DLC to add more and plenty of achievements and characters to unlock.
If you are reading this and ever thought about trying Vampire Survivors, just stop and go play