Released in December 2021, Vampire Survivors is a retro-style roguelike role-playing bullet hell video game that takes inspiration from the Castlevania series, developed and published single-handedly by indie developer Luca Galante for the PC. The objective is a relatively straightforward concept: survive for thirty minutes. However, you will soon find this task is not as simple as it first seems.
The game is relatively uncomplicated by design, as a player’s only focus is on movement as all attacks are time-based and are handled automatically. Begin by killing enemies, collect XP gems and leveling up, and make the choice to add either a different weapon or ability to the player’s arsenal (potentially being able to utilize up to six of each at a time) or upgrade a current weapon to a stronger level. Furthermore, surviving long enough will spawn boss enemies, both sizable and more resilient than their counterparts, these enemies will relinquish loot boxes on their death, rewarding the player with weapon or ability upgrades and gold coins (even evolving weapons into much stronger variants with the correct combination of level, weapon and abilities).
The difficulty of the game starts quite high, requiring some trial and error to become accustomed to the gameplay. As such, this may take a number of newcomers by surprise. The game is unwilling to hold the player’s hand, throwing them in the deep end and letting them die repeatedly until they figure it out themselves. Additionally, the player start the game under prepared for what lies ahead. The meagre supply of weapons and abilities that the game provides on the first playthrough equates to unavoidable death as hundreds of enemies overtake the screen, blocking what tiny path of escape the player has created. However, with death comes new opportunities with the ability to spend hard-earned gold to unlock new characters, all with different starting weapons and buffs, as well as power up the players base stats, to further aid in the fight against evil.
Unlocked over the course of the game, Vampire Survivors does provide a whole host of impressive equipment for hunting the undead hordes. From whips and magic wands to garlic and a screen-wiping pentagram, the player will slowly progress in unlocking more equipment and characters through achievements in game and slowly turn the tide in their favour. Though frustrating at first, it doesn’t take long to unlock enough equipment to become a god amongst men; mowing down all those in your path with a single attack is presented in the most cathartic way possible.
Furthermore, it is no exaggeration that, as the player survives for longer periods, the enemy count thrown on screen is in the hundreds. The player can easily rack up a kill count in the tens of thousands around the twenty-minute mark as a whole host of different enemies shamble in the player’s direction in hopes of bringing the run to an untimely end. Be it vampire bats, mummies, praying mantis’ and other Castlevania-inspired baddies, these enemies seem to spawn near indefinitely off-screen and B-line straight towards the player in hopes of doing damage by rubbing up against them.
Indeed, this is where the bullet hell aspect of the game play comes in. As the player’s attacks are time based and automatically fired, there will be points when there are minuscule gaps in the damage dished out and the need to dodge an incoming enemy is a necessity. Though, in the late game, this will become an innate skill as the player ducks and weaves through the tightest of spaces just to survive.
Vampire Survivors is available to purchase in early access on Steamhere, only costing around £2 ($3).
It is rare that I become addicted to a game, especially such a simple concept as Vampire Survivors. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that I’m absolutely hooked, having spent over 17 hours playing in the few days since I purchased it and I regret nothing. If you have a few hours to burn (or don’t mind missing your planned obligations), I highly suggest checking this title out for yourself.
Our complete playthrough of Stage 2!
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Hey there, I’m Jim and I’m located in London, UK. I am a Writer and Managing Director here at Grimoire of Horror. A lifelong love of horror and writing has led me down this rabbit hole, allowing me to meet many amazing people and experience some truly original artwork. I specialise in world cinema, manga/graphic novels, and video games but will sometime traverse into the unknown in search of adventure.