Vampire Survivors, Luca Galante

Prepare to Get Slayed and Played by ‘Vampire Survivors’

Vampire Survivors‘ time-sucking qualities reveal the insidious aspects of the best video games and what players want from them.

Vampire Survivors
Luca Galante
Poncle Limited
17 August 2023 (Nintendo Switch)

Vampirism is once again a vibe in gaming. Vampire Survivors, the brainchild of Luca Galante and Poncle Limited, is extreme in its vampirism. No, you won’t always be a sexy vampire in the game. Instead, it’s the Vampire Survivors’ gameplay and its rewards that are assiduously vampiric. The game is certain to suck your time away.

Influenced in style by Konami’s Castlevania series, Vampire Survivors garnered much acclaim in its initial release in 2022, including the award for best video game from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. It rose like Dracula from his coffin to hypnotize players. Wa ha ha! It soon spawned imitators. Now, recently released to a wider audience on the Nintendo Switch with added content in the form of more characters, stages, and secrets, and the addition of cooperative play, Vampire Survivors will take an even larger bite of players’ time.

In Vampire Survivors, players select from one of several characters, each with unique skills and a distinct look (from the whip-wielding Antonio to the mage Imelda, and many more). Players run around a stage with their characters evading and taking down hordes of enemies and searching for items, including, of course, coffins. As players do this, their characters gain upgrades that aid in the vanishment of waves upon waves of skeletons, bats, ghouls, and other creepy scaries designed by Galante and contributing artists. This is repeated until either the enemies deplete the players’ health to zero or they survive the onslaught of enemies for a set amount of time, usually 30 minutes.

Vampire Survivors is best for gamers hose crave a lot of stimulation. Indeed, overstimulation is an intended effect. A barrage of flashing lights, explosions of pixels and numbers, and constant audio cues accompany players through each stage. Kudos to the sound team behind the game for designing the myriad of sounds so they don’t become annoying. This is an impressive accomplishment considering the number of times one hears the sounds of projectiles being fired and enemies being destroyed.

Eventually, after a few plays, the realization kicks in that any character can progress without much effort through certain stages with the right upgrades. All a player who upgrades must do is sit and watch the rewards amass. Here lies the insidious nature of Vampire Survivors‘ gameplay loop—and maybe video games in general. Vampire Survivors plays the player more than the player plays it. Nevertheless, its genius lies in giving players enough control to satisfy them with one’s time draining away unnoticed.

Indeed, Vampire Survivors’ gameplay might be a step above the notorious and popular Japanese musō games exemplified in the Dynasty Warriors series’ repetitive button-mashing that leads to waves of virtual foes dropping like pollen shaken from a tree during an ominous Springtime. Unlike these games, however, attacking is automatic in Vampire Survivors. The only meaningful decisions given to the player are moving one’s character around the stage and choosing upgrades. Sounds boring right? Well, it’s not. Vampire Survivors induces a trance-like state.

The enemies on screen are not the only ones mounting an onslaught. Dopamine, too, assaults the player in Vampire Survivors. The game’s compulsion loop – created by how it presents anticipation, challenge, and reward to the player – is masterfully realized. My inhibitor control fell to the mercy of the game. Too many “short” sessions turned into hours. Before I knew it, day turned to night.

In many ways, Vampire Survivors is the emblematic videogame. It is fast and loud. One can imagine children and teenagers playing it and their parents yelling at them to “stop playing that damn game!” Easier said than done. What Vampire Survivors asks of the player is instantly understood, even by those that don’t play many video games. Yet, players looking for satisfaction should temper their expectations. Be prepared to become an insatiable vampire and not a sexy one.

A review code of the game provided by the game’s publisher was used for this review.

RATING 8 / 10