An almost-perfect action RPG with endless replayability? That’ll be Vampire Survivors.
How and why a hit is born is not an easy thing to explain. Sometimes it’s about reaching a devout audience or filling a specific niche, other times just being in the right place at the right time. For Vampire Survivors, it was definitely all of the above. The action RPG took off suddenly at the start of 2022 and has been on a winning streak ever since.
Vampire Survivors hits a sweet spot, straddling the line between being a hardcore ‘one more run’ experience and yet one that’s also oddly relaxing. The gameplay loop is all about choosing a character (usually a family member named after a famous Italian cheese) and going out to hunt creatures of the night. Attacks, however, are performed automatically, with player interaction limited to just moving around to pick up XP gems, coins, and bonus items.
Collect enough gems and you’ll spin the wheel. In which direction will your character level up: attack, defence, or magic? Each choice influences the run in many ways and, with characters having different strengths and weaknesses, there are endless approaches in which to tackle the stages. Perhaps you want to command an aggressive run as a whip-slinging Belmont-like warrior, or a Bewitched-influenced broom-riding witch. Or, perhaps, it’s one of those days where you want to be a dog which farts deadly flowers. Seriously.
Along with coins, your chances of surviving are enhanced by collecting health-restoring items like turkeys, along with gobbling down spicy fried salami that can incinerate enemies. By reaching certain achievements, you unlock new weapons, new stages, and loads of hidden bonuses as well as new characters. Enemies usually come in waves, and while they might be few at the start, it won’t be long until the stage will be chock-full of skeletons, mummies, and carnivorous plants. The ensuing chaos comes rendered in 8-bit style graphics, which have an understated simplicity as far as its obvious Castlevania inspirations go.
Vampire Survivors is all about secrets and memes, many of which will fly over the heads of non-Italian audiences (like the weapon ‘Eight the Sparrow’, a direct translation of Italian band Latte e i Suoi Derivati’s cult hit, Otto il Passerotto). Still, they’re entertaining to experience, like garlic creating a deadly aura or a skeleton character called Mortaccio (quite close to a rude word in Roman dialect) who throws his own bones around. Furthermore, there are Arcanas: tarot cards that further modify the gameplay – for example, by making projectiles explode on impact or halting XP progression.
Cheaper than pizza, Vampire Survivors offers hours of entertainment and tons of content, with developer Poncle promising that new stuff will also be added following this full release. While the slight lack of interactivity might not make it ideal for players who love to spend hours wracking their heads over the best strategy to defeat a boss, it does mean everyone can easily sit down and enjoy a slice of vampiric goodness.
Vampire Survivors’ delicate balance of risk and reward makes for an almost-perfect action RPG, providing endless replayability spiced with tons of Italian-related humour.