Vampire Survivors on Steam Deck, Photo Credits – Edward Park
“Vampire Survivors” is a top-down bullet-hell game that released last year. It is also one of the most popular games on Steam. With 110,000 Steam reviews, this game holds an overwhelmingly popularity rate of 98%. That is an unprecedented amount of popularity! That means only 2% of people who reviewed the game had a negative opinion among a literal ocean of praise!
When looking at the game, one might assume it’s a joke. The game looks incredibly low effort with pixel graphics and nothing but a walking animation for every character in the game. Projectiles simply leave your character’s body as if your character is sweating the same projectiles that come out to kill things.
However, considering “Vampire Survivors” popularity and the absolutely radiant praise it received, I had to give the game a try. Costing less than a Big Mac burger, this game is driving people to spend 50 hours of their limited time on Earth simply playing. So what’s the game like?
“Vampire Survivors” is the kind of game you would play on your phone on and off for literal years. The general gameplay loop is the same as any typical loot-based game. In a normal run, you start with a base character that has a single weapon, tinking away at enemies in an almost peaceful gameplay loop. I initially thought that this game was pretty shallow based on this concept. I was wrong.
You see, due to the game’s popularity, I had the opportunity to discuss the game with people that knew exactly what they were doing in the game. After I was shown the ropes, I dove deep into the mechanics of the game. While players do receive a weapon, players can upgrade that weapon over time by killing enemies and leveling up. However, if you know specific combos, you can transform that simple weapon into a significantly better one. Players do this by finding a passive item in the list of upgrades that they are given when they level up. These upgraded weapons propel this game from a simple top-down bullet-hell loot game to a god simulator.
These upgraded weapons give you the power to lay waste to entire screens of enemies, eventually leading to you surviving (ha, get it?) for multiple hours if you wish. While I was doing okay living for about 30 minutes at most, my friend was able to annihilate enemies that I was struggling against. While I was dying within milliseconds, my friend, on the other hand, was thriving. It was like I was looking at a completely different game. These different experiences that players can have implies that there is a significant level of not only depth but also skill to the game. Due to my friend’s knowledge of the game, my friend lived significantly longer than me. Eventually, my friend imparted this knowledge upon me, and I discovered the minutiae of the systems of “Vampire Survivors.” Eventually, this game doesn’t become a horde fighter for you, but it instead turns into a bullet hell for your enemies.
There were occasions where I would not even see the enemies that I was killing, only noticing their demise by the numbers on the screen. This game becomes a mesmerizing experience of simply walking around, destroying even the most hardy of enemies and bosses before they send opponents that are designed to kill you at the latter stages of the run. I thought these things were invincible until my friend showed me that, eventually, even these monstrosities died.
“Vampire Survivors” is far from the simple horde-killing game that I originally pegged it as. It is a complex system of builds and characters. This game leads you down a path of convoluted Easter eggs and references to characters that, once acquired, basically win the game for you. I absolutely recommend this game if you wish to feel the escalation from simply whipping an enemy to nuking them from orbit.
Edward Park is a fourth-year Secondary Education (English) major. EP909756@wcupa.edu