One year after its record-breaking debut on the Steam pages, sanctioned by an absolutely unpredictable amount of purchases, Vampire Survivors is still a worldwide phenomenon, as demonstrated by its presence on the stage of The Game Awards. A couple of months have now passed since the release of version 1.0 of the game, which in the meantime has also landed in the Game Pass and on mobile, but it’s never too late to celebrate the qualities of the exceptional indie developed by Luca Galante, recently expanded with the release of the Legacy of the Moonspell DLC (by the way, here’s the mini-guide to unlock all Vampire Survivors characters). Beyond its spartan appearance, which brings to mind the glories of the 8-bit era, Vampire Survivors flexes its muscles with an effective and well-rounded playful offer, as simple as it is overwhelming.
Coordinates of a global phenomenon
Wanting to draw a taxonomic profile of Vampire Survivors, just to associate Poncle’s work with more or less defined genre traits, we could describe it as a sort of “single-stick shooter” on steroids, in which each match is divided between of a chaos-intensive survival marathon. After selecting our character and the level to face, we will then be called to move around the scenario automatically targeting the enemy hordes, gradually more overflowing, until the timer reaches 30 minutes and the reaper will appear before us , putting an end to the slaughter in an instant.
To reach this lethal goal more easily, we will have to do everything possible to equip our alter ego with ever more effective skills and upgrades, paying attention to combine the right elements to conquer advanced versions of the available weapons, and making the most of the possibilities granted by the system of progression, based on the accumulation of levels (to be climbed by collecting the gems left on the ground by enemies) and on the collection of rewards. In both cases, fate will play a key role in tracing our path to glory (the assortment of power-ups is largely random), but it will be up to us to understand how to make the most of each game circumstance, trying to compose the best build obtainable with the resources at our disposal.
In the interval between one sortie and another, we will then be able to invest the coins obtained by massacring the opponents in the purchase of permanent upgrades (shared among all members of the roster) and additional characters, each of which will add one or more to the gameplay cycle unpublished tiles, starting with new unlockable weapons. These are the basic ingredients of the recipe developed by Luca Galante, but testing the salient aspects is not enough to define the value of Vampire Survivors, nor to explain the reasons behind its incredible success.
Poncle’s title is essentially a distillation of pure addiction, supported by a playful construction imbued with reward logic and designed to feed the desire to play with shots of endorphins, shouting “one more game and then I’ll stop”: the oldest lie in the world of video games. With a very large and well-diversified roster, a practically inexhaustible list of challenges, secrets, remnants of progression and variations on the theme of slaughter, Vampire Survivors continues to offer the user new reasons to face endless hordes of assorted monstrosities which, like weapons, characters, levels and upgrades, are equipped with laughing nicknames, between disguised profanities and linguistic jokes worthy of the good Maccio.
“One more and then I’ll stop”
In short, if at first it seems difficult to believe that a title like Vampire Survivors can kidnap players for dozens and dozens of hours, the sense of satisfaction transmitted by each of its playful constituents soon corrects this incorrect estimate. At the beginning, the engine of interest is clearly the desire to unlock levels and characters, supported by gameplay dynamics that are as simple as they are effective. Secondly, once the basics of the game have been assimilated, the desire to experiment with different combinations of skills and upgrades takes over, also in relation to the characteristics of the different scenarios, different in structure and lethal fauna.
Subsequently, the debut of the first modifiers (which can, for example, halve the times of a game or reverse the layout of a level) will further sharpen our desire to explore all the possibilities offered by the experience, up to the gates of an “endgame” which will see us engaged in unlocking the remaining Achievements (challenges of various kinds), all the entries in the Bestiary and the many secrets hidden in the game, which will once again expand the range of variables within the gameplay. At this point, the one with Vampire Survivors will have already become a daily appointment, thanks to a well-calibrated level of challenge and a choral structure that never completely exhausts its attraction.
An eternal challenge The first Vampire Survivors DLC, Legacy of the Moonspell, does not deviate in any way from the production canons, limiting itself to adding challenges, characters, weapons and an additional scenario to Poncle’s proposal. It is worth specifying that, considering the price of the package, it is an absolutely sustainable choice, in line with the route traced by the developer also in terms of rich, punctual post-launch support and destined to sustain the grip of the game for a long time to come. game on users, at least according to the prospects outlined so far.
This is also because, after the first binges, Poncle’s work will prove to be a perfect “unloading” game, very easy to combine with much more ambitious and complex productions, those that periodically take our free time by storm. Ultimately, in short, what probably started out as a simple game design exercise, fueled by the passion of Luca Galante, has turned into one of the most successful indies of the last two years, into a little gem substantially devoid of blatant gaps or roughness of thickness. The main caveats of Vampire Survivors concern an engine that still shows some significant yielding, and a functional artistic sector but far from the qualitative levels of the play system, although the obvious references to the classic Castlevania chapters can represent a welcome added value for players with a few years on their shoulders (by the way, also take a look at our Castlevania Advance Collection review).
However, we are talking about side notes that do not overshadow the general balance of the production too much, especially in light of its laughable list price, which is nullified if you are subscribed to the Microsoft Game Pass service. It is worth pointing out that the game is also available in a free-to-play version (with some not particularly annoying advertising space) on mobile devices, ready to multiply the duration of your “reflective breaks” tenfold throughout the day.