Vampire Survivor: Oh Man, This is Doing Numbers
I heard of Vampire Survivor from friends and colleagues and I was utterly repulsed as they refused to elaborate on what this even is other than “The best game ever”, “my game of the year” and knowing the people I work with at DreadXP there was a pretty good chance they were trying to shitpost me with something so awful it causes Cognito-hazard spiritual damage to my soul. Like the Mouthful Mode from the Kirby and the Forgotten Land trailer and all the “fanart” of increasingly visceral objects with Kirby stretched over.
Where did this zeitgeist pop out from? Well, let’s start at the Steam Page the developer is listed as poncle and this is their only listed game there and on their Itch.io page. The demo version of Vampire Survivor on itch is dated to have been released back in October with the steam version December 2021 which is about 2 months prior to this article. The game is incredibly lightweight being built in HTML5 using the Phaser framework and if anything it speaks to the beauty of simplicity. This game’s most visually satisfying moments are seeing hundreds of sprites clouding the screen vaporized instantly.
According to Steam Charts Vampire Survivor upon the early-access steam release, December showed often single-digit daily players until suddenly on January 5th a sudden spike of one thousand and upwards of twenty thousand on January 22 to seventy thousand on February 13. After this horde mower started getting traction on Twitch and Indie game reviewers, major review sites much bigger than DreadXP join in approaching Valentine’s day. Thanks to Jesse for jumping on this game review early, reminds me to stay on my toes with Ultra Indie Reviews. Gems can be around any corner.
Speaking of which, has anyone tried out Bloodborne psx? That fan recreation launched on February first within weeks of Vampire Survivor’s climb to popularity. I can’t say definitively but I would not be shocked if they gave each other a boost in discovery. Fans of victorian horror and gothic fantasy share common atrophy of game projects. Castlevania and all of Konami’s titles remain ever in limbo trapped within the company’s recession from video games. Meanwhile, the celebrated and acclaimed Bloodborne remains bound to the Playstation 4 with years of begging and joy for a sequel., HD edition, or port like for Dark Souls met with silence, Fromsoft has given a neutral attitude to the idea of a sequel that is ultimately up to Sony as they own the rights to the IP (and for whatever reason have done nothing despite interest). If anything Vampire Survivor helps scratch at that itch with a variety of characters with unique abilities and design.
Vampire Survivor is essentially a bullet hell survival where players survive for as long as they can. Each attempt involves players leveling up their character and gathering weapons to fight off increasing waves of monsters. They also earn currency which they can spend for permanent upgrades to gradually increase their survival abilities and unlock new characters each with a unique modifier to harmonize a build around. That’s about as complex as the gameplay loop gets. This game is surprisingly popular and for good reason. Despite being a mobile game port the plain formula sets the player on a power climb that is incredibly satisfying to experience. In the game, the player only controls the character movement and upgrade menu. Attacks are all automated consisting of the equipment the player has chosen. Even so, the climb from slow single swipes to a walking storm of destruction is satisfying on a fundamental level that goes all the way back to the origin of video games as arcade machines.
The reason I enjoy Vampire Survivor is the same reason I’ve logged over 1000 hours on Warframe. Instead of becoming an instrument of destruction, I have crafted all the instruments I need to surround me. I am not an exceptional gamer by any means but the tuning into the flow of spawning and destroying entities and scaling damage numbers, it’s the type of data and mechanical optimization I’m sure better computer wizards than I can fall in love with.