I'm addicted to Vampire Survivors and its glorious visual overload

Screenshot of Vampire Survivors on PC
(Image credit: poncle)

Looking for something different to play this weekend? Let me point you to a little indie game called Vampire Survivors. First things first: it's almost suspiciously cheap. You can pick it up on Steam for a mere $2.99/£2.09, and if that's a bit much to pay sight unseen, it's also available through your Microsoft Game Pass subscription if you have one. It's currently PC-only, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it join the ranks of the best Nintendo Switch games at some point in the future.

If you need a bit more persuasion, here are the basics: it's a survival game with Rogue-like elements, in which you choose a character and you're immediately faced with an onslaught of enemies. Your weapon fires automatically, and as you kill monsters you're rewarded with little experience gems; once you collect enough to level up, you can add a new weapon to your collection, or a passive item that'll upgrade stats such as your firing rate, cooldown time or even luck. Basically you build up your firepower, defeat bosses to make treasure chests appear, and attempt to survive a whole 30 minutes.

Screenshot of Vampire Survivors on PC

Stick with it  (Image credit: poncle)

Let me level with you: your first game may feel underwhelming. Straight out of the box it doesn't look very impressive; it has the appearance of an old 16-bit game, with blocky pixel graphics. You'll be outnumbered, under-powered and a little confused, and you won't last the distance. 

I urge you to stick with it. Once you get a feel for how the weapon upgrades work – and eventually learn how certain combinations of weapons and passive items enable you to evolve your armoury into something a lot more devastating and visually arresting – things really start to happen.

Screenshot of Vampire Survivors on PC

Keep sticking with it (Image credit: poncle)

And that's when the real joy of Vampire Survivors kicks in; most likely at some point in the next level you unlock, when you find yourself wading through an absolute onslaught of enemies and you happen upon your first weapon evolution and you're suddenly an unstoppable death machine, laying waste to hundreds of monsters every single second. 

That's also the point where Vampire Survivors' apparently basic graphics really come into their own; what initially looked like a ropey old Commodore Amiga game transforms into an astonishing visual overload, with weapon effects filling the entire screen and everything exploding all at once.

Screenshot of Vampire Survivors on PC

Oh yeah (Image credit: poncle)

For a properly stunning example of what I'm on about, take a look at this recent video from a German streamer, Dex. He's spent a lot more time on Vampire Survivors than me (I've only clocked up a paltry 70 hours over the last couple of months), and in response to some of his viewers informing him that they find the visual effects when he's fully powered up wonderfully hypnotic and relaxing, he set himself the challenge of creating the most beautiful build possible. And here it is:

Considering how basic Vampire Survivors looks at the start of every game, that's quite the evolution, and once you've got the hang of things you'll find that the final five minutes of each playthrough, once everything's maxed out, looks similarly chaotic and mesmerising (though maybe not quite to the extent of Dex's build, as he's had a lot of time to really build up his characters).

Vampire Survivors delivers a killer combination of straightforward gameplay with a whole lot of complexity under the surface and an absolute stack of secrets and strategies to uncover. Even better, it's still a work-in-progress, which means that every couple of weeks there's an update with a whole bunch of new stuff to discover. What's not to love? You can get it right now for PC, on Steam or on Game Pass, just in time for the weekend.

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Jim McCauley

Jim McCauley is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler who started writing professionally way back in 1995 on PC Format magazine, and has been covering technology-related subjects ever since, whether it's hardware, software or videogames. A chance call in 2005 led to Jim taking charge of Computer Arts' website and developing an interest in the world of graphic design, and eventually led to a move over to the freshly-launched Creative Bloq in 2012. Jim now works as a freelance writer for sites including Creative Bloq, T3 and PetsRadar, specialising in design, technology, wellness and cats, while doing the occasional pantomime and street performance in Bath and designing posters for a local drama group on the side.