There are video games whose popularity sometimes explodes without warning. vampire survivors it is one of those video games, a title that suddenly exploded in a historical period in which the market is literally stormed by triple A and very famous games with access to enormously larger resources, even if only advertising. A simple, very simple roguelite, developed with very limited means compared to a lot of its competition and which despite this has proven to be solid and able to attract hundreds of thousands of people to it.
The merit is of Luca Galante, an Italian developer who emigrated to England for more than a decade to try his luck with game development, who has succeeded in the more unique than rare feat of finding space in the chaos of publications that crowd Steam with a video game that is only apparently trivial. Vampire Survivors came as a surprise to everyone, but its popularity is well deserved, thanks to the fact that it is a title built with unexpected care and wisdom, capable like few others of being enjoyed by balancing all its contents with precision despite being "only" in early access.
Simple but addictive
Sometimes it takes very little to make a great video game. An idea, an essential but perfectly stable gameplay, the typical immediacy of small things. Why yes, there are those who rely on immoderate means of production and there are those who instead with the equivalent of a spade and bucket are able to build incredibly satisfying video games. Vampire Survivors has done this with repurposed assets from Castlevania 2D and RPG Maker tilesets, and despite this aesthetic over-simplification it works and is addictive.
Because yes, Behind the facade of a very low budget game, Vampire Survivors hides an astonishing intelligence, capable of reducing the roguelite mechanics to a minimum to adapt them to an ingenious game system, which brings to mind the satisfactions of the famous Loop Hero while maintaining a perfectly recognizable identity (if you want to know more, retrieve the Loop Hero review ).
As already mentioned, it is a roguelite in which all you have to do is move within gigantic maps to avoid ever-larger waves of enemies. You don't have to fight, or at least not directly, since the combat system is fully automated. You will say: and where is the fun? In constantly unlocking new perks and new weapons that can improve your performance in battle and in facing screens overflowing with enemies.
We speak, in some cases, of hundreds of monsters that crowd the screen with the sole intention of hitting us and emptying our HP bar. In words it might seem like an insignificant mechanic, but pad in hand turns into a real drug which leads each time to want to try again to discover ever new builds, able to perform in a different way.
This is also added the vast roster of unlockable and selectable characters (here's how to unlock all Vampire Survivors characters), equipped with unique characteristics and armaments capable of constantly differentiating the approach to the hordes. Not to mention the exquisite Italian character of the characters, who show themselves with the well-known features of the various Belmonts who appeared in Castlevania but who have names that recall the boot such as Poe Ratcho, Suor Clerici, Dommario, Antonio Belpaese and even a couple of shady characters who I will avoid naming to avoid offending Catholic readers. A characterization that can only be fully appreciated by the Italian public, which nonetheless showcases an irony and irreverence capable of eliciting more than a few smiles.
A great sense of progression
The best feature of Vampire Survivors is precisely that linked to its internal progression. Each run allows you to accumulate money useful for unlocking passive skills, necessary to improve your performance in the next one, also pushing you to continuously experiment with different scenarios to unlock the possibility of dropping improved perks, new mechanics and new playable characters.
Heal yourself for a total of 1000 HP in one game and you will unlock Suor Clerici, kill 5000 enemies and you will unlock the Lightning Ring, survive for at least 10 minutes and you will get the Peachone, which is literally a pigeon that circles the protagonist "bombing" enemies at regular intervals, and so on. The tremendously satisfying feeling is precisely that of never doing anything for no reason, making each game worth playing and, above all, never the same as the previous one. The merit of this inexhaustible sense of progression lies in the simple but extremely functional leveling mechanics during each run: It is not enough to kill some monsters to be able to accumulate experience, but you have to physically collect the gems dropped by enemies to get XP. In this way Vampire Survivors requires constant attention and quick reflexes in the player's movements, thus avoiding the risk of turning into an idle game with almost no interactivity. It is precisely this mechanic of "manual" collection of experience points that gives the game its almost hypnotic capacity for addiction, and it is what on balance makes it shine in its extreme simplicity and immediacy, which is the same immediacy typical of arcade works.
It will be the retro graphics and the few but well-matched game mechanics, but getting to want to see Vampire Survivors run on an arcade cabinet of the past does not seem such an absurd thought, reconfirming the fact that roguelites designed so well are the natural evolution of titles born to be stripped in arcades. At the moment Vampire Survivors is in early access on Steam, and costs the negligible amount of €3.
It is not yet known when it will leave early access, but work is progressing at a very rapid pace, as demonstrated by the latest update which introduced the concept of NFT into gaming. Don't worry though, it's just a new power up - the 'Nduja Fritta Tanto< - capable of incinerating tons of enemies thanks to a fiery breath lasting a few seconds. The path taken therefore seems to be the right one, and Galante has promised a large number of additions to the package which is already more than satisfactory.