What's the Greatest Video Game: Vampire Survivors

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imunbeatable80

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Edited By imunbeatable80

This is an ongoing list where I attempt to do the following: Play, Complete, and Rank every video game in the known universe in order to finally answer the age old question "What is the greatest game of all time?" For previous entries find the links on the attached spreadsheet.

How did I do?

CategoryCompletion level
CompletedYes
Hours playedtoo many to count
Favorite weaponsThe whips.. and the guns
Least favoriteIt pains me because I like the attractorb, but I don't care for the holy water

I am notoriously late to trends and things that are popular. Maybe “notorious” is not the right word, since no one reading this blog really knows me, but you will just have to take my word for it. I have never once felt I need to be part of the moment or participate in the current discussions. My real world job doesn’t involve playing video games, watching movies or TV, or having to be caught up to discuss what everyone is discussing. Sometimes it happens by coincidence, but when I find something I like I don’t want to rush through it just because something else is on the horizon. If a piece of media is good, it will be good the year it comes out and possibly ever year after. For instance, I can’t imagine the cost financially or even energy wise for people to keep up this year in video games. I know this year is probably an anomaly, but there have been talks of at least 10 different games being real game of the year contenders, and that doesn’t even cover the other “good” games that might fit someone’s niche or be continuous plays for months afterwards (for instance I will get into a sports sim that eats up my free time, when I should be finishing games for this series). I would say this approach to games could bite me in the butt when it comes to playing multiplayer, however I can say those days are long since past for me. The only real multiplayer I play now is the group in my house, and luckily they aren’t too concerned with release dates just yet.

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This is all to say that I know Vampire Survivors was very popular in 2022 and despite all the incredibly glowing reviews by the Giant Bomb staff, I was not interested in it. Even at the $2.00 price tag, the idea of playing a game where my only control is essentially walking around, while all the attacks and everything else just happens automatically made me think of some terrible mobile game. That strength held on for nearly a year after release, but changed when I watched the Nextlander crew play it co-op and the desire to play it grew inside my belly. What’s weird is I knew, before I even bought the game, that I didn’t actually have anyone to play this game with. The thing that excited me enough to finally jump into the game, was also a thing that I would probably never experience. I still got the game, still played the game, and am going to claim I beat the game (fought the final boss, killed reapers in most levels, purchased every character, etc.).

Ok, so Vampire Survivors is a game I am sure everyone knows about already, but just in case… Vamps is a rouge-lite where you can play as minute different heroes who is tasked with surviving as long as you can in a level up to 30 minutes. Each hero has their own perks/negatives and start with a different weapon, but all weapons can be unlocked to appear regardless of what hero you play as. Once in the game, the only control you have is the moving of your character. Enemies will descend on your hero and your hero will attack automatically using the weapon(s) that they have. Walk into an enemy or get hit from the few that shoot projectiles and you take damage, too much damage and you die and your “run” is over. As you kill enemies, sometimes they will drop XP shards and if you collect enough of those you can level up and be granted a random assortment of level up powers. They are either weapons or items, and they can either be a powered up version of the weapon/item you already have, or a new weapon/item that you can equip. While this can be adjusted in the menu, you start off being able to hold 6 weapons and 6 items. If you manage to make it to the 30 minute mark, a reaper comes in and kills you.

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That is the basics of the game, but there is much more nuance to it that I just don’t know how much we can get into, but let’s try. For one each level is unique in its design layout as well as having “objectives” that you can strive for during the level. There are time limits to hit, “bosses” to kill, relics to find, and even hidden characters or item pickups that exist in the level. Most of this won’t seem apparent until you find the map relic and learn how to read it. I do mean you will have to learn how to read it, because it was not intuitive at first, and I had to really play around with it, before I understood how to use it. Hitting each of those “objectives” will either unlock new levels, more weapons/or items to appear in your game, more playable characters, and more. In addition to these objectives, you will come across gold in your runs that carry over between runs and can be spent at the “store” which will give you permanent upgrades that will assist you in future runs. Some are basic like increased health, more damage, or faster movement speed, and others will improve certain items or weapons, and there is even one that will allow you to resurrect from death in a level.

It can look like a mess in screenshots, but it makes sense when we play it.
It can look like a mess in screenshots, but it makes sense when we play it.

One of the main things to find out is that the weapons and items you wield in a level can complement each other to the point that create evolutions of weapons that you have. While nearly all items are useful on their own, if you happen to have the hollow heart item (increase max HP) along with the whip, you will be able to evolve the whip into a stronger weapon (once it is leveled up). Every weapon in the game can be evolved through a companion item or weapon, and that will start to color your choice when you are selecting your level-up upgrades. When you start getting a real feel for the game, any weapon or item that you have that isn’t tied to an evolution can seem like a waste of a spot. Surviving to the end of the 30 minutes will require you to have a fairly leveled up set of weapons and items and preferably some evolved weapons as well, because enemies will fill the screen not allowing you space to weave between them which you can do in the early stages.

This loop will repeat for awhile as you get intermittently better either through learned evolutions or spending gold on permanent upgrades that you will probably start to wonder what else the game has to offer. There are two late stage objectives you can tackle that I think are imperative to “beating” this game. The first is that there is in fact a final boss. In order to unlock this final boss you have to locate all the relics in the game in which case their level will be unlocked and you can do battle against them. The other is that you can and will be able to beat the reapers that seem like an automatic kill at the end of levels. The second can be much more frustrating than the first, because you need a very specific set of items and weapons to even help you in your fight, and then they need to be fully leveled up and evolved for you to stand much of a chance. However the feeling of defeating your first reaper is a fairly amazing feeling, since these folks will have tormented you for all of your early runs. Beating the final boss is more of a formality at that point, as I didn’t find it too difficult.

These are objectives you can shoot for that unlock more in the game.. There are also more than 23
These are objectives you can shoot for that unlock more in the game.. There are also more than 23

So that’s the boring explanation of a game that really has no right to be as good as it is, but that is because it nails the loop so well that it becomes addictive. By taking the control of shooting out of the players hand, you are simplifying a game that makes it easier to jump in and play than many other games. None of the deaths feel unfair, and some of that is because you don’t have control in your shooting, but also because everything is about experimenting with the weapons and items you pick along the way. You will learn how weapons attack and be able to pick ones that compliment each other. The whip is a horizontal attack, so you might want axes for a vertical attack, etc. Sure you can chalk up some deaths to being unlucky with upgrade paths, but its all part of the learning path about what to prioritize and when. Since the runs are short too, then the commitment to give it another go seems like a no brainer as well. At most you are playing for 30 minutes on a run, but early on those runs are going to be shorter.

Let the excitement begin.
Let the excitement begin.

The music is fine, the graphics look worse than most NES games, but all of that gets washed away as you play the game. What is even more astounding is that if you get really deep into the game there are so many things to unlock and keep doing long after you have “beat” the game. Bonus levels, lots of characters to master, plenty of weapons and items to try new combinations, and DLC for those that want to keep going. It is truly amazing that a game that on paper would seemingly be an ok mobile phone game, can turn into a juggernaut that everyone knows of and has played that is still only < $5.00. For me Vampire Survivors burned very bright but not for very long, but that is the nature of having endless video games to get to. I spent two weeks playing this game everyday, for hours a day because it had no long term commitment that I needed in order to fire it up, but once I knew too much about the game, it also lost its magic. The experimentation aspect is gone as I have most of the evolutions committed to memory, and I know what combo I need to kill reapers at the end. That killed some of the excitement for me, because I couldn’t ignore those callings. Why take the whip if I’m not also taking the Hollow Heart? Gotta leave this weapon spot open until I get the clock lancet, etc. While I know that everyone has probably played Vampire Survivors already, if anyone has not taken the plunge and my write-up has pushed them over the limit, I have to strongly encourage you to go in without a guide. So much of the enjoyment I got from the game was chancing into upgrades or evolutions and then furiously scratching them into my brain so I knew for next time. However, once you get to the stage where everything is planned out in the game, then it’s time to put it down and move to another.

Is this the greatest game of all time?: No

Where does it rank: Vampire Survivors is great, more fun then I would have ever expected based on hearing so many people describe the game to me. I had a great time playing it and I played it exclusively for like two weeks every day. I imagine if I was able to play this in multiplayer I would have an even bigger fondness for the game. My only downsides with the game actually come from playing it too much. A lot of the fun I had was figuring things out (levels, evolutions, combinations), but once I knew all of those mysteries then I played the game differently and that excitement and fun were lessened. That isn't a big enough negative to sink the ship, but its not the greatest game either. I have it ranked as the 26th greatest game of all time. It sits between Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (25th) and Luigi's Mansion 3 (27th).

Anyone looking for it: here is the link to the list and more if you are interested in following along with me (this is not a self promotion).Here. I added links on the spreadsheet for quick navigation. Now if you missed a blog of a game you want to read about, you can get to it quickly, rather than having to scroll through my previous blogs wondering when it came up.

Thanks for listening

Future games coming up 1) Alone in the Dark: New nightmare 2) Operation Darkness 3) TBD

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Junkerman

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Well done! This continues to be one of my favorite ongoing things on this forum. Excited to see where it all ends up!

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imunbeatable80

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@junkerman: Thank you so much.. It will hopefully live up to your expectations.

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redwing42

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Looking forward to Operation Darkness. That's a game I really wanted to love, but I fell off it very quickly.

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chamurai

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Good write up! I, too, dropped off VS pretty hard after figuring the loop out but those dozens of hours spent on my computer were indeed magical.

Team Whip!

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PeezMachine

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#5  Edited By PeezMachine

I've played a number of Vampire Survivor knock-offs, some good and some bad, but none of them captures the audiovisual hellscape of VS -- the constant thud and swish of weapons going to work and the ring-a-ding-ding of a whole bunch of XP orbs cashing in, which I think is as close as I get to experiencing ASMR outside of Corin Tucker hitting a high note. I'm glad this game exists, and I'm glad it's great.

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imunbeatable80

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@redwing42:I have a feeling our opinions will be very similar. While I am not done with the game yet, the early review is that this game should be everything I want (turn based combat, individual level ups, strategy game), but I find its missions either poorly designed or just plain annoying.

@chamurai: I suppose it is the nature of this game, that if you take away the mystery and know great builds, since you only control movement there isn't a lot that can you throw you off from playing it outside of "randomization." Thanks for the read and comment.

@peezmachine: I may have not been there in the beginning, but I'm glad I played it. There is a high you can get from playing this game well (especially early on in your career) but I don't know if I will dive deep into the knock-off categories. Thanks for the read and comment.