Vampire Survivors Review

Richard Walker

You'd be forgiven for dismissing Vampire Survivors based on looks alone. Reminiscent of something you might have played on your old Mega Drive/Genesis or SNES in the early 90s, developer Poncle Games' Gothic roguelike might appear visually unremarkable (or, at least it is until you actually start playing it) but it has hidden depths. Actually, they're not all that hidden, but they are deliriously addictive depths. Give it a few minutes, and it all very quickly begins to make perfect sense, and, you'll very quickly lose hours and hours of your life, so moreish is Vampire Survivors' frantic avoid 'em up. It should really come with some sort of warning.

I can't get enough of this.

Vampire Survivors is about throwing as many things as humanly possible at you, forcing you to cope with the sheer deluge of monsters lumbering their way towards you. Mechanically, VS isn't even that complicated. It requires the pressing of no buttons – instead, you'll carefully massage the left thumbstick to keep you as far away from the onslaught of nightmarish creatures all inexorably drawn to you like a magnet. It might not be much to look at, but Vampire Survivors is incredible. Pure, primal gameplay, distilled into its rawest form.

If you've ever played a Geometry Wars game, you'll have a fundamental grasp of what Vampire Survivors is about. The crux here is avoidance – deftly weaving your way through unending hordes of marauding monsters, as you steadily accumulate more and more weaponry and magic to vanquish thousands upon thousands of pixelated beasties. The concept is remarkably simple, but it's the gradual escalation of each attempt at beating a level that proves endlessly compulsive, while unlocking and experimenting with different characters and weaponry lends the game nigh-infinite replay value.

Starting out with a paltry few characters, each with their own stats and starting ability, you're able to hoover up gold, which can be used to unlock any characters you've earned through gameplay, or purchase permanent buffs to make subsequent run-throughs that little less tricky. The more you play, the better it gets, as you push further and further with various character builds. And therein lies the hook – that delicious gameplay loop. As enemies are vanquished, they leave behind gems that you can set about snaffling up, feeding into a levelling gauge.


With each level gained, you're presented with several abilities to choose from or upgrade, and the path you choose immediately impacts your survivability as the enemy numbers rapidly increase. Eventually, you'll find what works best for you, although, I fail to see how you could have a build without combining garlic and King Bibles. Magic wands that fire at the nearest enemy, a Castlevania-style whip, throwing knives, throwable phials of holy water, a boomerang-like cross, birds that fly around firing lasers all over the place, and a glut of other weapons and abilities combine to make you an unstoppable force to be reckoned with, and there's a unique satisfaction to watching the carnage unfold around you.

Since Vampire Survivors uses only the left analogue stick for moving your character around, your weapons and skills are automatically activated on a cooldown timer, which itself can be ramped up to execute attacks more frequently. This is when things get really manic, and the little crumply sound that comes with each bat, mummy, werewolf, gorgon, merman, skeleton, witch, floating lion head, or dragon shrimp killed in your wake is a feeling akin to popping bubble wrap. It's proper Pavlovian stuff, tailormade to prod the pleasure glands. Take down a tough enemy, and you'll earn a little treasure chest, which bursts open with gold and a bonus upgrade – another rewarding bit of loveliness that makes you feel like you've won the jackpot on a fruit machine.

Opening treasure chests is wonderful.

Explore the map, and you might even uncover a few secrets, to boot. All of these elements fuel a desire to keep returning to Vampire Survivors again and again. You can't help but wonder what other weapons you could lay your hands on, how you could evolve them by combining specific items, or which possible builds you could end up with. One run in Vampire Survivors' 'Inlaid Library' stage had me cackling with joy, as my character stood inside their impenetrable green garlic glow, King Bibles spinning around the protective stinky sphere, as a little white 'peachone' bird fluttered around zapping foes circling the perimeter. There's nothing quite like it.

In the same way that you wouldn't judge a book by its cover, Vampire Survivors has so much more to offer than its pixel art visuals (which, incidentally, I've grown to love) would suggest. This is a roguelike RPG affair built solely with fun in mind, designed to provide instant gratification with no barrier to entry. Fire it up, and within moments you're revelling in wanton monster slaughter, the chaos unfolding around you in wonderfully joyous, utterly ridiculous fashion. Just make sure you're acutely aware that Vampire Survivors will take over your life, if you let it. Right now, I can't think of anything I'd rather sink my teeth into.

Vampire Survivors

Someone, please send help. I can't stop playing Vampire Survivors, and I'm worried it might end up ruining my life. This is pure and unadulterated gameplay that will suck away hours of your life, but you'll be loving every bit of it.

Form widget

Neat earworm ditties that you’ll find yourself idly humming and lovely sound effects that complement the fun.


Nice 16-bit pixel art that may, on first glance, not look like much, but when thousands of monsters are swarming the screen, you won’t care anyway.


Pure, undiluted gameplay, that, given it uses only the left stick to move about, shouldn’t be nearly as endlessly entertaining as this.


Start playing at your peril - you’ll never want to stop, as you unlock more characters, levels, weapons, and upgrades. It’s a bit addictive.


Vampire Survivors has 140(!) achievements to unlock, so expect to be embarking on countless runs to earn the lot. And have a lot of fun while doing so.

Game navigation