It’s very hard to separate the horror action genre and aesthetic from away from the Castlevania series by Konami. So anything that looks remotely similar to its style is going to draw a comparison. Luckily that’s not the only thing that Vampire Survivors leans onto in order to stand out on the Xbox Series consoles and PC. While the visuals and themes are heavily inspired by the Castlevania series, the game itself is entirely unique and very different from what you might expect. It’s still monster-slaying horror action, but not how you’re used to seeing it.
Vampire Survivors only uses a few inputs on the controller to play. You choose a character at the start from a selection of heroes, all of which look VERY similar to Castlevania’s Belmont clan, and run around a map taking out monsters that swarm you. The easiest comparison to the gameplay would be to something like Atari’s 1982 arcade game Robotron, where you move around a stage and shoot groups of enemies that appear. Only in Vampire Survivors, you don’t hit any buttons to fire your weapons and magical attacks, everything is done automatically while you move around.
The automatic attacks are an interesting change to this style of arcade game. You can focus on avoiding attacks and pursuing rewards a lot more, rather than worrying about hitting a button to attack enough times. The pace of attacks starts off slow, but gathering items to boost your attack speed and cool down of your abilities greatly enhances this. Eventually, you can gather enough attacks and ability boosts to become a walking powerhouse that wipes out legions of enemies on screen with little to no effort wasted. Visually it looks ridiculous, but in the midst of a game, it can be very exciting and fun.
Every character starts off with a specific attack or magical spell that fires at whatever is around you. You can level up by collecting orbs from downed enemies to gain new attacks, or by discovering treasure chests to pick up new abilities. Getting new attacks doesn’t take long, provided you’re defeating monsters and collecting all of the orbs you can.
Those new attacks come in very handy because the number of enemies that appear on screen can get massive. Over time, stronger enemies appear alongside the small baddies and do their best to overwhelm you, giving you a sense of urgency to collect more attacks to defend yourself. Bigger foes yield more treasure chests and rewards, so it definitely pays off to go after any big monsters you see appear.
The game has elements of a rogue-like, where you will repeat stages to gather new items and discover secrets, as well as power up your basic abilities before each run. It can get very repetitive quickly but is still very fun. You’ll keep going back in for another run as you inch closer to unlocking new stages and finding new abilities to use in subsequent runs. You can even find and unlock new characters that offer different abilities to start out with, as well as unlock extra options for the main menu and submenu while on a stage.
Certain abilities, like being able to see a map of the stage, need to be unlocked by finding specific relics in certain stages. This can be a little annoying when you feel like you don’t know where to go on a stage, but it’s not detrimental to the overall experience. Other relics have unique abilities that let you further power up your attacks or open new options for future runs and make certain tasks a bit easier. Finding them all is a challenge, but luckily the repetitiveness to find them doesn’t become a chore.
While there are some cheeky nods to Castlevania and other classic games, it’s the presentation that is the best homage. The 16-bit visuals look very similar to the games that inspired it, specifically Castlevania Symphony of the Night and Rondo of Blood more than anything else. Most enemies you encounter look as if they were pulled directly out of one of those games, which can be a little silly at first glance. The written dialogue in some spots definitely won’t win any awards for creative writing, but if you know anything about the 16-bt era of gaming you’ll see how this is an homage to that era as well. There are even a few iconic phrases that are given a spin that you’ll notice, even though they too are also pretty silly.
If you want a game to play while listening to something else, like music or a podcast, then Vampire Survivors is something you can mindlessly play. It’s simple to get into and will take a little time to uncover everything it has to discover, but it remains fun the whole time. You might not get the humor or fan service scattered throughout it if you don’t know anything about Castlevania, but that won’t prevent you from having a good time running through it a bunch of times.
Have you gotten a chance to play Vampire Survivors? Did you notice all the Castlevania nods in it? Post a comment down below and tell us your thoughts!
This can be an addictive game that you may go back to many times. It’s very simple to get into but will take time to unlock and find everything within it, but can get very repetitive very fast. There’s a lot of fan service that might not click with everyone, but the gameplay can still be enjoyed even if you don’t get the jokes or homages.