The first part of Xbox Game Pass’ November 2022 update has finally been revealed, and it includes one of 2022’s most underrated (and best) games.
Yes, I’m talking about Vampire Survivors. Though technically released via Steam Early Access in 2021, Vampire Survivors gained…err…steam in 2022 thanks to the title’s word-of-mouth buzz and numerous updates. Actually, Vampire Survivors recently finally enjoyed a proper, full release, so now is certainly the time to try this game if you haven’t done so already.
Oh, and if this news sounds familiar, that might be because Vampire Survivors is already available via the PC version of Game Pass. Starting on November 10, though, console owners with Xbox Game Pass subscriptions will also be able to get in on the fun.
So what is Vampire Survivors? Well, I talked about the game a little more in-depth right here, but the developers describe the title as a kind of minimalistic roguelite. To put it another way, you can think of Vampire Survivors as a kind of bullet hell game where you are the thing producing the bullets.
Basic Vampire Survivors gameplay sees you control one of several selectable characters who can only slowly walk around an enemy-filled map as they automatically fire various projectiles. Though you don’t have control over the speed or direction of those projectiles (beyond the direction you choose to walk in), you can control which projectiles you acquire through upgrades and how you upgrade those individual projectiles through the course of play. Various other power-ups spread throughout the map allow you to heal your hero, acquire currency for permanent upgrades, and more.
While the game doesn’t look like much from the outset, Vampire Survivors happens to feature that nearly impossible blend of simplicity and surprising depth. About 15 minutes into your first 30-minute Vampire Survivors run (the default time limit for the game’s standard mode), you’ll get what the game essentially expects you to do. You’ll also likely be engrossed by the feeling of tearing your way through seemingly impossible waves of enemies even as you scramble to survive.
However, the true joy of Vampire Survivors isn’t really unearthed until you’ve dug a little deeper into it. That’s when you start to realize that the game’s various upgrades interact with each other in ways that allow you to create “builds.” The right combination of upgrades allows you to unlock some truly devastating abilities that will help you thrive in even the game’s most dangerous scenarios. However, you sometimes have to suffer the risk of reaching for those abilities in ways that can make you noticeably less powerful along the way. That push and pull of going for the perfect build strategy while battling the randomness of the entire experience just taps into the essence of the entire roguelite concept.
Maybe that’s the best way to think of Vampire Survivors. It’s a rouglite boiled down to its simplest form that sacrifices little to none of the depth that makes that genre so much more substantial than it would initially appear to be. At a time when Triple-A games are becoming hopelessly bloated, you have to love a game that demands little of your time yet keeps you coming back becoming you’re genuinely addicted to the experience.
Of course, it’s getting more and more difficult to call Vampire Survivors “underrated” with a straight face. The game has been a sales monster on Steam throughout the year, and it has remained one of Steam Deck’s most-played games (which is pretty amazing given that the hardware is designed for Triple-A experiences). Now, though, console gamers can finally start to get in on the fun. Here’s hoping that the Nintendo Switch finally gets a port of one of those games that were practically built for that device.