You’re probably wondering why we are reviewing a PC-only game here on TouchArcade. If you’ve not kept up with our coverage in recent years, we have been covering Nintendo Switch in addition to mobile, and have enjoyed using the Steam Deck quite a bit since earlier this year. We started covering Steam Deck games and the hardware itself beginning with Jared’s review and my features on games for the device across different styles and genres.
If you own a Steam Deck or have played anything on Steam over the last year, you likely have heard of or seen Vampire Survivors. When it had just hit Steam Early Access, I had a few friends try to get me to play it, but I didn’t bother because I rarely play games until they do their proper 1.0 launch. Vampire Survivors on Steam Deck made me break that rule after I saw a few GIFs of the gameplay. The blend of survival, rogue-lite, bullet hell, avoidance, and more with the aesthetic from developer poncle has been a joy to play for the most part, and it has been mindblowing seeing how much is included in this game at its low price point.
At its core, Vampire Survivors is a one input game that has you moving and shooting or attacking at the same time. As you take down the many enemies trying to kill you, you earn experience and level up. On leveling up, you choose new skills, weapons, or buff existing ones. Initially, I spent more time trying out the various unlocks than working towards actually surviving a full run. Once I got used to the flow of a run, I was a near-godlike player with garlic, lightning, pentagrams, fireballs, and much more with a blend of particle effects and enemies making things almost too overwhelming visually.
On paper, Vampire Survivors is a simple casual game about surviving, leveling up, growing more powerful, and carefully working towards different parts of a specific map to unlock secrets or just use the environment to your advantage. The one button control scheme makes it a perfect pickup and play casual game, but there’s a ton of depth here. While you initially will just work on surviving runs or getting as far as possible, you soon will look into unlocking characters, new abilities, stages, and even game modes with version 1.0.
With how you only move as your interaction with the character, there’s quite a bit of strategy involved. The weapons all have their own timers or cooldowns, and you are basically moving and aiming. Picking the right combination of buffs or upgrading a specific weapon instead of adding another one is likely going to make or break your run in the late-game.
Barring the regular runs you can do, there are unlockables like Hyper and Hurry mode. The former speeds you, enemies, spawn rate, and projectile speed while the latter has the clock running at twice the speed. Both of those can be combined for a complete chaotic run as well. You also end up unlocking arcanas that are modifiers for runs. One aspect that I hope future updates can work on is making it more obvious how to unlock specific things in-game. The new interface helps, but it still needs some work.
I’m going to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but I can safely say that Vampire Survivors isn’t a game you just buy to unlock everything quickly and move on. You’re here for multiple runs, experimentation, tons of deaths, slaying thousands of enemies, and more. This is more true with version 1.0 and the plethora of new content added. Even as someone who didn’t unlock everything in the early access version, I saw a steady flow of improvements and enhancements in 1.0 right from the menus and with the added options. The interface improvements and options are welcome, but I’m surprised at how much I like the new sounds added given how much I got used to how things sounded before.
Having now seen how much Vampire Survivors has improved and added in the last few months leading up to 1.0, I really hope poncle can license or release an official guide and lore book for the game. There is so much I’ve enjoyed unlocking, and I’d love to have a nice physical book like with the Stardew Valley guidebook. Even before it hit 1.0, Vampire Survivors had almost infinite replay value, and it is even better now.
The one aspect of Vampire Survivors I’m not happy with, is the performance on Steam Deck. I know the late-game even on more powerful systems has performance issues, but I was hoping 1.0 would mean the performance was sorted in those situations on Steam Deck. Even with performance mode and disabling damage numbers, it doesn’t run great in later parts of stages with tons of enemies. I’m curious to see how the new engine port aiming for release by the end of the year will fare on Steam Deck, but right now don’t get your hopes up for big performance improvements in 1.0 compared to the early access version.
In the beginning of this review, I mentioned that this was our first ever Steam Deck game review. Going forward, we might do full reviews of games that we enjoy enough, or launches of games we are excited to play. Half a year later, the Steam Deck is in a much better place when it comes to software and compatibility. While there is still work to be done, games like Vampire Survivors and others make it worth owning a Steam Deck more and more each day.
If you haven’t gotten Vampire Survivors yet, it is easily one of the best PC-only games you can buy in 2022. Having played more than 50 hours of it over the last few months, it really feels like a steal at even its newly increased price point of $4.99. It has remained in the most-played games on Steam Deck for months now, and Valve should just pay to have it pre-installed on every Steam Deck at this point. It is that good. If you do end up getting it, don’t blame me if you spend hours on it daily like I did when I got addicted to it. The soundtrack is absolutely worth grabbing as well. I’ve not grown remotely tired of it after all these dozens of hours with the game.
Interested in more Steam Deck features? Check out our other Steam Deck recommendations!