Vampire Survivors: All the Things

My second most played game last year was Vampire Survivors. You probably heard of it, since it was a bit of a craze for a while. The insane statistic I have for this game though, is that I unlocked 160 achievements playing it.

When I first played Vampire Survivors, it was the in-browser version of the game. I approached it as I would any other browser game. A quick distraction to help me procrastinate. I wasn’t expecting anything genuinely good.

What I got was a generic shooter. It was a little unusual that I couldn’t control where or when I attack. I actually found it interesting that all you really control is movement. I guess they’re going for a twist on the bullet hell genre.

I was also impressed with it from a technical perspective. While it isn’t using the most advanced graphics that you would see in a Triple-A console game, the sheer number of elements on screen at any one time is astounding. Enemies, damage values, weapon attacks, item drops, all grow in number extremely quickly, and nothing ever despawns. At no point have I ever noticed the game slow down or struggle to deal with the sheer amount of stuff that is going on. Obviously I don’t have access to the source code, but just from playing it feels like it’s very tightly written.

It didn’t seem anything special other than that. I played it for ten minutes, then got back to what I was doing. But I found myself constantly going back to it. I discovered there were new weapons I could unlock. As well as new characters. As I kept playing I started to get a grip on the mechanics. There was something more to this game. Something… addictive.


There are three stages to playing this game. I’ve already touched a little on the first stage. You learn about it somehow and give it a try. You enjoy it, but you don’t really think much of it. But something snags you. You need to keep playing more.

Eventually you start discovering new features, hidden mechanics and secret paths through the game. I don’t want to delve too deep into these, since discovering the gameplay is part of the fun. This is when the addiction takes hold and you can’t stop playing.

This is no accident. The game has been designed to hook into our monkey brains extremely well. The game is basically a dopamine booster. You tend to see this sort of design in mobile games with microtransactions, except here you have to in-app purchases, and it doesn’t limit how much you can play unless you play. It’s all in aid of creating an experience you can genuinely enjoy.


But you’ve seen that list of collectible items, the list of challenges, the characters you haven’t unlocked yet. You know there is more to this game. The goalposts have shifted. No longer do you want to merely “finish levels”. You want to dig deep and find all the secrets in the game.

After playing the game for a while you will reach a point where it becomes easy. You have no trouble creating a build that can wipe out an enemy and you can finish it every time.

And the game delivers. You will find new weapons, even more mechanics, new enemies and challenges. This stage is a completionist’s dream, and is the reason it is the game I have unlocked the most achievements on.

I don’t play it as much lately, but I still feel that itch. I want to go back and unlock the last few things I have left. This is a game designed to make you want to complete it.


Eventually, you will unlock every secret, find every weapon, every character, every upgrade, and start to understand the game’s mechanics intuitively. It’s at this point you start to experiment. What crazy ways can you play this game? What challenges can I set for myself?

In a way, the game becomes a sandbox. There are many YouTube channels dedicated to this style of play, and if you are into the game they can be very fun to watch.

Of course, I need to confess here that I have not reached this stage yet. The game still hides some of its secrets from me. I still have more work to do if I want to master this game. At that point I may discover there is a later stage that I’m still unaware of.

The game will still have its hooks in me, drawing me ever closer to the promise of discovering something that ultimately means nothing. Perhaps all there is to discover is that there is always more to discover.

There’s only one way I will ever find out.


I love this game. It’s amazing to see something simple with so much depth. It gets you hooked, but not in a bad way. I’ve spent many hours on this game, and it’s possible I may spend even more. There have been a few DLCs released for the game, and I am tempted…

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