Vampire Survivors is an indie game phenomenon that seemingly appeared out of nowhere and has received near-universal praise. It’s a title that’s drawn a lot of attention on Steam thanks to its glowing reviews, and its bafflingly low price has led many players to indulge their curiosity and give it a go. Since you’re here, I’m guessing it got you as well!
Vampire Survivors has a simple, addictive gameplay loop that massages that ‘one more go’ reflex in your brain. Like many, I can safely say I’m hooked, but after spending weeks playing, there are many things I wish I had known before I started.
Whether you’re a brand new player or are struggling to find your way in Vampire Survivors, let’s start your journey on the right foot. Welcome to a Vampire Survivors Getting Started Guide.
Before You Start
Vampire Survivors is light on options, and most players can dive right in without any issues, especially if you’re playing on a console.
On Steam, you have several startup options, but the default one at the top should be fine for most users. Although Vampire Survivors’ graphics are simple, the screen will quickly fill up with monsters, damage numbers, and particle effects. These effects can take a surprisingly high toll on performance and cause stutters and slowdowns.
If that happens, run the game with the GPU Lag Fix instead. Options in-game shouldn’t need tinkering, but there is a Performance Mode you can try if you’re having persistent issues.
Regardless of what platform you’re playing on, I strongly recommend using a controller for Vampire Survivors. A thumbstick offers unrivaled accuracy and feels far less ‘stiff’ than a keyboard.
What to Expect From Your First Few Hours
Your very first game will go something like this. You’ll aimlessly walk around the map, level up a few times, try out a cool weapon or two and then fall victim to a horde of enemies that engulf the entire screen. After that, you’ll be thrown back into the main menu, wondering what on earth just happened!
No matter how skilled you are at similar games, your fate will inevitably be the same, and that’s the point! When you start your journey in Vampire Survivors, any character you pick is severely underpowered. I’ll explain how to remedy that in the Core Mechanics section of the guide but until then, focus on getting a feel for the movement and try and commit a few favorite weapons to memory.
One thing that’s good practice in any game is to test your boundaries. See how close you can get to enemies before you get hit. Maybe run into a few enemies on purpose and see how much it hurts. Dying to silly things may seem counterintuitive, but you’ll know your limits if you do. You’ll also earn a tidy pile of gold through trial and error.
If you’ve seen gameplay on Twitch or YouTube and were attracted to Vampire Survivors by the blinding insanity of blowing up swathes of enemies, don’t be disheartened. You’ll be able to do that eventually, but it takes time.
Vampire Survivors is light on mechanics, but some are deeper than they appear at first glance. Here are the key things you need to know, and I’ll address many of them in detail in the following section.
Movement in Vampire Survivors is limited to a single thumbstick or arrow keys. There isn’t a single power-up that alters how your character moves aside from the MoveSpeed passive skill that makes you walk faster. There are no dashes or dodge rolls, and although this makes movement simple, it means you have to be careful. There’s no escape if you make a poor decision.
Most enemies drop gems when you defeat them. These grant experience points, which in turn increase your character level. Doing this at a decent pace is key to your success in any run. The more gems you grab, the stronger you’ll become. Gems come in different colors, with blue granting the least experience and red giving the most.
The gem requirement for leveling up goes up each time you do, so it’s critical you’re collecting gems every chance you get. Each time you level up, you can pick a new weapon or skill to add to your inventory or level up an existing one.
Your inventory has limited space; you can carry up to five weapons and five passive skills. There aren’t any ‘bad’ weapons or skills, but some have niche benefits. You’ll learn what’s best to keep an eye out for with some practice.
Vampire Survivors’ combat is unique because you don’t actively control any of it! All attacks are automatic and usually activate on a timer. Your weapon’s fire rate can be improved when you level up or through the use of passive skills.
Most of your movement in the early game will revolve around trying to get your attacks to hit nearby enemies so you can keep collecting gems.
Dealing consistent damage whilst not getting hit yourself is a delicate balancing act and is at the core of Vampire Survivors’ gameplay.
Gold is among the few things you keep when you die. You can spend gold on new characters or power-ups that permanently impact your future runs. The best way to obtain lots of gold is to beat bosses and grab the Treasure Chests they drop. In the following section, I’ll explain how these chests work and the optimal way to spend your riches.
The gameplay loop in Vampire Survivors revolves around unlocking new items, and that’s the best part! Unlocking something means it can show up in future runs, giving the game incredible replay value. The longer you play, the more varied and exciting your runs become.
Your early attempts may feel dull with the same handful of items cropping up, but eventually, you’ll have so many different characters and weapons that you’ll never see the same combination twice.
Turn on Guides
Every stage has several free items up for grabs. These are unique as if you’ve already got a full inventory; you can still collect them on top.
It’s unlikely you’ll stumble across these items naturally, but if you turn on guides in the pause menu, handy arrows will show their location. These guides can lead you to unlocks you’ve never seen before, so if you see a question mark icon, check it out!
These arrows are helpful but optional, as they can be distracting. If you’d rather not use them, periodically pausing to check the map is just as good.
Understanding the Core Mechanics
Now that you understand what you’ll be doing in Vampire Survivors let’s look at ways to use these mechanics to our advantage. I must stress that the best thing about Vampire Survivors is you can play however you want. Many topics I’m about to cover focus on completing tasks optimally so you can see results quickly, but I encourage you to experiment and play the way you enjoy the most.
Time is ALWAYS Ticking
The greatest challenge of Vampire Survivors comes from trying to manage all the core mechanics at speed. Every minute you spend in a run, the monsters around you become stronger and attack in greater numbers.
You need to collect Gems at every opportunity, or you risk falling behind, and if that happens, you won’t be able to do enough damage to defeat monsters before they swarm you.
It’s easy to get caught in a downward spiral, and you can usually tell it’s happening when your best attacks start to become less effective. When this happens, try and focus on playing aggressively and quickly earn yourself a few level-ups.
No matter how powerful you become, the moment the clock hits 30 minutes, a Grim Reaper will dash into the map, killing you instantly. That’s the closest you’ll get to a win in this universe!
Master Your Movement
Most monsters slowly shuffle toward you and always take the most direct route. An easy motion to follow when you’re not trying to go anywhere is to trace a large circle.
If you’re dishing out enough damage, enemies should fall quick enough for this to be effective, and any gems you miss you can pick up when you repeat the circuit.
If you’re on a journey to collect a relic, it’s tempting to rush straight there but doing so will leave you underpowered. You’ll never make it, lest beat whatever is guarding it. The best strategy here is to farm a few levels at the start and slowly make your way toward the relic.
When you feel your attacks aren’t killing enemies quickly, stop and defeat enemies in that area until you’re ready to move on. Relics are always guarded, so you’ll need a decent build before you get there.
The ‘Right’ Way To Level Up
I say ‘right’ loosely, as I’ve had plenty of runs that felt doomed from the start end up absurdly powerful. A great early-game strategy is to focus on a small handful of weapons. Two powerful weapons are always better than a complete set of weak ones, and you can pick passive skills to complement your arsenal.
For skills, I find the ‘sweet spot’ is to have at least one that’s defensive, like Armor. It may not seem like much to start with, but it really helps later on. I almost always take Spinach, which grants a percentage damage buff for every weapon. For the remaining passive skills, I patch up holes in my build with them.
Do I need a faster fire rate? Am I missing Gems because I can’t reach them? There are passive skills to remedy issues like this and so much more. If you experiment, you’ll find ones that work with your playstyle.
Beware of Bosses
Bosses are stronger than usual enemies and will drain your health much faster if they hit you. Even though they take longer to kill, you should prioritize doing so as they have a chance to drop red gems and Treasure Chests, 2 of the most valuable items you can find during a run.
Some bosses are much bigger than standard enemies and withstand tremendous damage before they go down. Make sure you keep your distance and don’t get swarmed by regular enemies while battling them.
Spend your hard-earned gold on Power-Ups!
Whilst not as flashy as a new character, power-ups are hands down the best way to spend gold early on.
There are many lists online explaining meticulous orders to unlock power-ups, but if you ask me, you can always earn more gold, so pick whatever sounds interesting. Every Power-Up you unlock will have value no matter what character you play, and you’ll see results in no time.
If you’re after a recommendation, Amount is an expensive Power Up but equates to a massive power increase for many attacks. Move Speed is a solid defensive option. It only gives a 10% speed boost at max rank, but if it saves your life, it’s worth every penny.
Revival is a popular community suggestion, as it lets you try again if you die. I don’t rate it highly myself, as if you died because you’re underpowered; reviving isn’t going to help. Still, it’s nice to have a safety net.
Spice Up Your Character Roster
If you’re bored of throwing gold into Power-Ups, it’s time to treat yourself to a new hero. Hero options will constantly be added the longer you play, so pick whoever looks interesting and go with them.
Many heroes have a unique weapon that you can unlock for your entire roster. The requirements will appear on the Unlockables page, but you’ll usually unlock the weapon if you survive with its owner for 15 minutes.
Keep Track of Your Unlockables
The Unlocks Page is fantastic, as it shows you every unlockable item in the game. Many of them are cryptic when you start out. I suggest working toward the ones you can make sense of, and the others will eventually fall into place.
Don’t worry if some of these seem insurmountable at first. Reaching level 60+, for example, seems impossible early on, but if you invest in your Power-Ups, you’ll be surprised how quickly you get there.
The Power of Treasure Chests
Bosses have a chance to drop Treasure Chests, and these are so valuable they are worth some risky play to get your hands on. Upon opening a Chest, you will be showered with gold and receive up to 5 items. It’s the equivalent of leveling up multiple times, but you don’t get to choose the reward.
Items found in Treasure Chests will only ever level up what you already have, so you don’t need to worry about them messing up your inventory. Treasure Chests give you significant power boosts early on and do wonders for your gold count. The most valuable rewards are Evo’s, which are so powerful they deserve a dedicated section.
Be On the Lookout For Evo’s
Evo’s are game-changing and indicate a unity between select items.
You can tell a potential Evo item as this appears when you pick one up.
Once you’ve fully upgraded each item in an Evo recipe, the Evo can appear in Treasure Chests. These Evo’s are much more powerful than any standard weapon, and if you manage to get hold of a couple in a run, you’re in with a great chance of surviving until the end!
Tips We Wish We Knew On Day One
One of the reasons Vampire Survivors is so easy to get into is it doesn’t force you to play a certain way. Still, there are a few things I wish I had known when I picked the game up, so I didn’t have to unlearn bad habits later on! If you feel you’ve hit a wall and are struggling to progress, try and incorporate some of these into your gameplay.
Gems Are Your Top Priority
Gems are your lifeblood in Vampire Survivors; the more you collect, the faster you level up. Any time you’re not collecting gems leaves valuable items and free damage on the table, so prioritize grabbing as many as possible.
Early on, red gems will fill up a significant portion of your experience bar and are worth risky play to grab. Some items make grabbing gems much easier and are well worth a slot in your inventory. If you’ve got space, try the Attractorb, and watch the gems come to you.
More than anything else in the game, your ability to consistently collect gems is what will keep you alive and doing enough damage to stay ahead of the ravenous horde.
Learn Your Light Sources
You can find loot hidden inside destructible light sources like lamps littered through each stage. Early on, these objects are invaluable as they can contain ‘floor chickens’ which restore a portion of your health.
Light sources can contain offensive items such as the Rosary, which destroys every enemy on the screen. Some provide handy temporary bonuses, like the Orologion, which freezes every enemy for a few seconds.
Light sources aren’t worth risking your life for, but if you can safely break them, you should. Light sources typically appear randomly and can even do so in areas you’ve already walked across.
Your Build Is Important
There’s nothing wrong with throwing a random mix of items together in your inventory, but a few wasted slots can abruptly end a run, even if it has a promising start. Once you’re familiar with a few items, try and ask yourself what your build’s weaknesses are.
- Do your weapons cover a mix of ranges?
- Are you doing enough damage?
- Are you gathering enough gems, and if not, why?
If you can solve these problems on the fly with smart item choices, you’ll survival rate will rapidly improve. Don’t expect to master this on the first day, but if you can pinpoint where things go wrong, you’ll become an incredible Vampire Survivors player.
Things to Avoid
One of Vampire Survivors’ greatest strengths is it’s one of those rare titles where you can’t really play incorrectly. At worst, you’ll be playing in a way that’s not optimal, but if you’re looking to tick some boxes off the unlockable list and make your life a little easier, these are some things you want to avoid.
Fortunately, Vampire Survivors steers clear of typical hazards like pitfalls and spikes. One thing you do have to be aware of, though, is the map layout.
Vampire Survivor’s opening stage, the Mad Forest, has very few obstacles, but later levels have walled areas that limit the play area. Putting a wall at your back is tempting as no enemies can come from there, but this tactic leaves you with no escape. The moment you aren’t dealing enough damage, you lose the game.
It’s almost always beneficial to fight in open areas and only engage around awkward walls and corners when absolutely necessary.
Keep Yourself Busy
If you find yourself doing nothing during a run, alarm bells should start ringing! If you’re not constantly defeating enemies and leveling up, they will quickly become so strong you won’t be able to deal with them. Your attacks that kill enemies in one hit will mildly annoy them 5 minutes down the line if you’re not grabbing every gem you can find.
Running away from enemies because you can’t hurt them is usually a death sentence, as it’s hard to make a comeback. Unless you’re making your way to an item, it’s always best to get stuck in whenever possible.
Long-Term Goals to Consider
Once you’ve started learning what makes Vampire Survivors tick, it feels great to work towards a mix of goals.
Completing objectives always feels good, so try to be working towards something, even if it’s small. If you’re looking for tasks to keep track of over your entire playtime, here are a couple to get you started.
Obtain Every Unlockable
Since Vampire Survivors has a list of unlockables on the front page, why not try and complete all of them? Many players view the completed Unlockable list as the true ‘end’ of the game. This is a task that will take dozens of runs and potentially over 100 hours. It’s a mighty undertaking, but if you’re enjoying yourself, that’s a good thing.
Steam and Xbox Achievements
Vampire Survivors has a list of achievements so long it’ll make your head spin! I don’t usually recommend completing every Achievement as many titles fall victim to ‘filler’ objectives that are poorly thought out and extend playtime without good reason.
Fortunately, that’s not the case with Vampire Survivors, and there are only a few questionable ones on the list. Most of the Achievements are completed by unlocking items or characters and completing runs with them, which is something you’ll be doing anyway.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Is there any difference between the Console/PC version and the Mobile version of Vampire Survivors?
Answer: The most significant difference is the Console/PC versions are paid products. The Mobile version is free. Adverts in the mobile version appear after runs that can be viewed for additional rewards, but they are optional. If you prefer a completely ad-free experience, the Console or PC versions are the way to go.
Question: How long is Vampire Survivors?
Answer: Each run is only half an hour at maximum, but with so much to unlock, it will take a long time to see everything. On the subreddit, many players report spending well over 100 hours on the game with no intention of slowing down. Whether it’s the addictive gameplay or the gold grind, you can lose many hours to Vampire Survivors.
Question: I’m stuck on the Dairy Plant unlock. Any tips?
Answer: The Dairy Plant is the first big wall for many players. If you’ve been swiftly progressing through the game, your passive skills in the Power Up menu will likely need some investment before you can move on.
An easy way to accumulate gold whilst learning the stage is to dive in head first. Each time you die, switch to a different character to keep things fresh. Might, Armour and Max Health are all great options to Power Up when you can afford them. Persevere, and you should get through the stage after a few attempts.
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