When I started writing this, I wasn’t expecting to find a game I liked more than Vampire Survivors. So many of these are derivative in one sense, and given the ongoing development of most games in this list, ETC just has a head start. It’s iterative releases give it the edge as everyone else plays catch-up. Well, everyone except—in my opinion—Spirit Hunters.
First of all, it’s just graphically gorgeous. Really crisp, clear cartoon art, superbly presented in both its complicated menus and its super-clear fields of battle. But much more importantly, it feels a lot more involved to play, as if this is an evolutionary step for our Automatic Horde Shooters, nudging toward something a bit more RPG.
The core game is familiar. You pick one of your unlocked heroes, then they auto-fire your selected range of attacks (up to four, from an ever-widening pool), which you constantly level up from gathered drops. Just finding a combination of attacks that best works for you is compelling enough, but on top of that you have a bunch of other drops to harvest for both in-battle improvements, and extra-battle unlocks.
There are gold coins, which can be used in spawning tent shops, to pick up some extra health, other forms of currency, or even pets (once unlocked) to use in the battlefield. Then there are the purple shards and gray runes, each used to unlock new abilities, ability improvements, player-characters, maps, bonuses and so on, in an incredibly elaborate web of skills. It adds an element of grind, but in the good way, as you might set off on a run focused not on completing the 15 minute level (and thus fighting its final boss), but instead to focus on gathering the shards. Perhaps there’s a new skill you have your eye on, or an unlock that will open a whole network of other opportunities.
This has me absolutely hooked, even more so than ETC. It feels more complete and more involved, with more interesting maps to explore and a greater sense of min-maxing interest. And it’s not even done! There’s still at least six months more development to put into this, despite it feeling release-ready to me right now.
There we are. Seven alternatives to Vampire Survivors, some maybe (whisper it) even better. But you must have your own suggestions, both for games released in its wake and those that preceded it with so many of the same ideas. Please do drop suggestions in the comments below.