Ever since Vampire Survivors launched to the world, there have been no end other games willing to take a crack at copying the magic formula that game got so right.
The latest out of the gates is Hero Survival, coming from Pigeon Dev and Sometimes You. It’s just that this one takes a bit of a new spin on the formula – what if instead of swords and magic, you were forced to rely on firearms? And what if the enemies you had to fight were all classic monsters from the world of horror films? Well, it’s that which is the result, but can it match the success of Vampire Survivors?
It must be said, the graphical style of Hero Survival is a little different, that’s for sure. We are one of a number of heroes, and the graphical style, both for us, the monsters and the backgrounds are much more cutesy – and a little bit bigger – than that other game. It works really well though, aside from a slight issue with some of the backdrops, where the monsters can disappear behind objects on the screen, allowing us to take damage, or to die, to monsters that are essentially invisible.
I’d say that the audio of Hero Survival is also a bit by the numbers, with nothing to hear apart from some forgettable music and standard gunshots. The different guns on offer don’t sound wildly different either, but this does kind of disappear into the background once you start playing.
So, in Hero Survival we have a gun, we are surrounded by monsters, and luckily they seem to be allergic to lead (even the ghosts, who strictly speaking shouldn’t be affected by physical objects, but we’ll overlook that). Neatly, there are a number of characters to unlock as you progress too, all heroes from films and books, even if there is no kind of explanation as to why they are there. We don’t mind playing as Rambo or Indiana Jones, but perhaps a reason as to why we are doing so would be nice.
In terms of the gameplay and the first thing we need to do is choose our starting hero. While those available don’t seem to be wildly different from each other (and all start with the same basic weapon, which is a shame) there are slight differences, so you’ll have fun in finding one that suits your style. Every character starts each run with a weedy little pistol, and in a somewhat surprising styling choice, the weapons you choose (of which you can have four equipped at any one time, maximum) all seem to orbit the character, and then fire independently. It does take some getting used to, seeing four weapons around your character, and I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t occasionally make it difficult to place your character in amongst the monster hordes. But the quirks of Hero Survival do get easier with practice.
The most important choice you have to make though comes early in the first wave, when you have killed a few enemies. It’s here where you need to select the class you want to play as for the rest of the run. There are three classes to choose from – the Bomber, who makes bombs appear when enemies are defeated, damaging other enemies around, the Gunslinger, who relies on the power of the guns, and whose shots can over penetrate the enemies and damage a few in a row, and finally the Cryomancer, whose shots have a chance to freeze enemies they hit. Choosing the right class for your playstyle is obviously important, and while I preferred the Gunslinger, you do you!
Progression through the levels will award you with new weapons or modifiers, and the waves that we have to navigate are based on time; initially starting at some thirty seconds before the monsters run away, and building from there until a boss appears. Finishing wave ten will unlock the next arena, and while it sounds easy enough, it really isn’t! You see, there are hordes and hordes of enemies that appear, and the witches and ghosts move so fast that they can close to your position before your weapons have a chance to react. I’ve yet to get into a state where I can just sit still and watch the enemies melt as they approach me (as the best bits of Vampire Survivors allow) but it does force you to stay on your toes.
With a wide variety of weapons to choose from, ranging from pistols to miniguns, via sniper rifles and grenade launchers, you can certainly rack up the hardware. Every time you collect enough XP, you will level up, and get to choose from one of three rewards for hitting a new level. Again, these can be anything from a heal, refilling the health bar, through to extra damage or even extra gold. Getting the right mix of weapons, other perks and movement will keep you going to the end.
Speaking of gold, it is with this in which you unlock extra characters, but to me, the prices are just too high – a complete run through from a start to finish on the first stage, for example, nets you about 3000 gold, but the cheapest character is 5000 to buy, and the rest are even more expensive. It just seems a bit of a grind to unlock these new heroes.
Hero Survival has a certain draw to it, a hint of the X factor that Vampire Survivors has – it is that which will keep you playing. Trying to survive is a real challenge, and each run brings something new; this is where the magic starts to happen.
Hero Survival may not be as good as Vampire Survivors (there, I’ve said it) but it is a competent stab at the formula. If you fancy something a little bit different, then you could do a lot worse than to take this for a spin.