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Vampire Survivors is revived by new DLC Tides of the Foscari

A touch of magic.

A feminine elf-like character turns with urgency towards the camera, staff in hand, blue robes billowing. There's a determined look in their eyes.
Image credit: Poncle / Vampire Survivors

You can only experience Vampire Survivors for the first time, once, and get that giddy feeling of not knowing what's coming, and oh my gosh aren't there a lot of enemies, and what does this do, and how do I evolve that. Everything is undiscovered and it's the discovery that's a delight.

With repeated play comes the knowledge you'll need to beat it, but also a sense of needing to beat it, and with that comes frustration when you don't - when you don't do as well as the turn before, or build as optimally as you could. And it begins to irk you how long attempts actually take, with all the stopping - much closer to 45 minutes than the 30-minute time-limit levels apparently have. What began as a quick game becomes a slog.

And after a while, though the compulsion is still strong, you find the fun has started to leak out.

But developer poncle has found a solution and it's delightfully simple: mini-expansions. A way to introduce you to characters and powers and maps, that you don't know, all over again. And the latest of these, Tides of the Foscari, has rejuvenated Vampire Survivors for me.

I love the anime style poncle is going for in these trailers. It's reminscent of the Castlevania Netflix anime, which I really liked. I'd happily watch a Vampire Survivors anime, poncle. Just saying.Watch on YouTube

Like Legacy of the Moonspell before it, Tides of the Foscari adds a bunch of new characters, a bunch of new weapons and evolutions, plenty of new music you'll be listening to a lot, and a big new map. And what I particularly like about it is how you can feel the evolution of poncle's thought behind it.

The characters, for instance: they have new attacks you won't have seen before, and they also automatically (!) unlock other new powers you won't have seen before, as they level up. The mage lady you'll play as first gains three new spells, which, together, combine to evolve into something spectacular - a screen-filling vortex of magical destruction. Then there's the guy with the big sword (steady!) who has a fifth-hit finisher built into his main attack, which, to really make the most of, you need to keep count of. Cool, huh?! Look, I realise none of this sounds exciting on the page, but in play, it feels exciting and different. And that's exactly what I want.

You can also feel the evolution of thought in how the characters are given to you, which, to keep it brief, is 'slowly'. Poncle clearly doesn't want to splurge all its treats in one go, and Tides of the Foscari is better for it.

A screen filled with numbers, and beneath them, the realisation that this is actually a game. It's Vampire Survivors, and Bertie is hanging on for dear life.
Boom! Look at those damage numbers. That was caused by one of the new evolutions. Also, look how many enemies there are, and I'm only 24 minutes in! | Image credit: Poncle / Eurogamer

You can see evolution on the map too. You'll remember that default maps in Vampire Survivors are endlessly repeated places with no discernible shape or story, but here, Lake Foscari, as it's called, has distinct areas and zones and hidden areas and mazes. And it will tempt you to the most dangerous parts of it with power-ups highlighted on your map, because with them, you can go beyond the limit of powers you can otherwise hold. In a game about building yourself to be super-powerful, that's very appealing.

Or, if you're too strong, you can hunt down Curse power-ups highlighted on your map and turn up the enemy difficulty that way. You should try this for various reasons that I won't spoil here, but good luck - it's tough.

How long poncle can keep expanding Vampire Survivors like this, before the whole thing becomes an unwieldy mess, I don't know. But for now, it's perfect. Tides of the Foscari and Legacy of the Moonspell are a great way to rediscover the game.

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