The first time I played Vampire Survivors, I knew it was going to be the start of something big. Five months and nearly 100,000 Overwhelmingly Positive reviews later, and Vampire Survivors has secured its legacy as one of the most important games of 2022. Its genre-defining gameplay was bound to inspire copycats and imitators eventually, and as of last week we have our first official Vampire Survivors-like – a name that I can guarantee will not catch on no matter how hard I try to make it A Thing. It’s called 10 Minutes Till Dawn, and it plays an important role in the foundation of this budding genre.
Unlike Vampire Survivors, which has fully automated combat, 10 Minutes Till Dawn gives you a weapon you can aim, shoot, and reload. This may suggest to you that it’s more in line with traditional top-down bullet hell games like Crimsonland or Geometry Wars, but in all other ways, 10 Minutes Till Dawn is identical to Vampire Survivors.
Your goal is to survive for ten minutes against an ever-increasing wave of monsters on an infinite map. Monsters you kill drop experience to collect which will eventually level you up, giving you several upgrade paths to choose from. Choosing the same category of upgrades multiple times will unlock more evolved versions of that ability. There are occasional elite monsters who will drop free upgrades when killed, and boss monsters who will appear at specific times. Occasionally, a barrier will appear around you, restricting how much space you can move around in. Whether you survive the full ten minutes or die before then, you’ll return to the main menu with money you can use to buy new characters and weapons.
It’s Vampire Survivors in every way except for one, but it’s a huge one. As this new genre continues to grow I suspect we will come to find that the automated combat of Vampire Survivor is a core mechanic. By trading it out for the old aim-and-shoot style, 10 Minutes Till Dawn acts as a bridge between Vampire Survivors and the bullet hell genre it grew out of. It feels like 10 Minutes is trying to drag us back to familiar ground when Vampire Survivors was such a revolution, and I don’t think it’s an improvement.
10 Minutes Till Dawn is not a bad game. It’s good because Vampire Survivors is good, and it’s doing most of the things that Vampire Survivors has already done. What it does differently only serves to shine a light on what makes Vampire Survivors so uniquely engrossing. Collecting incremental upgrades to grow your character from a helpless little guy with a whip who has to flee from skeletons into an untouchable god of flame and fury is a satisfying journey every single time. Even in the final moments before victory when you’re as powerful as you can be, 10 Minutes is only a shadow of Vampire Survivors glory.
There are a variety of weapons to choose, upgrades to pursue, and builds to theorycraft, but practically everything feeds into the efficacy of your guns. Increasing your ammo count, projectile speed, reload speed, fire rate, and bullet damage makes you stronger, but all of these things make you stronger in the same way: pointing your guns and shooting at monsters. The supplemental abilities borrowed from Vampire Survivors – shields, spinning blades and lighting bolts – never feel like essential components to your win condition the way they do in Vampire Survivors.
It’s just a matter of what skill the game is interested in testing. Vampire Survivors tests your ability to plan ahead, develop synergistic abilities, and adapt to unexpected opportunities. 10 Minutes Till Dawn tests your ability to aim and dodge. It’s fun to choose to experiment with different weapons and abilities, but it doesn’t leverage things like level-scaling or ability combining the way Vampire Survivors does, and it’s a less interesting game for it.
There’s a chance that players will like 10 Minutes Till Dawn more than Vampire Survivors and we start to see this new mash-up up of bullet hells and roguelikes adopt the aim-focused gameplay we’re used to, but it’s unlikely. Games like 10 Minutes Till Dawn will always have their place, but the future of the Vampire Survivors-like will need to iterate on the auto combat that made the original such a phenomenon.
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