It’s been over a year since Vampire Survivors became an overnight sensation and sparked a massive boom of a new genre: one that people still argue as to what it should be called. Bullet heaven, reverse bullet hell, survivors-like, whatever you call it, the genre became too saturated too fast with at least two of them appearing each week, probably because, compared to other genres, bullet heavens are much easier to develop, but as I’ve said, this caused oversaturation and it’s getting harder and harder to stand out amongst an ocean full of bullet heavens.
Nowadays, it’ll take a good concept and properly executing said concept to at least get a blip on the radar. Even with its flaws, Star Survivor manages to stand out as one of the better bullet heaven roguelites to come out this year.
Pick your poison
Most roguelites let alone bullet heavens put all their eggs in one basket, meaning most of them only have one game mode and focus on making it the heart and soul of the game. One of the redeeming features of Star Survivor is that you can play it in more than one way: three to be exact.
The game features the standard campaign mode, a challenge mode, and an endless mode. The campaign mode has a map similar to most deckbuilder roguelites like Slay the Spire where you choose your starting path which splits into different routes, eventually leading to the map’s boss. This being the game’s main mode makes it stand out among other bullet heavens which focus on surviving. In this mode, you don’t have to survive, unless the zone you’re in requires you to.
Challenge mode is the traditional way of playing a bullet heaven roguelite. You start bare, gaining power-ups whenever you level, and your sole purpose is to survive until the time limit. Endless mode is similar to challenge mode but, as the name implies, the game never ends until your ship gets destroyed.
The core gameplay is the same for the most part, but I like the mode variety and it’s not uncommon for me to play challenge mode one time, then campaign the next. All modes are fun to play with.
I love the weapon variety in this game because you have a wide selection of them. You have flak cannons, flame throwers, laser beams, ballistic missiles, space mines, and more. Finding out which weapons mesh well with one another is part of the game’s strategy. Do you want a balanced attack and get different types of weapons, or maybe you’re feeling Star Wars-ey by creating a build full of laser beams? It’s fun to mix and match.
Another feature the game has that deepens the strategy further weapons-wise is the quadrant system, where players have the option of placing a weapon either on the front, the back, or the sides. Remember the build full of laser beams? I did that one time and it was so cool and funny at the same time because my front and side quadrants all had laser beams, it looked like my space fighter had killer stickman arms!
Houston, we have a problem
As mentioned earlier, despite its rich features and interesting gameplay, the game is not without its flaws, and unfortunately, its biggest issue could potentially determine its fate. It’s the most common issue bullet heavens face: game performance.
Because there are so many things happening all at once: from your weapons, to the drones and mines you put out, to the enemies that are approaching, to the experience, credit, and hp drops, the longer you are in a map, the slower it becomes. There was even a point where my FPS went down as low as 8 FPS in one of the survival maps in campaign mode, and needless to say, it was a rough time. My PC is decent enough to run video editing and streaming software optimally, but I was having insane FPS drops despite my decent rig.
If there’s one issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible, this one is it.
Star Survivor is doing almost everything right. It’s a fresh innovative take on a subgenre that’s starting to stagnate, and it’s satisfying to just shoot the crap out of enemy fleets and asteroids in a lot of different ways thanks to tons of variety. The one thing it did wrong and it’s a really major one, but the good news is that it can be fixed, and when it does, all that is left is an amazing bullet heaven that can reach for the stars.
Star Survivor (Early Access)
It’s going places
+ Multiple game modes
+ Great weapon variety
+ Quadrant system brings strategic depth
+ Ships are very different from one another
– Performance suffers the longer it gets
– Confusing card system