Vampire Survivors has a lot to answer for as various copycat games are spawning out like gremlins. Survive Now is the latest to reach Steam early access and whilst it has a very different graphical style, the core concept of the game is perhaps too similar to its influences to stand out from the crowd.
Playing as a banana man, with a banana gun, you’ll start off in a very generic green grass arena to start fighting off waves of enemies. These enemies seem to have a germ or biological theme to them at times and then veers off it afterwards to be an odd mishmash of ideas that never really settles. As you kill enemies, they’ll leave lightning bolts to collect which covert to XP and unlock an upgrade. These are chosen from 5 RNG selected upgrades that include health, character speed, energy or special move cooldowns and new weapons. There are currently 14 weapons in early access and they range from weapons that circle around you, ones that bounce around the screen, turrets on each of your shoulders and some area of effect attacks. Since you can have up to 7 of them equipped, you’ll notice quickly that certain loadouts just work better than others and there is little variation on what you can equip to make things work.
As you go through waves of enemies, the enemies get faster, more aggressive and shoot back. Each arena is timed rather than wave specific so Survive Now switches up what enemies spawn at different points of time. This is a crucial thing to understand as being aggressive and charging into battle rewards you with more XP quicker, to upgrade faster and keep levelled up to match the difficulty of the wave. This does have its downsides though. Combined with the loadout issues, I ran into several waves where enemies replenished their health quick than I could bring it down. This has largely been patched out as a bug but I still have issues with absolutely enormous spikes in difficulty. The jump comes from the sheer number of enemies encircling you at the start of a wave and its rare that you’ve been able to level up quickly enough to survive. There is a lot of work to smooth these cliffs out as I kept hitting the same brick walls over and over again.
Aside from the graphical style and some playful weapons, Survive Now just feels like an incomplete, lesser version of Vampire Survivors. At no point does it distinguish itself from its influence at all and that’s the main problem. If the game ending spikes in difficulty are smoothed, there’s nothing really “wrong” with Survive Now, but I still wouldn’t recommend it particularly because it isn’t as fun as its source material. A word to anyone out there doing a clone of a sub-genre – different graphics does not make a truly unique selling point, nor make up for identical gameplay. Offer something different somewhere and it’s much easier to stand out from the crowd. This is a very generous 6/10, assuming that more of the difficulty spike bugs are fixed.
Survive Now is out on Steam and this review covers the build that was live on the 7th April 2023.
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