Voltaire: The Vegan Vampire is something like a farming-sim tower defense game hybrid, with rogue-like elements included for flavour. Currently in Early Access on Steam, it has its issues, but they don’t impact things in such a way as to subtract from a genuinely enjoyable experience.
The main character is the titular Voltaire; youngest son of Dracula (yes, him), and vegetable lover. As you might have guessed, the lord of darkness is none-too happy with his son’s tastes. So hero flees to the woods to start a life of farming, aided via letters by his uncles Frank and Stein. Old Drac isn’t giving up though, and has begun to send monstrous minions, along with his grim generals, to destroy Voltaire’s crops, in an attempt to drive him to blood-letting.
Gameplay mostly revolves around planting & harvesting crops during the day, then defending them during the night. The plants need to be planted within growing zones, with a different number and location of zones on each level, although they are always surrounding a Soul Barrier that can be activated with soul crystals to temporarily defend them. Different plants can have a range of growth times and water needs. Some are actually trees, producing multiple harvests before disappearing .
Alongside your foods, you can also grow some defensive plants that shoot at oncoming minions or scare them away. Like other plants they require water, but unlike others they never need harvesting, or spoil after a certain amount of time. This actually can be annoying, as if you want to redo your defenses, you need to wait a few nights for the plant to dry out and die.
Hunger builds up when interacting with most things; planting and watering plants, digging up treasure, feeding C’thul. To alleviate it, you need to eat vegetables, but eating the same food repeatedly causes it to become less filling. If you have high hunger, there is a chance you’ll fall asleep and start the night early, which can be annoying or even fatal if you haven’t completed your day’s tasks.
Thankfully, there is a quick way to manage your Hunger; Crowberries. Spawning as a bush that takes no Hunger to harvest, they are the only food you can’t grow, and provide a small amount of nourishment; but eating one resets other food’s nourishment. I used the berries as a kind of palate cleanser; eating two of them between other fruits to keep things optimal. If I’m honest, I think the Crowberries are a bit too powerful; once you build up a big enough stock, you pretty much never go hungry.
The enemies that attack you at night are primarily decided by the vegetables you’ve planted. Egglings, a plant you’ll probably end up growing a lot of, attract swarms of Egguardos. When an enemy is killed, you get XP, which can also be earned by sacrificing unwanted seeds and eating Hourgrass vegetables. When you level up, you gain new Skills, mostly around combat. This is things like additional projectiles, or spawning helpers, but sometimes it includes things like plants growing faster, or food giving you more nourishment.
If you do die, you’ll wake up just before you went to bed, but you’ll also be given a choice; reset all of your skills and lose half of your items, or keep your skills and only lose 25% percent of your items. Being able to repick your upgrades is interesting, as it allows you to try out new playstyles and methods. Losing half your items might seem not that bad to begin with, but successive failures mean running out of both seeds and food, potentially stopping you from progressing.
Aside from XP leveling, you can also spend soulstones (gained from bosses or growing them) to upgrade certain things, like how much Nourishment food provides, general plant health, and resources. This is done inside your house, which also includes a closet (for changing your appearance), a botany lab (for purchasing defensive plants with soulstones, compost cauldrons, and your coffin which is used to start the night.
After seven nights on a level a boss monster will arrive; although they seem big and bad, often fighting them turns into a lot of running after them, cleaning up their spawns while trying to land hits. Once they’re dead, a portal opens up that can take you to one of two randomly chosen levels. Each level has unique plants, a weekly boss, and can also sometimes have a unique weather affect, such as mist, that makes it harder to spot enemies, or a thunderstorm that waters plants but can strike you with lightning. Although progressing is necessary to complete the game, you can simply ignore the portal and continue on the same level. You’ll just have to wait a for another portal to spawn, after again defeating the boss.
The art in the game is hand drawn and despite being simple, it’s very pretty. It makes it feel like you’re reading a storybook. The music is also good, adding atmosphere as needed; lively during the day, spooky during the night.
There’s still quite a few issues with the game, but nothing I wouldn’t expect in an Early Access Game; UI bugs, graphical glitches, pathfinding issues, etc. Your house is supposed to be attacked regularly, but for me, it rarely ever happens. I’m not complaining much, it was one less thing to worry about when things got busy, but it certainly shows that the game is not finished. Updates are coming out fair regularly, however, so it’s likely the problems will be fixed sooner rather than later.
While not quite my cup of blood, The Vegan Vampire seems like something many people would enjoy and play. Once it’s right for harvest it’ll bloom into something beautiful, and if it catches your attention, I advise you to pluck it from the vine.
- easy to understand gameplay
- Not unfairly punishing
- Gameplay can become repetitive
James is a Life-long gamer, University Game Design Course Graduate, Aspiring Writer, and Pun-Enthusiast.
He knows he also drinks waaaaaaaaaaay too much coffee.
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