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 Love gaming but don’t want to waste money buying something that isn’t what you thought? Never fear, we’ve enlisted the help of gaming guru Nayla Aung to review some new and classic games that have a spooky, creepy or horror-ific focus so you’ll know exactly what’s worth your time!

Outwit, Outlast, Outplay

Vampire Survivors sinks its teeth into you as soon as you start the game and keeps you coming back for more. Although it is not a new 2023 release, it has had multiple updates and expansions over the years and is probably the best it has ever been right now. A rogue-like action game with retro pixelated graphics, the game involves the player roaming an often-massive stage with a single auto-attacking starting weapon as various monsters slowly approach from all sides of the screen. Within a few minutes, the objective of the game abundantly becomes clear: Survive.

However, there are plenty of paths the player can take to achieve that goal. As the enemies die, they often leave a gem which the player can collect and level up the character, and every time that happens, a few random upgrade options are presented. They could be a new additional weapon type; or a passive boon such as 10% more damage or an added multi-hit bonus to the current weapon. The simple gameplay loop goes as such; survive long enough to collect gems to level up to get stronger, and survive longer the next run and so on.  

When there are hundreds of enemies all at once on the screen and the player eventually gets overwhelmed and dies, it resets to the character selection screen.

This is a game that focuses-in on a single idea and executes it brilliantly. It is easy to pick up and play and yet has surprising depths to the core mechanics. The weapon pickups and powerup system is plentiful and certain combinations will result in a stronger, flashier evolution of the original weapon. Notably some of the starting weapons are outright wacky such as bibles rotating around the character and killing any enemies that dare to venture too close or an egg that eerily resembles a Kinder Surprise which summons random furniture to fall on the encroaching horde from above.

Fear factor – 1/5

Is the game scary? Not at all unless retro ugly graphics repulse you in some way.  The enemy types consist of zombies, Medusa heads, succubi, skeletons, bats, floating eyeballs and even the grim reaper himself but they are mere cute little sprites rather than nightmare inducing creations of the modern horror game genre, making it suitable for younger players.

Fun factor – 5/5

The rogue-like nature (randomised gameplay elements and resetting the game state upon death) of the game keeps each run fresh and promotes just-one-more-go-mentality. Once you survive past the 15 or so minute mark, things get insanely busy and adrenaline kicks in. Avoiding spoilers, each session will not go past 30 minutes, which is a good length and certainly does not overstay its welcome.

Final thoughts

For such an addictive game, it is surprisingly cheap (just a few bucks!) and on mobile platforms, it is absolutely free! There is no reason not to pick up and try this game this Halloween. Recently they have added a local co-op so you can encourage a family member to join in on the insanely chaotic and spooky fun experience. There is also a fascinating documentary about the development of this game on Youtube.

Blood is the Key (to more loot)

Even from the opening cutscenes, Diablo IV is drenched in copious amounts of blood and it does not let up for the entire main story campaign. There are dungeons steeped in blood from ceiling to floor, enemies frequently exploding into globules of red stains, and at one point, blood was casually raining down on the entire realm.

Diablo IV returns to its darker roots in the fourth instalment of the iconic isometric action role playing game. Players can customise and choose from one of five classes: Barbarian, Necromancer, Druid, Sorcerer, or Rogue. Each class can be “built” into a specific play-style that focuses on certain abilities. I chose the Necromancer that raises the enemies I kill on the battlefield to fight on my stead because, well, why not fight evil with evil? I spent my ability points to build out my character to be a full summoner with my army of the dead eventually consisting of four scythe-wielding skeletons, three ice-mage skeletons and one hulk of a bone golem – who needs friends when I can make my own? At any point the player can choose to respec ability points into other branches such as blood-focused or bone-focused play-style at the cost of gold, the in-game currency, so they are not completely locked in with their early-game choices. There are plenty of combinations when it comes to classes and their varying builds that can drastically change up the experience and this is where the game shows its strongest qualities.

The story, however, was a bit of a let down. It started strong with Lilith, the daughter of a Prime Evil, being summoned to the realm and she basically starts a cult but it soon fizzled into a series of fetch-quests for various characters and even at the final moments, the player’s character had very little input on a crucial decision that would impact the entire world. It also left the somewhat rushed conclusion to the main campaign wide open for future expansions and sequels. At the time of this review, players can buy upgrades, fast track the progression and equip cosmetics such as spooky mounts and sinister-looking armour using real money via the in-game shop.

There are free regular seasonal updates every few months with new gameplay mechanics and stories to keep the community playing with more content soon to follow. I tried to party-up with some of my friends to play at one point and not everyone was able to join my group because of a convoluted seasonal system. We eventually figured out that one of my friends did not have a character that was “participating in the current season” – which is a bit of an oversight because everyone plays at their own pace and should not be penalised when doing low-level content with other friends.

Fear factor – 4/5

While the top-down isometric view somewhat takes the player’s point of view away from the horror, the disgustingly-detailed environments, the spooky sound design and the eerie lighting definitely compensate for the dire and dreadful atmosphere. This is not a game for kids! There are truly gruesome deaths aplenty, both monsters and men alike – for example, at one point, a character is found alive in a forest, tied to a tree with their lower half of the body missing with intestines dangling while blood flows throughout the forest floor – lovely.

Fun factor – 3/5

The endless gameplay loop of obtaining better loot to make the character stronger and take on increasingly difficult enemies can be brain-numbingly fun at times. It is truly satisfying to craft a character with a harmonious combination of skills and abilities and see them annihilate every enemy encounter with ease. However, the limited inventory means the player has to constantly organise the steady-stream of gear and gems either by deciding what to keep and what to discard or running back to a merchant to sell or dismantle for parts every half hour or so and be quite jarring.

Final thoughts

The Diablo series has been rebuilt and refined over the years and the level of polish in terms of gameplay and environmental design are truly unmatched to any other in the similar genre. The story felt like it was just an excuse to raise the players’ levels and equipment high enough to be able to participate in top-tier dungeon raids to keep the gameplay loop sustained. If you dare enter, there is no doubt that this latest Diablo will keep players soaked to the neck in both blood and loot for years to come.
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