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Why power creep is a good thing in Vampire Survivors

In The Hall of the Vampire King

Clayton Ashley , senior video editor, has been producing and editing videos for Polygon since 2016. He is the lead producer of the tabletop gaming series Overboard.

Power creep has a bad reputation in video games. Usually it refers to the way in which living games can become destabilized by the gradual increase in power from updates and expansions. This could be new weapons, characters, or cards that make older elements obsolete. Without proper balancing, power creep can render hours of content pointless and lead to a stagnating competitive scene.

However, power creep isn’t always a bad thing. In the video above, I explore how games like Vampire Survivors, Risk of Rain 2, and even Hades take players from totally pathetic to god-like over the course of one thrilling run.

In these games, the slow and steady stream of upgrades and boons keeps your power creeping upwards, and often way ahead of the curve. Instead of this growth feeling destabilizing, it feels like you are breaking the game by finding synergies that seem almost like exploits. The fact that these games start you out so weak is part of the pleasure. You get to see the contrast between your feeble beginnings and the divine strength you quickly accumulate.

Not all good things can last. While these games make you feel incredibly powerful, you don’t really ever beat them. Win or lose, all of these games have you starting over from the very beginning. Some, like Hades, kill you every time as part of the narrative. In Vampire Survivors, players can hold the grim reaper(s) at bay for a little while, but only for so long. You may lose all of your power, but you’ll get the chance to find a whole new combination of upgrades.

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