Review : Spirit Hunters Infinite Horde : Unending Spirit

Spirit Hunters: Infinite Horde from developer Creature Cauldron exists in a place that is equal parts unfair and exactly where it needs to be. Fresh off of the massive success of the surprising hit, Vampire Survivors, which essentially birthed an entirely new genre of games, Spirit Hunters attempts to take up residence in an almost empty neighborhood.

Sure, there have been attempts at copying the success of Vampire Survivors with games like Void Scrappers, the surprisingly excellent Halls of Torment, and the truly awful Monster Destroyer, but none have been much more than brief flickers compared to the lightning bolt caught in a bottle found in Vampire Survivors. But, now, there is another. Could it be yet another flicker, or will it find a lasting home in the Rogue-lite Horde Survivor genre?

Meeting the locals

Attempting to make a name for itself, Spirit Hunters: Infinite Horde, developed by Creature Cauldron under Publisher SubSilico, astonishingly succeeds at differentiating itself. While it certainly “borrows” a ton of mechanics from Vampire Survivors, there are enough new mechanics and other changes in place that it stands apart, for the most part. But before we dive into the mass comparison, which we must do given that so much of the genre’s foundation has been presented in Vampire Survivors, let’s ask a question for those new to the genre: what exactly is a “Rogue-lite Horde Survivor” game?

What Is A Rogue-Lite Horde Survivor?

In this genre that is taking over gaming like a Pac-Man fever, the genius is in the simplicity. You choose a character, and then you face overwhelming odds as monsters begin to swarm upon you. But the kicker is that you cannot attack. Well, let me rephrase that: there is no attack button. Whichever character you choose will begin with a starting ability that will spam at regular intervals, and you use resources from defeated foes to upgrade the ability. As you level up, different skills can be added, and each of these has its own characteristics, spamming assorted doom all about an endless map until you reach a certain amount of minutes survived and reach the “end.”

Mother of dragons

That “end” in Vampire Survivors existed to simply kill you, though you could find a way to even overcome that. For Spirit Hunters, however, an end-of-level boss traps you in a cage of spears, presenting itself as an actual challenging yet beatable obstacle. This is just one of several differences that makes Spirit Hunters a breath of fresh air. Instead of simply copying and pasting every element, veterans of Vampire Survivors will notice specific changes that we’ll go over in some detail.

Like a boss!

Sincerest Form

Starting out, you will have two characters unlocked, and selecting a character holds a lot of weight in Spirit Hunters because of several reasons. In Vampire Survivors, choosing your character was akin to choosing your starting ability along with passive stats defining each character. Characters in Spirit Hunters do not have starting abilities; this is for you to decide. Each character has a specific “Starting Synergy” with each ability, which changes between abilities and characters themselves. Along with this choice and some passive traits, each character has a “Hero Ability” that is a powerful game-changer. These may be on a cooldown or have other means of replenishing, depending on the ability, but they are all quite powerful.

Select your Character and Synergy

After choosing your Starting Synergy, you will choose between nine different maps, though only one is unlocked at the start. Then you will begin to learn and upgrade abilities, but the change here is that each skill has separate upgradeable paths, such as shorter cooldowns, greater power, or more projectiles. Each skill can be upgraded to a max level of 25, meaning you will not be able to obtain every upgrade, making choice, and luck, paramount to your build success.

Choose your own upgrade

For each run, you may have up to four main abilities and up to five pets, effectively working like the utility items from Vampire Survivors. However, abilities do not combo into ultimate abilities here; instead, you must unlock up to two “mods,” and, after a certain ability level, you will be able to unlock and utilize these mods during your run. And regarding pets, there are twenty of them to unlock, with each delivering varied upgradeable perks to experiment with in your builds.

Surfing The Web

Though there are even more changes, the last one we will go over is the progression board, or, in this case, the “Divinity Web.” As you adventure across each map, you will discover several types of resources, and these can be spent on the Divinity Web to purchase permanent upgrades, covering the likes of attack power, ability enhancements, new character and map unlocks, harder difficulties which add new enemies and bosses, different modes of play, and more. Since the Divinity Web is massive, you will eagerly await coming back to it between runs in order to carve an upgrade path to reach the unlocks that you want. Vampire Survivors certainly had longevity due to a huge array of unlocks and secrets, but seeing it all on an attractive web board makes it all seem more tangible and appealing.

Divinity Web

Ok, enough of the comparisons; though these help to better understand a few of the nuances, Spirit Hunters is its own game. From the moment you witness the attractive graphical aesthetics; interesting abilities; varied characters, monsters, and maps; and get a chance to explore the Divinity Web, you will likely be hooked. It is insanely addictive because there is always something new to discover, a new way to approach the denizens on each map, and new combinations of abilities to explore.

Addictive Combo

Speaking of combinations of abilities, each character has specific challenges that set up skill combinations that you must achieve, and these can introduce you to combinations that you didn’t even think about. Or, perhaps you will discover a combination that mixes as well as oil and water. But these character challenges help in opening your eyes to possibilities, good and bad, and successful completion of challenges unlocks further paths on the Divinity Web.

Challenges lead to greater rewards

The addictive loop of gathering resources while crafting creative builds, then using those resources to unlock more abilities, power, and more only to do it all over again is in full effect with Spirit Hunters. You will tell yourself, “Just one more run,” until the sun goes down and rises again. The simplicity of play means everyone can have fun no matter their level of devotion, yet, for as mindless as the basics can seem, thinking about how to best employ your concoction of abilities and skills will keep you engaged to a far greater degree than seemingly possible after your first moments of play.

A Few Snags

Not everything is in high spirits, however, as there were some hiccups that occurred along the way. Sometimes the Divinity Web would lock in place, and I wouldn’t be able to move it in certain directions until I backed out and went back into it. Also, there were times where I would die without having a clue as to what caused me to perish; while this is always a challenging aspect of the genre to deal with due to the chaotic number of elements on screen at once, I would like to see more UI enhancements to assist with this. Next, although Spirit Hunters differentiates itself in a number of ways, it is still familiar enough that you may constantly compare it to others in the genre (namely, Vampire Survivors), creating a strange, “Which would I rather be playing right now?” situation. Finally, although the Divinity Web is vast, taking dozens, if not hundreds, of hours to fully unlock everything, I still want more. Of course, this can be seen as a positive as well, and there always is the unlockable “Hardcore Mode” to up the ante, starting you on a new journey under the risk of perma-death.

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Spirited Away

If you simply do not enjoy the style of play in this genre, Spirit Hunter: Infinite Horde may not serve to sway your opinion. However, if you do enjoy the genre and are looking for something in the same arena, or if you haven’t yet dipped your foot into the Rogue-lite Horde Survivor genre, I think you will find a lot to like in Spirit Hunter. You will enjoy the colorful graphics, have fun exploring the many builds, and spend hours poring over unlock paths around the gigantic Divinity Web. In a genre that is just beginning to bud, Spirit Hunters: Infinite Horde blooms with a surprising amount of spirit.

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By Patrick Shields

I love the outdoors as well as the indoors, and when I'm not gaming, writing, or being musical, you can find me outside, climbing trees and getting lost off the road less traveled. It is a known fact that I've been blessed with the greatest kids in the world and an incredible wife who is an awesome nurse and my superhero. I've played games on nearly every system ever made and regularly go back to the classic games that helped raise this fine fellow. When asked which system or computer I prefer, there's only one answer: yes.

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