Ah, the life of a vegan vampire. The grass is brittle, the water wells sparse, and the sun is thankfully nowhere to be seen in this overcast cobblestone graveyard I call my tomb. As I tend to my decidedly chompy warrior plants and feast upon a tasty Garleek in Voltaire: The Vegan Vampire, a raven arrives with another letter from my uncles Frank and Stein. They warn me of the rapidly-approaching dusk, and of the perilous evils that will descend upon me at sundown.
After watering my crops and activating their protective barriers, I head to the nearby lake to feed my delightful tentacled friend, C'thul. With traps placed strategically around the farmyard, I double-check my skills tree, snuggle up in my coffin, and prepare for the long fight ahead. My home is hunkered down for the terrors of the night, and even though I'm living compassionately, it doesn't mean I can't fight back.
Papa don't preach
If you're looking for another sweet yet spooky indie gem, check out Children of Silentown.
Portuguese developer Digitality Games brings us an unlikely hero in Voltaire: The Vegan Vampire. Quirky farming sims have been all the rage in recent months, and bolstered by the success of cute and creepy Cult of the Lamb, Voltaire is a competitive addition to the spooky yet cutesy roguelike fold. The game's mechanics toe a unique line, combining elements of the best farming sims alongside tower defence and hack n' slash action. The result is a varied gameplay experience that, despite its repetitive nature, never feels stale.
Meet Voltaire, the defiant youngest son of the notorious Count Dracula. As Transylvania's resident leaf-muncher, he doesn't take kindly to his family's bloodthirsty ways, preferring instead to chow down on luscious homegrown vegetables. Chased out of the family fold for his unconventional lifestyle, Voltaire is finally able to live life on his own terms – though Dracula isn't going to let him go quietly.
Every night, your home will be under siege by hordes of Baddies who seek to either destroy your house itself or uproot your plants. Different Baddies are drawn to different crops, and you can check these in your handy Veggiepedia at any time. On the night of the seventh day of each week, you will be visited by one of Dracula's Grim Generals. These tough bosses possess abilities that can make destroying them just that much harder, from Skully's skulkers that gnaw away at your house to Grove Keeper's poisonous vines. Survive a whole week in a biome, and you can use a portal to explore a brand new one, starting fresh once again before the Grim Generals report your whereabouts to your father.
Life after life
Although your humble beginnings take you to the Monastery Graveyard at first, you'll be guided by your two-headed uncles Frank and Stein to eight unique biomes with their own environmental features. These will factor into how your crops grow and thrive. The damp rainforest biome type of Green Grove will keep your plants well watered, but you'll need to watch out for paralyzing thunderbolts that can shock you where you stand. The Hunting Grounds are plagued by locusts that eat away at your plants day by day, meaning you might have to re-grow some of your defensive crops as they fight back against nature.
The biomes are not only visually easy on the eye, but feel good to play in. Once you start to build up a formidable skill tree (which can be reshuffled if you die in battle), the combat mechanisms are as simple as they are satisfying. There's nothing quite like floating amid the chaos at night when the enemies attack and you barely have to lift a finger, since your Vinemaws and Broodvines are busy pelting them with dark magic, fire balls, and even caustic slime.
Much like the twisted vegetation growing in his yard, Voltaire: The Vegan Vampire really grew on me. As it's still in early access, you can expect the occasional bugged-out mini quest. Aside from those, however, it already seems to be in good standing. The combat sequences can feel a bit short, perhaps thirty seconds per nightly siege. This is fine when you just start out and even keeping your hunger at bay is a hard slog, but once you reach your third or fourth biome, the difficulty spike falls right off and you can just have fun with the hunter-gatherer aspects of keeping your little vampiric meadow afloat.
It's a short little game, perhaps at just under five hours of playtime if you beat each biome just the once, but with so many skills combos to choose from, I already sense a good deal of replayability if you want to test them all out – as well as all the cute little outfits you can dress Voltaire up in. I'm a (blood)sucker for the pumpkin head one myself.