Most videogames based on tabletop roleplaying games are slower paced, crunchy affairs. Character sheets with tons of feats, skill points, and backstory. Millions of lines of text to tell you all about how the Earl of Somethinghampton has mimics in the basement. Long, involved sidequests that, while enjoyable, make you wonder just how important it really was to find that tenth longsword +1.
Not so with Pathfinder: Gallowspire Survivors. This game takes the formula of Vampire Survivors and drops it into Paizo's world of Golarion, the pen-and-paper RPG setting. The diabolical lich Tar-Baphon is threatening to escape his prison in the famed tower of Gallowspire, and our intrepid heroes must brave his endless waves of necromantic minions to shove his ass back in the phylactery and buy the world a bit more time.
I say heroes because, unlike Vampire Survivors, where you walk through its maps auto-firing your weapons into the hordes of enemies entirely on your own, in Gallowspire, you have company.
The roster is familiar to any RPG player: a brawny fighter, an elusive rogue, and a powerful wizard. Pick one to play, and another as a companion. In this sense the studio has kept the game remarkably accurate to the tabletop experience, too, because apparently no one wants to play a healer.
Again, Vampire Survivors is the basis—seemingly endless waves of bad guys, abilities that fire on their own timers, arenas with powerups and treasures to pick up, and some bosses. Each class also has a signature skill that you can manually trigger when the ooze hits the fan, offering a moment of respite. The fighter becomes an unstoppable juggernaut, the rogue launches a protective smoke bomb, and the wizard stops time. However, when even these skills aren't enough to save you, it's time to spend some XP.
Spending experience points and gold between runs will let you power up your three characters, choosing talents and equipment that permanently strengthen them. These upgrades also apply to the characters when you bring them along as companions, so spending all that time leveling up your fighter may pay off when it's time to take your baby wizard out to shoot his first acid arrow and fireball.
One of the best things about playing the pen-and-paper version of Pathfinder is the sheer number of playable character combinations. A goblin pirate alchemist quartermaster that pinches every penny on the ship while brewing up his own high-octane grog? Got it. A half-angel, half-squid paladin of the god of murder with a soft spot in their heart for pretty flowers? Sure. Gallowspire may have yet to have all this panoply of variety, but the devs told me they're excited about the possibility of adding classes in the future, so here's hoping we can summon some animal companions and throw some bombs real quick.
Another way you'll experience variety is with the essences you gather on your runs. By siphoning some of the necromantic magic from all of the zombies, skeletons, and Shelyn-knows-what-else you defeat on your way, you'll get special powers that will only last the duration of the run, giving each session a unique flavor and add to the replayability. Random loot from treasure chests should also help that - BKOM Studios has even made it so when you find one, you roll a d20. I have assurances that a natural 20 makes for a highly satisfying loot explosion, but the tabletop player in me wonders what happens on a one.
Gallowspire's blend of tabletop RPG bloodline and Vampire Survivor-style gameplay could make for an enjoyable stew. I'm looking forward to trying my hand against the Whispering Tyrant, even if my quest is ultimately doomed to failure. After all, everyone knows that in 4719 AR, he breaks free and conquers Lastwall, triggering the cataclysmic events that lead to Pathfinder 2nd edition. I scarcely need to bring it up.
As the devs so astutely pointed out to me, true heroism doesn't always mean getting a happy ending. If it's anything like Hades and Vampire Survivors before it, though, even a pyrrhic victory is one worth chasing, and it'll be a blast to get there.