20 Minutes Till Dawn is poised to be my next lunch break game

20 Minutes Till Dawn

It’s got more going on under the hood than you’d expect

When a game has some unforeseen breakout success, it’s not uncommon to see imitators. And that might be what you think 20 Minutes Till Dawn and its demo, 10 Minutes Till Dawn, are at first glance. The good news is that they’re a fair bit more than imitations of another game. They’re surprisingly in-depth, with their own spins and ideas, and certainly one to keep an eye on.

Vampire Survivors managed to reach a pretty incredible level of success for a Steam indie project earlier this year. Its mix of careful movement, idle weapon blasting, and upgrading weapons made for an excellent break-time game. I burned many, many lunch breaks on unlocking all the upgrades. And as a cursory look at Steam tells me, there are already a few imitators on the block.

That was how I discovered 10 Minutes Till Dawn, the demo version of upcoming game 20 Minutes Till Dawn. (It’s a little confusing but basically, 10=demo and 20=full launch game.) It looks like a Vampire Survivors-alike from the get-go, and there is fair reason to draw a line between the two. From the ever-increasing level bar at the top to the chest-opening bonanza you receive after felling a boss, there’s some Vampire DNA in there for sure.

Quick draw

The art style drew me in for sure, though. The character art in the menus is extremely good, as is the pixelated art once you’ve started a run. But the immediate difference, that might seem small but ends up playing a huge role in why 10 Minutes Till Dawn feels unique, is that you have a gun. And partner, you have to click the fire button in this one.

Rather than building an auto-firing behemoth of clockwork weapons, like Vampire Survivors, your gun is the core of your gameplay in 10 Minutes Till Dawn. Starting out with the revolver, I had six shots and a reload bar. The amount and speed of that change over time with upgrades, which we’ll get to in a moment, but the gun is the focal point. And also key: your character slows down when they are firing. It’s a simple touch at first, but as the enemies grow denser and denser, every pull of the trigger becomes more calculated.

Where Vampire Survivors had the general movement and flow nailed down into a zen state, 10 Minutes Till Dawn made me think about whether it’s safe to plant my feet and shoot. Making that decision, to clear enemies or put distance between me and them, meant constant small decisions were being made.

Thin the horde

What makes clearing those enemies a little easier are all the upgrades. There are randomly dropped upgrades, and they’re fairly simple. Each characteristic has a basic upgrade, like increasing reload speed or giving bullets a chance to freeze enemies. Then they branch out into two different mid-stage abilities, and finally one top-tier skill. Where the first health skill might just give you one extra Max HP, the top-shelf one gives you gradual regeneration.

Some of these abilities are boosts to characteristics, like movement speed or the power of bullets. Others add elemental properties and can start to stack up. One of my favorite builds was a shotgun setup where I had frost magic; everyone in my blast cone had a chance of being frozen, and if they died under that effect, they splintered, sending shards everywhere. Mixed with some bullet piercing and additional bullets, I had a wall of frozen power that could shred through hordes.

Yet I eventually fell, because I was just too darn slow and a boss constantly hounded me, ramming into me with its far superior speed. Little choices add up, in good and bad ways. So I took my meta-progression points, and went right back in.

The night is long

What’s in 10 Minutes Till Dawn right now is, I’d expect, about an hour to two hours’ worth of content, just to unlock all the weapons and characters. Different characters offer some bonus abilities, ranging from a larger starting HP pool to making a clone of yourself. And when 20 Minutes Till Dawn launches, developer Flanne expects to have more character and weapon options.

With excellently concise runs and some solid ideas behind its shooting, 20 Minutes Till Dawn is certainly much more than a clone or look-alike. This new horde survival game feels like it’s shaping up to be a good time-killer. No word on when that will be, but if you want to wishlist 20 Minutes Till Dawn on Steam so you can find out when, the store page is here.

Eric Van Allen