V Rising Early Access Review: A Bloody Good Time
We've gotten our fair share of vampire games over the last few years, and it's been a mixed bag, to say the least. Now, Stunlock Studios have released V Rising, an open-world vampire survival game in Steam Early Access.
V Rising lets you take on the role of a vampire that has awakened and been stripped of its powers after hibernating for centuries. You'll rebuild your vampire empire and reclaim power while quenching your thirst for blood. While the basic premise should be familiar to anyone who has played games in this genre, V Rising has a uniqueness to it that makes it stand out from the crowd.
V Rising Early Access Review: A Bloody Good Time
V Rising features several game modes. In PvE, you can play solo or cooperate with other vampires on a server to take down enemies and revive each other. By joining a PvP server, you can attack each other and raid castles, and it is recommended to play alongside some friends to help each other out.
As a vampire that was recently stripped of abilities, your character is still powerful but also vulnerable. You can get swarmed by groups of enemies easily if you aren’t constantly moving around. So you'll have to pick your fights and avoid unnecessary combat when you're low on health.
Initially, melee attacks with your sword are the go-to approach for taking down foes. But you don't put your vampire powers to good use this way. Casting flashy ranged abilities allows you to defeat enemies from a safe distance without exposing yourself to their attacks. There is no mana or stamina bar, but there is a cooldown for each ability, and you’ll need to use every tool in your arsenal to survive. Learning how and when to use each ability at your disposal is key.
Sword combat is fun, but things become extremely satisfying once you learn to cycle different abilities so that you're constantly casting spells without worrying about the cooldown timer.
When enemies are weakened, you can feed on their blood to refill your blood pool, essential for keeping you alive. In addition, feeding on blood grants you bonus effects depending on the type of enemy (warrior, rogue, creature, etc.). Also, depending on the quality of the blood, your character can unlock temporary buffs based on a tier system. For example, feeding on creatures will initially grant you increased movement speed at the first tier. Once you gain enough blood quality to reach the second tier, you’ll also get increased sun resistance.
In true vampiric fashion, you’ll have to sniff out bosses by following the scent of their blood across the map. The game does a great job of giving each of the 37 bosses a unique look and set of abilities to ensure that each encounter feels different than the previous.
Unlike most RPGs, there is no experience system for leveling up your character. Instead, your power is determined by the gear that you have equipped. While bosses do put up a good fight, none of them feel particularly unfair or overpowered as long as your gear is sufficiently powerful. Tracking and defeating bosses rewards not only resources but also new abilities and spells. For instance, defeating the first boss and feeding on its blood grants you the ability to transform into a wolf for faster traversal.
If there are two things that vampires hate it is silver and the daylight. While the former deals continuous DPS, it isn't as persistent as the latter, which proves to be your most dangerous foe in V Rising. The day and night cycle means that you'll need to be very careful when moving around when it's sunny.
You can be in the sun for a few seconds at a time before your health starts to deplete rapidly. The direction of the sun will also vary as the day passes so you won't be able to stay in the same spot for too long.
Of course, you could always wait things out by sleeping in your coffin, but those brave enough to venture out during the day must hop between spots of shade and stay in the shadows. This can be done by taking cover behind trees and structures as you move around.
Within my first few hours playing, though, it became apparent that this is primarily a survival game with few vampire elements added to the mix. V Rising takes a step back from the typical vampire activities and puts most of the focus on crafting and building.
You’ll start off by crafting makeshift weapons and equipment just to get yourself going, though you’ll have a fully-fledged castle with a sawmill, furnace, and blood press to conduct all your typical vampire activities soon enough.
Here, managing resources and being efficient is key for quick progression. Grinding for resources can be a slogfest, so you’ll need to optimize the process as much as possible by taking note of the exact number of resources needed and having multiple refinement stations working in tandem.
There is no worse feeling than making a long journey from your castle and back only to realize that you are just short of the requirements and must make another trip across the map. While you can fast-travel to certain locations, you cannot take materials with you; you'll often need to make the long journey back to your base on foot.
The world of Vardoran is expansive and diverse, consisting of dense forests, vast farmlands, and snowy mountains. Traversing this hostile world is no easy task. Almost every NPC you come across will instantly attack you. In this hostile environment, NPCs will even battle it out with each other, which can prove to be helpful.
While the core gameplay loop and mechanics aren’t entirely original, V Rising has a certain uniqueness to it that kept me hooked for hours on end. The highly addictive objective system helps guide you without holding your hand. For instance, you will need leather to perform certain upgrades, but the game does not tell you where to get it. Instead, you’ll need to figure that out for yourself or refer to a guide on how to get leather. Completing these quests will help familiarize you with the different refinement stations and raw materials without overwhelming new players.
Customizing the look of your vampire, however not that important given the top-down perspective, is a nice touch. Being able to tweak your character’s hairstyle, skin tone, and physical features lends a sense of ownership to your vampire kingdom.
One feature that V Rising desperately needs, though, is a photo mode. It's an oversight that you can't fully appreciate the grandiosity of your castles from the top-down perspective after spending so much time building them. Even disabling the HUD isn't an option, which makes taking screenshots even trickier
Of course, the game could benefit from some quality-of-life improvements and finishing touches, as well, but V Rising is very close to being a finished product. Throughout my time with the game, I never encountered any game-breaking bugs or performance issues that cannot be ironed out in upcoming updates.
V Rising Early Access Review — The Bottom Line
- Fluid and engaging combat.
- Deep crafting system.
- Large world with plenty to explore.
- Top-down perspective can be limiting.
- Minor technical hiccups.
Early Access games tend to be hit or miss, but V Rising has shown great promise with its deep crafting system, engaging gameplay, and addictive objective system. V Rising has quickly built a large fanbase and is already charting among the Steam games with the most concurrent players.
The overall state of the game is impressive given that it is still in Early Access; only time will tell if it can compete with the likes of Valheim. V Rising has plenty to offer at a competitive price of $19.99, making it a no-brainer for fans of action role-playing and survival games.
[Note: Stunlock Studios provided the copy of V Rising used for this Early Access review.]