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V Rising (Early Access) Review

June 7, 2022 | Posted by Marc Morrison
V Rising Image Credit: Stunlock Studios
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V Rising (Early Access) Review  

V Rising is an odd little game. It’s basically a vampire simulator, in the vein (pun intended) of an action RPG but it has a lot of survival elements mixed in. It’s an interesting formula but the actual results are a bit mixed, at least as of this writing.

To start with, V Rising is still in Early Access. It’s not like “Oh, the game is due out in two weeks but is content locked” Early Access, no. The game is on version 0.5.41, where version 1.0 is generally considered the release/full game. As such, there are some things missing from the game, not so much in terms of content but more story/plot stuff.

The closest analogy to this is Hardspace: Shipbreaker. That game was originally launched in Early Access on June 16th 2020 but its full, actual release date was May 24th 2022. So Hardspace was basically in Early Access for a hair under two years, with the developers providing updates, occasionally resetting game progress, adding in stuff, etc. The basic framework of Hardspace remained the same though and I imagine the same thing will happen with V Rising, which is good because the core of the game is great. It just needs some ironing out first.

At the beginning, you create your very own new vampire when you make a new game. It has a decent character creator to customize yourself with, though I imagine it’ll be a bit more fully-featured in the final game, like with positive/negative traits, or initially specializing in a certain way, at first.

The crux of the actual game is that you have awakened in a world where you are the last vampire. Your goal is to drink blood, set up your own castle and dominate everyone.

At first glance, V Rising looks like a typical Diablo clone, the action RPG with a top down perspective that have becoming popular again. And while it does have that, it’s slightly limited. Like, you basically only have three melee skills and they are tied to the quality of your weapon. The basic weapon only gives you one attack, an upgraded weapon gives you two and the even more upgraded weapon gives you three.

There are different classes of weapon, sword, axe, spear, and mace. Each has their strengths and weaknesses not only with combat but with the building part of the game. Axes, for example, have a basic three hit combo, a frenzy move (second move) and finally the X-Strike (last move). That’s for combat. However, axes are good for chopping down wood and provide a bonus when you need to cut down a tree.

While three melee skills seems limiting, you have a lot more magic abilities you can gain access to, once you are ready. You initially only have a shadow bolt, counter and quick dash, but you can unlock the ability to summon skeletons and wisps, stomp the ground, or become a frozen meteor. How do you get abilities then? Well, there’s not really the traditional experience/leveling system. No, to get new abilities you have to find bosses in the game world, fight them, and then drain their blood which empowers you with them.

This “drink blood, get cool abilities” thing also comes into play with the actual vampire powers and ultimate abilities. Functionally, they operate, more or less, the same way as regular abilities. Ultimate abilities are just the most advanced form of regular abilities. Vampire powers are more utilitarian in nature, letting you shapeshift between different forms to let you travel around faster, enter human settlements, or letting you heal yourself and dominate others minds.

All of the above stuff, the actual Diablo-like gameplay is like 40 to 50% of the actual game. The rest are the survival/building mechanics.

After you wake up from the starting crypt and escape it, one of the first tasks you have is to start your castle. Basically, you have to find a suitable area, craft a “Castle Heart” and start process of making a settlement. This isn’t actually that easy though, I’ll get into it a bit later, but a lot of the initial crafting systems are a bit obtuse.

Once you actually have a small area of your own though, it becomes a bit of standard fair. For example, you only initially have bone armor/weapons that you crafted while escaping the crypt. To get to the next level, reinforced bone armor/weapons you need to build a workbench but you’ll need like 30 stone and 20 lumber. (These numbers are just examples and not representative of the actual quantities in the game). With the upgraded weapons, you can cut down more trees, so you can build a sawmill, which lets you turn wood into planks. Now that you have planks, you can construct a furnace, which lets you upgrade your weapons, etc. etc. etc. This is the usual type of tech tree for these types of games, akin to Minecraft or Terraria.

Rising gives you pretty basic, but simple, objectives to help guide you along. It’s really not perfect, but it does help, in general terms, about what you should be doing for next.

This whole building/castle system makes up most of the rest of the game. You can expand your castle to a fairly big settlement, decorate it with gothic items (once researched), fill it with new looms and tombs and stashes for your resources and so on.

Honestly, what I really like about this game is that it does really make it feel like a vampire simulator, much closer than any game in recent memory. There is a 22 hour cycle with 8 hours of day light and 14 hours of darkness. During the night, you can roam around as you please, but during the day you have to be very mindful of the sun. If you spend more than a few seconds in it, you’ll start to take damage and it goes up exponentially with every second of exposure. Going into the shade stops the damage but there is sun movement and clouds to consider. You can’t just hang out in one shady spot for 8 hours (like 5 or 6 minutes in actual time), because the shadows will shift and the light will find you. You can hang out in your settlement, under some crafted items to block out the sun, or just spend time in your coffin until it is safe.

Blood quality is also a major component of this game. You can drink the blood of a lot of things in the game from animals to people. There are six basic types of blood: Creature, Worker, Scholar, Brute, Warrior and Rogue. Each also has five different quality tiers also which enable more passive bonuses. Warrior blood has increased weapon damage and reduced skills while Worker blood provides bonuses to resource gathering. You do have to drink blood regularly which requires feeding on living things or refilling the meter with blood that you can carry with you.

By far, the biggest problem with the game right now is that it is almost purely a survival game. There’s literally no story, flavor text, NPC’s, etc. There are plenty of things for you to fight but outside of that, it’s fairly empty. I like a game to have a story and, aside from the fact that a story doesn’t jive well with survival games, this being in Early Access means it especially doesn’t have it.

The fact that you basically have to create a server, be it private or public, reinforces my belief that I doubt single player will actually be a huge focus of the game. I’d love to be proven wrong, so I guess we’ll see.

In my mind, the person that wakes you up from your slumber could be your last minion. He or she could then tell you what you missed, help answer questions, even fight for you, at least in the early parts of the game. They may add this in eventually, but this was my initial problem with it.

Remember I said that placing the Castle Heart is a bid of an arduous process? Yeah, that’s something a minion could help with. They could say “Oh, I have this one area picked out already to start with, to get the basics down and then later on, you can build your own.” As it is, when you are told to start your Castle, you’re basically in the middle of the woods with almost no suitable areas to start with. With enough wandering, you can find actual areas to make your own, but it seems weirdly unfair. There are only two, initial spawning locations, so it’s not like the game can’t guiderail you a little and say “Hey, stay close here, and you can claim this starting area.” That would be a bit useful.

Another annoying issue is how the game has teleporters. Your character moves fairly slowly so getting around the map, by way of a teleport seems like it’d help speed along the process. However, you can’t teleport when you are holding resources. So, functionally, it’s useless. You’re ALWAYS carrying resources, unless you just died and have to make a corpse run to pick up your stuff from your body. Apparently, this is an actual design decision they made and not an annoying oversight, but if that’s the case, you should be able to craft single-use teleportation items to get back to your castle and drop off all your stuff.

There are other, less annoying problems to also consider. Sleeping in your coffin during the day can be a way to pass the time but the second you sleep, your entire HUD goes away, even the clock. So you have to keep popping out just to see what time it is, then quickly go back inside if your coffin is in direct sunlight. Or another annoying issue is that you can carry hundreds of one item type at the same time, while you can only carry stacks of 20 of another, so if you need a lot of the second one, it will quickly fill up your inventory.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Ultimately, V Rising is a good framework right now but is just missing the content that I want to actually play. If you have a group of friends and you want to roleplay a 40 player server of Twilight, then this game has certainly got your back. And I actually did enjoy my time with it a fair amount, I’ll just have to wait until it becomes the sort of game that I want it to be.

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V Rising, Marc Morrison