If you take a look at the ‘Early Access’ tab on Steam, you will be absolutely bombarded with open-world survival games from many different genres. From zombie experiences to Viking adventures, players are thoroughly spoiled for choice. And while a lot of these games are genuinely a lot of fun to play, there is a common thread among them that is hard to ignore, which is that most of these titles are incomplete and unfinished products with a lot of game-breaking bugs and balance issues.
So perhaps you’ll forgive me when I say that V Rising wasn’t exactly on my radar when it dropped a couple of weeks back. I was vaguely aware of the game’s existence thanks to the brief gameplay trailer we saw late last year, and I did genuinely think that the Vampire aesthetic was a unique new touch. But apart from that, the title simply got swept up under the onslaught of much bigger and flashier games.
Then the game came back into the public eye again a few weeks ago with its Early Access launch, and I started playing it alongside thousands of other people. And now, after having poured over 50 hours into the game, I can say with confidence that V Rising is not like a lot of its peers. It is, in fact, a masterclass in how to do an Early Access title.
The game starts off in a land that was once ruled by Vampires, but who were defeated by the race of man. To protect themselves these Vampires went into a deep slumber for centuries, and when the game starts off, you awaken as one of these weakened and desperate creatures in a world that is extremely hostile to you.
So as soon as the adventure begins, you get to create your own blood-sucking fiend. The cosmetic options right now aren’t extremely diverse, but you can choose your gender and pick out your appearance from a small variety of faces, hairstyles, facial hair, and accessories.
None of these have any impact whatsoever on the actual gameplay, but it’s always nice when a game allows you to personalize your character. And it’s even nicer that the presets available don’t look utterly ridiculous. I’m supposed to be an undead lord, I would at least like to look likes someone who commands respect.
Either way, once you’re done making your persona, you wake up from your slumber with nothing on you except your claws. Your powers are almost non-existent, and from here on out you begin the gradual process of getting stronger and establishing a foothold in this hostile land.
Now when it comes to gameplay, what you’ll find in V Rising is nothing particularly new or revolutionary. This is a fairly standard survival game, where the main goal is to establish a base, mine resources, craft stronger and stronger gear, and eventually take on bosses as you explore the open world.
Again, none of this is particularly new to anyone who’s played other open-world survival games before, but V Rising has more than a few surprises up its sleeves. Remember, you’re a Vampire, and as such you are bound by some tropes that greatly switch up the core gameplay experience.
The game features a full day and night cycle, and as a Vampire, sunlight is lethal to your character. You are only able to safely explore the world during the cover of night, so regardless of whether your goal is resource gathering, hunting, or fighting bosses, you are only truly safe when the sun has gone down. You can try and go out during the daylight hours, and you can still accomplish all of your goals, but you have to constantly make sure that you are shielded from the sunlight.
And while this is undoubtedly really hard to manage, the increased level of challenge also makes accomplishing your goals a lot more rewarding. You constantly have to make sure that there are shadows present wherever you go because you cannot stay away from them for more than a few seconds before your health bar starts hemorrhaging.
You also cannot always reliably avoid the sunlight when you go out adventuring. You regularly have to venture out far from your base in order to gather materials or track down a boss, and more often than not, the sun will rise while you’re on your way back. In situations like these, you can either pick out a spot and wait until sundown or simply dart from shadow to shadow in order to not get burned. It’s a neat little mechanic that makes you value the nighttime and plan your tasks accordingly.
Now, this might surprise a lot of players, but the combat in V Rising is immaculate. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill survival game system with weightless attacks, glitchy enemies, and poor hitboxes. This feels like a high-budget game with extremely polished and actually satisfying combat. It’s actually more comparable to the Diablo series of games than any of its actual Early Access peers.
Playing from a top-down perspective, players are able to move their character in a 360-degree angle and unleash melee and magic attacks in all directions. Melee attacks feel weighty and crunchy and are able to quickly deal rapid damage to either a singular or multiple enemies depending on the weapon type you’re using. Swords for example deal moderate damage in a small arc in front of you and are capable of getting multiple enemies, and spears deal high damage to one enemy at a time.
When you start off, most of these weapons are pretty barebones and are only capable of their simple movesets. But as you take the time to acquire new materials and craft higher tiers of weapons, you also gain access to special attacks that vary according to their class. Axes for example propel your character forward and deal damage in a massive 180-degree arc in front of you, while Maces allow you to flip forward and slam the ground to create an area of effect attack that deals massive damage. Each weapon type has its own specialty and depending on the type of foe you encounter, you might have to regularly switch up your tactics.
Certain weapons also double up as tools that allow you to harvest resources much quicker. The Axes allow you to cut down trees much faster to acquire lumber, meanwhile, Maces are used to break down ore nodes to collect resources like Copper and Iron. It’s a good system, and I’m glad that I don’t have to carry around a specialized tool like a Pickaxe whenever I go exploring.
Magic abilities are where the true creativity and diversity of the combat system comes into play. When you begin the game, you only have access to three simple skills from your Blood skill tree. These include a basic ranged projectile called the Shadowbolt, a defensive skill called Blood Rite, and the Veil of Blood Travel ability. Each of these are perfectly serviceable on their own, and you’ll probably end up relying on them greatly during your first 7 to 8 hours with the game.
But as you defeat bosses and drink their blood, you will gain access to additional abilities from all the other trees as well. Each of these have a decent selection of support and damage skills, which all function radically differently from skills from another tree. So for example, after you defeat a particular boss in one of the earlier regions of the game, you gain access to the Chaos ability ‘Aftershock.’ This lets you create a straight line of tremors that deal magic damage and Chaos Burn after a short delay. Similarly, the ‘Chaos Volley’ skill from the same tree allows you to launch two projectiles that both deal magic damage and also apply the Chaos Burn effect.
We also briefly mentioned the ‘Veil of Blood’ Travel ability above, and it’s basically a type of evasion skill that is tied to your spacebar. Not only does this let you quickly get away from danger, but it also gives your next attack a bit of extra damage and even heals you over time. Each tree in the game has its own unique Travel ability, and they give you other benefits like turning invisible or your next attack launching a projectile. Each ability tree also has two Ultimate attacks that can single-handedly turn the tide of combat, but these aren’t acquired until much later in the game. They are on a much longer cooldown compared to standard skills, and that makes them much more valuable.
Then there are the Vampire Powers that are much less flashy than combat skills, but arguably more important than any of them. These allow you to heal yourself out of combat, shapeshift into animals like Wolves and Rats in order to move quickly or undetected, or even dominate enemies in order to turn them into your servants. These again, are gained by defeating bosses and the game distributes them out accordingly as you progress through the game.
Some of these powers are also fueled by Blood, which is an incredibly valuable resource in the game. When you hurt an enemy and bring them closer to death, you have the option to feed on them and fill up your Blood meter. You cannot heal yourself without this Blood, and letting your reserves deplete causes you to take damage over time until only a single point of health remains. This doesn’t outright kill you, but a single strike from any source is all it takes to finish the job.
The type of enemy you feed on also determines some additional benefits you can receive depending on their Blood Type. If you feed on a creature like a Wolf or a Bear, for instance, you gain a slight bonus to your movement speed, meanwhile feeding on a human Rogue enemy will allow you to land critical hits more often.
The higher the level of the target, the more bonuses you get at one time, but these also deplete over time. You also lose these bonuses if you feed on another type of target, so proper attention has to be paid to who you choose to snack on.
Speaking of magical abilities and Vampire Powers, I mentioned above that you gain access to these by defeating bosses in the game. And not only are these bosses incredibly varied in appearances and movesets, they also vary greatly in the type of tools and gadgets they make use of in combat.
Seriously, there are almost 40 different bosses in the game right now during the Early Access phase, and none of these are even remotely similar to each other in terms of their moves. They all have their own choice of weapons, companions, and yes, even the type of magic they use.
Each boss is literally that, a boss fight. They don’t feel repetitive or reskinned, and each one is a fun and unique challenge that is extremely entertaining to overcome. Some are hard hitters that stun can stun you, others have powerful multi-hit combos, some use ranged weapons to snipe you from afar, while others completely alter the arenas they are in and make it difficult for you to even move around.
Some of these bosses can be found in enemy settlements guarding valuable loot, while others can be found patrolling the world alone or with a group of allies. And while encountering them simply by exploring the world is really fun and rewarding, expecting players to exclusively stumble across them by chance is also a bit counterproductive. Thankfully then, the game also gives players the ability to track them down with the use of Blood Altars.
These are structures that can be built in your base and then used to hunt down bosses using the scent of their blood. The game doesn’t really point the targets out on the world map, but a prompt does appear in-game that leads you directly to them. Hunting all of these bosses is necessary not only for the abilities they give but also because they unlock new structures and recipes that can help you get stronger. It’s literally impossible to get ahead in the game without killing bosses.
In order to establish a base in V Rising, players first have to construct a Castle Heart. Once you put one of these down in any suitable location, you can then allocate blocks around it as your territory. Once that’s done, territory blocks can then have walls and floors built on top of them. You can also place any other structures you want on these territory blocks, and only on top of these.
Now the Castle Heart is not only the literal core of your base, it’s actually the structure that provides power to all of your crafting stations and lets them perform their functions properly. So keeping it fed with Blood Essence, a resource that is dropped by all living creatures in the game, is necessary to keep your base functioning. And unlike a traditional power system, all structures within your territory are immediately powered. It’s not necessary to power them individually, which is extremely convenient.
This process is also necessary to prevent the deterioration of your base. So players who log in regularly and keep their Castle Hearts fed with Blood Essence will manage to keep their bases standing, while those that ignore doing this will eventually lose their castles. This is necessary to ensure that players who have stopped playing the game cannot put up structures in key locations and then disappear from the servers altogether. The natural degradation of the structures ensures that absentee players lose their territory, and the space opens up for others to utilize.
You can establish a simple wooden base quickly within an hour or two of starting the game, and it serves its purpose as a rudimentary shelter for the time. It doesn’t protect you from the sunlight, however, as there is no roof available to put on it, and the only way to truly secure it is to build another structure called the ‘Mist Brazier,’ which has to be fed with Bones in order to blot out the sun.
And while all of that is great to start with, it should be said that building a proper stone castle can be an extremely repetitive task. You have to mine hundreds of stone nodes and chop down hundreds of trees in order to get the required raw materials to then process into Bricks and Planks. And gathering these materials isn’t actually the time-consuming part, it’s the processing itself that’s the issue.
It takes around 30 seconds for the relevant crafting stations to pump out one single unit of these construction materials, and you require hundreds to be able to build a decently sized castle. I spent close to 10 hours waiting for the machines to create the materials to build my perfect base, and I hadn’t even gotten to decorating the interior yet. I actually do enjoy resource gathering, but this game simply requires too much grinding at the start. I hope that the developers cut down on the time it takes to process materials because everything else about base-building is still fun.
Later on in the game you can eventually delegate a lot of the grunt work to your servants, but it takes a long time to get to that point. And you’re more than likely to have already established your castle by that point.
Visuals And Performance
Now since V Rising is an Early Access title, it’s likely to be subject to a lot of changes in the coming months and even years. So keeping all that in mind, let’s discuss a few things about the visuals and performance
To start with, the game is visually impressive at first glance. There’s a decent level of detail present in the world, and everything from natural rock formations, manmade buildings, and even the forests looks really great. But after a while, you start to notice that while everything looks really pretty, the world also seems to be a bit lifeless. Everything feels a bit too uniform, and there are really no unique locations to visit on the map.
During your first 15 or so hours with the game, you’re likely to be stuck in the first two areas of the game, defeating bosses and acquiring blueprints to upgrade your gear score. And in this time you’re only going to encounter one forest after another until they all merge together in your head. The world is not procedurally generated, and yet it feels so unmemorable that I couldn’t even learn routes after dozens of hours of exploring a location. Things do start to change up later in the game, but not to the extent that I would classify it as a radical shift.
V Rising is a mixed bag in terms of performance as well. My PC managed to run the game at the High settings easily, but I still encountered constant stutters and freezes during my time with it. This issue was especially prominent inside my base, where I noticed a freezing issue whenever I used an ability or a weapon’s special attack. It’s a tiny thing, but it happened regularly enough that I started to notice a pattern. It’s much less common in the open world, but it did happen occasionally, especially when you are swarmed by a bunch of enemies.
Around half the times I tried to join a game, the severs kicked me out within 30 seconds of joining, citing a ‘Poor Connection.’ Sometimes I would join a game and then play for a few minutes without any issue, after which I would be booted again due to a ‘Poor Connection.’ I also noticed that in order to not have my connection dropped, I had to join a game and then not do anything for a solid 30 seconds in order to continue playing. So I stuck with this as a semi-reliable way to not get kicked out of my game regularly. It didn’t always work, but most times it did.
It’s a handful of weird login issues, and I’m sure they’ll be sorted in the coming weeks. But right now they’re a massive problem.
V Rising Verdict
V Rising is a phenomenal open-world survival game that sets the bar for how other Early Access games should strive to be going forward. It’s an incredibly polished game with combat that has been refined to near perfection.
It offers a tremendous amount of choice when it comes to build variety, and the sheer diversity of bosses available right now is well worth the entry price by themselves. It’s an incredible game that puts many of its peers to shame.
But V Rising is not a perfect game either. It still suffers from some problems that have plagued the survival genre for a long time, like the near endless grind of gathering resources. It also really has to improve its servers, because I had around a 50% chance of being dropped from a game within the first 30 seconds of joining it.
Overall though, it’s one of the few titles in Early Access that are worth picking up right now.
- Extremely Polished Gameplay.
- Phenomenal Boss fights.
- Great selection of Skills and Abilities.
- Server Issues.
- The world is a bit too bland.
- The early game grind.
V Rising Rating – 4/5
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