V Rising is a weird little game. It’s basically a vampire simulator, in the (pun intended) vein of an action-RPG, but it has a lot of survival elements in it. It’s an interesting formula but the actual results are a bit mixed, at least at the time of this writing.
For starters, V Rising is still in Early Access. It’s not like “Oh, the game is due out in two weeks but its content is locked” Early Access, no. The game is on version 0.5.41, where version 1.0 is generally considered the full version/game. As such, the game lacks some things, not so much in terms of content, but more story/plot.
The closest analogy is Hardspace: Shipbreaker. This game originally launched in Early Access on June 16, 2020, but its actual, full release date was May 24, 2022. So Hardspace was basically in Early Access for a hair under two years, with the developers providing updates. updating, occasionally resetting game progress, adding in stuff, etc. Hardspace’s basic framework has remained the same and I imagine the same will happen with V Rising, which is good because the core of the game is awesome. It just needs a little ironing first.
At first you create your own new vampire when you make a new game. It has a decent character creator to customize you with, although I imagine it will be a little more complete in the final game, like with traits positive/negative, or initially specialized in a certain way, at the beginning.
The crux of the actual game is that you woke up in a world where you are the last vampire. Your goal is to drink blood, build 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 has become popular again. And while it has that, it’s slightly limited. Like, you basically only have three melee skills and they are tied to your weapon quality. The base 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 weapons, swords, axes, spears and maces. Each has their strengths and weaknesses not just with combat but with the building part of the game. Axes, for example, have a basic three-hit combo, Frantic Move (second move), and finally X-Strike (final movement). It’s for the fight. However, axes are good for chopping down wood and provide a bonus when you need to chop down a tree.
While three melee skills seem limited, you have a lot more magic abilities you can access, once you’re ready. Initially, you only have a shadow bolt, meter, 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 really isn’t the traditional experience/leveling system. No, to get new abilities you need to find bosses in the game world, fight them, and then drain their blood, which gives you power with them.
This “drink blood, get cool abilities” thing also comes into play with actual vampire powers and ultimate abilities. Functionally, they work, more or less, the same as regular abilities. Ultimate abilities are just the most advanced form of regular abilities. Vampire powers are more utilitarian in nature, allowing you to shapeshift between different forms to allow you to travel faster, enter human settlements, or allow you to heal yourself and dominate the minds of others.
All of the above, actual Diablo-like gameplay is 40-50% of the actual game. The rest is survival/building mechanics.
After waking up from the starting crypt and escaping from it, one of the first tasks you have is to start your castle. Basically, you need to find a suitable area, create a “castle heart” and start the settlement process. It’s not really that easy though, I’ll get to that a bit later, but a lot of the initial crafting systems are a bit obtuse.
Once you actually have a small area to yourselves, it becomes a bit of a standard fairground. For example, you only initially have bone armour/weapons that you crafted while escaping the crypt. To level up, reinforced bone armor/weapons you need to build a workbench, but you will need 30 stone and 20 wood. (These numbers are examples only and not representative of actual in-game quantities). With upgraded weapons, you can chop down more trees, so you can build a sawmill, which lets you turn wood into planks. Now that you have planks, you can build an oven, which allows you to upgrade your weapons, etc. etc etc This is the usual type of tech tree for these types of games, like Minecraft or Terraria.
Rising gives you some pretty basic, yet simple objectives to guide you through. It’s really not perfect, but it helps, in general terms, to know what you should do next.
This whole building/castle system makes up most of the rest of the game. weaving, tombs and reserves for your resources, etc.
Honestly, what I really like about this game is that it really feels like a vampire simulator, much closer than any game in recent memory. There is a 22 hour cycle with 8 hours of daylight and 14 hours of darkness. During the night you can walk around at your leisure, but during the day you have to be very careful of the sun. If you spend more than a few seconds in it, you will start taking damage and it will increase exponentially with every second of exposure. Going into the shade stops the damage, but there’s sun movement and clouds to consider. You can’t stay in a shady place for 8 hours (like 5 or 6 minutes in real time) because the shadows will move and the light will find you. You can hang out in your settlement, under crafted objects to block the sun, or just hang out in your coffin until it’s safe.
Blood quality is also a major part of this game. You can drink the blood of many things in the game, from animals to people. There are six basic blood types: Creature, Worker, Scholar, Brute, Warrior, and Thief. Each also has five different quality levels which also allow for more passive bonuses. Warrior’s Blood has increased weapon damage and lowered skills while Worker’s Blood provides bonuses to resource gathering. You need to drink blood regularly, which requires feeding on living things or filling up the blood drive that you can take with you.
By far the biggest problem with the game right now is that it’s almost entirely a survival game. There is literally no story, flavor text, NPCs, etc. There’s a lot to fight, but other than that it’s pretty empty. I like a game to have a story, and aside from the fact that a story doesn’t mesh well with survival games, being in early access means it mostly doesn’t have it not.
The fact that you basically have to create a server, whether private or public, reinforces my belief that I doubt single player is actually a major focus of the game. I’d like someone to prove me wrong , so I guess we’ll see.
In my mind, the person who wakes you from your sleep could be your last servant. 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 that eventually, but that was my initial problem with it.
Do you remember I said that placing Castle Heart was an arduous bidding process? Yeah, that’s something a minion could help. They might say “Oh, I already chose this field to start with, to understand the basics, then later you can create your own.” As it stands, when you’re told to start your castle, you’re basically in the middle of the woods with almost no suitable area to start. With enough wandering, you can find real areas to create, but it seems oddly unfair. There are only two initial spawn locations, so it’s not like the game can’t walk you around a bit and say “Hey, stay close to here, and you can claim this spawn area.” It would be a bit helpful.
Another annoying issue is the way the game has teleporters. Your character moves quite slowly, so moving around the map, via teleportation, seems to help speed up the process. However, you cannot teleport while holding resources. So, functionally, it’s useless. You are ALWAYS carrying resources, unless you just died and had to run a dead body to get your stuff off your body. Apparently this is an actual design decision they made and not an annoying oversight, but if so, you should be able to craft single-use teleport items to return to your castle and drop off all your belongings.
There are other less annoying issues to consider as well. Sleeping in your coffin during the day can be a way to pass the time, but the second you sleep your whole HUD goes away, even the clock. So you have to keep going outside just to see what time it is, then quickly go back inside if your coffin is in direct sunlight. Or another annoying problem is that you can carry hundreds of one type of item at once, while you can only carry stacks of 20 of another, so if you need a lot of the second, it will quickly fill your inventory.