What do you get when you cross the combat mechanics of Diablo, the survival and crafting mechanics of Valheim and just a garnishing of vampires? If your guess was one of the hottest early access games of the year thus far in V Rising from independent studio Stunlock Studios, you’d be spot on (and a liar, because there’s no way you saw this coming).
V Rising has truly blown the gates wide open in its opening week, amassing over 500,000 sales and 100,000 concurrent players at its peak, which continues to grow as the days go by.The gothic-themed blend of top-down ARPG and survival has been a addition to the mix-match of genres it slots into, and has been overwhelmingly positively received by its hundreds of thousand of players.
V Rising has all the ‘traditional’ tropes you’d expect from a modern survival game experience, with a balance of resource collection, crafting, combat and day/night cycles, but, you also have to juggle with the fundamental selling point of the game: you’re a vampire!
One of the best adjustments to the typical survival game formula is the way in which V Rising handles hunger. Rather than waiting aimlessly around for your meat to cook, or maintaining a poorly organised farm (I still feel sorry for the poor animals who had to live in my Stardew Valley farm), you instead drink the blood of your weakened victims/prey, because you know… vampires! Heightening this, each enemy has different blood-types with unique qualities about them, granting various bonuses such as speed boosts or increased health regeneration. For someone who generally gets light-headed at the thought of blood, I never would have imagined the concept of plasma quality mattering so much to me, but here we are!
The actual act of quenching your vampiric bloodthirst also presents itself in a much more enjoyable and fun format that has some-what irked me with other survival games, in which I’d always neglect to bring enough food. As the primary focus of the game revolves around its combat, you’re prompted with the option to feed on your enemies once their health drops below a certain threshold dependent on the enemy type. The game actively encourages you to engage in combat if you want to get health back, and as someone who loves a good hack/slash experience, I’m completely on board with this!
Another fun twist from traditional survival tropes is how the game handles its unique day and night cycles. In other survival experiences, night-time is classified as the more ‘dangerous’ time to explore and adventure, as this is when all the dangerous monsters roam, but fan fact; we’re playing as said monsters.
It’s actually during the day that the player is at their most vulnerable, as you have to navigate your way through the shadows of nearby forests, staying out of the harsh rays of sunlight that will burn you to a crisp (unlike everything my sister shared with me growing up from her Twilight-phase, I don’t in-fact sparkle in the daylight). I found myself laughing at my own stupidity when I burst into flames for the first time, as I realised I’d successfully de-forested any form of shade around my newly established home. It was a cruel and brutal fate, but I was responsible for this and had to live with my poor decision-making.
Day-time is meant to be a lot more methodical, structured and generally difficult if you want to explore. You can’t just wildly roam around and do as you please, and if you haven’t managed your time effectively enough, you’ll get caught out which makes the experience that much more enjoyable. If this methodical approach to the day-time isn’t for you though, you can of course build up your castle and stow away a nice snug coffin to sleep through the day in. How have I gotten this far without mentioning base-building!?
Establishing and building out your (in my case) poorly laid out castle/base is what makes this top-down experience feel truly unique. Once the literal heart of your castle is established and you’ve deposited enough blood essence (it’s just as cool as it sounds) , this is where you’ll fall into the survival loop of collecting resources, crafting your gear/gathering tools, upgrading your castle and then setting out to collect better resources, to then continue upgrading your gear, to further upgrade and fortify your castle (which admittedly from my small sample size is a lot more fun in co-op or PVP modes).
There’s an extra added layer of stress in this building–process if you decide to play V Rising in PVP mode, as other online players can raid your castle at any point, which has made for some incredibly rewarding and frustrating vampiric bloodbaths (I’ve also fallen victim one too many times to unintended jump scares as other players pop out of their coffins unexpectedly while I stealthily tried to raid their castles). The only thing missing from this PvP experience is the option to hurl garlic at my vampire counterparts from a cowardly distance, but I’m sure they’ll add that in by the time of full release (and I expect full credit for this idea).
You don’t just have to fight other players of course, as PVE modes are just as rewarding, especially if you can band together with a few of your friends and take on the vast and expansive world of Vardoran and all it has to throw at you, which for a game only just entering the early-access program, has quite a lot to throw at you.
Combat within V Rising is as smooth and fluid as you could hope from an ARPG, and there’s a diverse set of mobs and ‘boss-type’ enemies to take down and unlock unique vampiric abilities. I haven’t quite delved deep enough into the game yet to have an expansive understanding of the ‘meta’ of weapons, nor have I unlocked all of the unlock-able vampiric abilities, but from the small sample size I’ve experienced, I genuinely cannot wait to unlock everything. There have been some complaints regarding a lack of end-game content, which Stunlock Studios have already announced is being worked on, alongside an offline only mode (rather than current ‘private server’ you have to set up for solo play).
At the time of writing, I’m closing in on 20 hours of gameplay thus far (primarily in single-player in fear of my beloved castle being ransacked), but I genuinely cannot wait to dive into more. For those who perhaps have fallen off the trend of Lost ark and were keen to scratch their ARPG itches, or for those who simply wanted to dive head-first into yet another early-access survival game, V Rising truly offers an abundance of fun, new and exciting gameplay experiences for solo, co-op or PvP players, and I couldn’t recommend it more – it’s truly a game worth sinking your teeth into!