V Rising

V Rising

Stunlock has been hard at work on their vampire game for some time, and now the game is leaving Early Access.

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If you mix Diablo with Minecraft, you get something along the lines of V Rising. Something that can be described as an isometric action-RPG with survival elements. A fun combat system mixed with a deep building system, topped with gothic vampire mythology, makes for a pretty solid game that stands out from the crowd, but it also tends to feel sluggish and at times reminiscent of slightly annoying game mechanics from a mobile game. After two years in Early Access, we were given access to the game's beta prior to the launch of the full version.

As a vampire, you awaken from 100 years of hibernation and must rebuild your kingdom and spread your dark wings across the land. Aside from a short intro sequence, the game starts off hard and fast. You start by smashing a few skeletons with your claws, picking up their bones and constructing your first sword from the bone fragments. It's at this point that it becomes clear that although it looks like a game like Diablo, there's something completely different at the core of V Rising. There's no loot, no dungeon runs to find better equipment. Instead, your vampire is a craftsman who can build an entire castle with his anaemic hands.

V Rising
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As such, there is no major story presented. Mostly because the game is intended to be played on servers with up to 40 other players who can either work together or fight each other. There are a number of bosses placed around the map and these are organised in an act structure, act 1, 2 and 3, which can take the form of the story. Basically, it's a ranking of their level and difficulty, but it would have been nice to have them presented with a little more context. Also, all these bosses respawn after a while, so if other players have already defeated them, it doesn't mean they're gone.

Playing in beta, we haven't experienced what all of this looks like on a full server, and to maximise my immersion in the game's rather extensive building system, I chose to play alone much of the time to avoid being attacked by more experienced vampire lords who want to loot me and burn down my little castle.

I struggled a bit with whether to describe the game as a building/survival simulator with action-RPG elements or an action role-playing game with elements of a building/survival simulator. When you're out hunting monsters or looking for a victim to suck blood out of, it's mostly a fairly engaging action-RPG, but before long you'll find yourself more of a Dracula craftsman deep in resource management. The two different basic elements of the game are both to its advantage and disadvantage.

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The resource and building system is pretty good, surprisingly flexible and in-depth. The RPG elements feel a little thinner, but the battles themselves are frantic and fun. It's the transition between the two that can often work against each other in terms of fun-factor. Maybe you've just been in an adrenaline-fuelled fight with a boss that you can't defeat, so you go home to your ever-growing castle to upgrade your sword, only to find that you can't because you lack refined copper. Okay, so you have to make some refined copper, but before you can do that you obviously need some copper, and you also need some wood that needs to be sanded into planks, etc. It's not that it's bad in itself, but you might not be able to play construction engineer when you're too busy trying to defeat the monster in the woods.

There is a rather unique synergy between the two main elements of the game. Instead of collecting experience points to become stronger, you need to gather resources to expand your castle - later maybe an entire kingdom - and get better equipment. Your level in relation to bosses should mainly be seen in the context of the level of your gear. This doesn't mean that you can't build up your character, but instead of experience points, this is done by drinking the blood of other creatures. You can drink the blood of anything from a small rat to a large monster, and depending on what you last drained, you get bonuses. If you defeat a boss and drink its blood, you can gain new magical abilities that are permanent.

The interplay of building your kingdom and going out for new and better blood works pretty well. The basic systems seem rock solid and well thought out, but it can also be very hard to dance with. Putting resources into one machine to make something that you have to put into another machine to finally build what you want requires you to take your time. V Rising is not a game that you just jump into for 15 minutes and hack and stab some monsters. I was getting tired of constantly getting killed because my gear wasn't strong enough just as I was heading out to find the resources to upgrade that same gear. Also, everything you have on you when you die - except your weapons - is left at the scene of the crime, so you have to trot back to grab everything you've just spent time collecting. It's not that it's bad at all, it's just very cumbersome and often takes the wind out of an otherwise good combat system. I don't know how else the balance could have been struck or if it should be different at all, but this is a game with more hammering and pounding than chopping and stabbing.

V Rising

However, it should be said that you can construct your game session as you like, almost in every parameter. You can set how much you can carry, how many resources you harvest from things and how much damage you give and take by setting a multiplier. You can also set how many other players can be on the server and whether they can attack each other. So there is plenty of opportunity to fine-tune your experience. The problem is that it can feel a bit like cheat codes and distort the difficulty level that the game is clearly meant to have. As I said, I played mostly alone in this beta, but V Rising is designed from the ground up to be played with others, both as friends and enemies, and I can easily imagine that building your castle and defeating enemies is fun - and a little easier - if you have a few friends along. The amount of options for how you can build is quite vast. The style is of course the classic Gothic horror style, but you can build your castle across multiple floors, decorate it, and you can seduce the villagers and make them your servants. The possibilities are endless and if you get a friend or two together, you're in for a great experience - if you're all armed with a little patience.

Finally, it's worth mentioning - bearing in mind that I haven't tested how the big multiplayer servers run - that the game is in excellent technical condition. I played it on Steam Deck on the highest graphics settings at 45 fps, and despite many small, slightly fiddly menus, the game is well adapted to the device.

I can easily recommend V Rising. It's well-constructed and designed throughout, but you have to go in knowing what the game is and isn't. While the combat is fun, it's not fun enough to keep you from being bored out of your mind if you have no interest in building and managing your castle. But if you want an action-RPG ala Diablo, where you can become the dark overlord and build your own kingdom, V Rising is the most obvious option.

08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
Solidly designed combat and building system. Charming gothic horror atmosphere.
Very little story and context to the world. The resource management and difficulty level make it a bit of a sluggish experience at times.
overall score
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REVIEW. Written by Jonathan Sørensen

Stunlock has been hard at work on their vampire game for some time, and now the game is leaving Early Access.

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