Review: V Rising (PS5) - Addictive Vampire RPG Is a Slightly Awkward Fit on Console (2024)

Already a hit on PC through early access, V Rising emerges on PS5 as it enters version 1.0. This is an isometric action RPG not unlike Diablo, but instead of focusing on loot, this blood-sucking adventure emphasises crafting and building. It's an enjoyable blend of genres, but it's fair to say that the game struggles to show its true worth until you're hours and hours into a save.

Awakening in a dusty old crypt centuries after your kind was driven from the lands of men, you're a vampire who must once again establish dominance over humanity. This means having to start from the bottom of the food chain, gradually regaining your vampiric powers as you construct your very own castle, and begin terrorising the locals.

But long before you can erect a fortress befitting a vampire lord, you've got to grind your way through a lot of menial labour. Cutting down trees, smashing rocks — the usual busywork that we associate with survival crafting titles. Even an undead tyrant has to start somewhere, we suppose, but at least V Rising gives you clear-cut goals to strive for. Early on, the game does a good job of easing you into its crafting system, pointing you towards specific resources and hammering home the basics.

Once you've got a base up and running in a location of your choosing, the real V Rising begins. The game takes place in a fairly large open world, and scattered across the map are over 50 bearers of 'V Blood' — a particularly potent type of the red stuff that, when consumed, should unlock your vampiric potential. These bearers are essentially boss enemies, and ultimately, you're tasked with slaughtering every single one of them.

However, you can't just go charging across the map, laying waste to everyone and everything from the word go. Your combat prowess is determined by the weapons and armour that you have equipped, and so your progression is gated by how high level your next opponent is. Fortunately, there's a handy V Blood menu that lists all of the bosses and their respective strength, so you always know what you're up against in terms of raw stats.

In order to equip yourself with stronger gear, you need to get crafting. And in order to upgrade your crafting, you need to get building — and so V Rising's gameplay loop reveals itself. You explore, you gather resources, you build, you craft, you kill, and then the cycle repeats, as you venture into increasingly dangerous territories.

Besting bosses nets you skill points that can be used to learn spells from various schools of vampiric magic, and this is where character builds start coming into play. But early on, your options are rather limited, and combat can be quite samey as a result. Again, it takes some time for V Rising to really open up in terms of gameplay potential — and less patient players might be turned off by those early hours, where it can feel like you're doing a lot of grinding for very little reward.

But if you can embrace that grind, the game does blossom into a very addictive adventure. When you're operating from the candlelit halls of your very own castle, and you're able to call upon devastating combat abilities, V Rising is engrossing — especially if you're into the whole vampire aesthetic.

The boss fights get more and more intense as well. There's some great encounter design here, and things can get devilishly tricky if you're not paying attention. Unique mechanics and movesets make most boss battles feel like an event, and that's impressive when there are over 50 of them to find.

Combat as a whole is punchy and largely satisfying. On PS5, your ability bar gives you access to an all-important dodge and two cooldown-based skills, as well as an ultimate attack that unlocks later on. Each move is tied to a specific button, which is perfect, but the control scheme — which can't be fully customised at launch — does get a bit convoluted when additional weapon-based abilities are introduced.

Suddenly, you're looking at slightly awkward button combinations for specific attacks, like holding L2 and pressing R1 — with both of those inputs already having their own uses outside of battle. You'll obviously grow familiar with the controls as you spend more and more time playing, but even midway through the game, we were still having to actively think about where our fingers were headed.

To make matters worse, actually aiming your ranged attacks feels finicky on a controller. You use the right stick to point your character in the direction of their target, but the sensitivity is unnecessarily twitchy, to the point where you can mistakenly spin your antihero off to one side. That's not ideal in the heat of a difficult skirmish.

But these complaints aren't dealbreakers in the grand scheme of things. It's abundantly clear that V Rising was built as a PC release, and to be fair to developer Stunlock Studios, it has done well to get everything tied down on a controller. We're sure that post-launch updates will address many of these criticisms.

You can play V Rising online, by the way, either in co-op or competitively. The game's great as a solo experience, but teaming up with a friend or two brings an interesting dynamic, as you create something of a vampiric empire. Meanwhile, going against other players is intriguing for entirely different reasons. You have to start thinking about protecting your castle against invaders, and potentially being ambushed as you go about your business. In truth, competitive play can quickly turn V Rising into a back-and-forth slog, but it's a hardcore option for those who don't mind the inevitable chaos.

Whether you're playing alone or online, the first thing you have to do is set up your server — and there are some welcome settings to play with here. For starters, you can customise the game's difficulty to an impressive degree, tweaking things like damage values. You can even make it so resource gathering is less of a chore, by increasing item yield across the board. For what it's worth, we think the default values are fine, but we'd totally understand if you want to bypass the grind as much as possible.

Conclusion

V Rising is a devilishly addictive action RPG — but only once you've worked through the game's fairly tedious first act. Getting your castle up and running takes time and patience, but if you can embrace the grind, you'll discover a dynamic open world that's full of interesting ideas and satisfying gameplay loops.

Review: V Rising (PS5) - Addictive Vampire RPG Is a Slightly Awkward Fit on Console (2024)

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