V Rising review - a wickedly deep, generous, and satisfying vampire fantasy (2024)

It starts with a bump, but played the right way, V Rising offers riches few other crafting survival games can match.

I struggled with V Rising to begin with. On a surface level, it sounded great: a vampire survival fantasy where you awaken after a centuries-long sleep to eat your way through a world. It has castle building, thematic survival systems like staying out of the sun and drinking people's blood, and you can transform into animals and wield magic. On top of that, it plays a bit like a Diablo or Hades. Great - I'm here for all of that. What I'm not here for - and what nearly staked my vampire fantasy in the heart before it began - is tedious resource gathering and crafting donkey work. I hacked trees and mined ore and carted them across maps, then I waited and waited for materials to process. It seemed every few steps of progress I made was interrupted by a grind I couldn't escape, and my enthusiasm drained like blood from a jugular because of it. A dozen or so hours in, I was nearly defeated.

But then it all changed. The unexpected catalyst was playing online on a player versus player server, which is not usually my kind of thing. Note, finding an online home can be hit and miss as there are so many servers, official and otherwise. I tried a PvE server first that was so short on space for building I was pushed into a perilous part of the world I kept dying trying to return to, which wasn't fun. But this PvP server was a miracle. Not only were the players uniformly helpful and informative, but the game itself was changed, the rules altered. Resources were gathered in double the quantities and their processing times were reduced. Limitations on teleporting while carrying materials were removed. All the things that had exacerbated my standard experience of V Rising were addressed. It was a revelation - the grind faded and the good stuff came forward. I wish I'd left the confines of my own private server - or tinkered with the rules there - earlier, because played this way V Rising is great.

In V Rising, as in many other crafting survival games, progression and base building are intertwined. The game uses a Gear Score system to determine your level, so your progression through the game depends on your ability to craft better equipment and raise that score, in order for you to take on increasingly difficult foes. However, you cannot freely make new kinds of equipment. Nearly always, the crafting capabilities you need are held by boss characters in the game, so in order to move on, you need to venture out into the world to defeat them. This is the core loop of the game: craft what you can and then seek out the bosses who have what you need to go further. Fortunately, this loop is also one of the star attractions in the game.

There are lots of bosses in the game - upwards of 50 - and even from the very beginning, they're stand-out encounters. They're fights that last minutes and involve special attack patterns, and they exude a really strong sense of character. There's some wonderful imagination on show. There are Van Helsing-like vampire hunters who swagger around the roads, pious priests and evil necromancers. But there are also fishermen who hit you with wet fishes, or plump tailors whose entire battle plan involves running away through a hostile encampment, forcing you to follow. It's not a terribly serious game, which I like, and which I think helps cultivate a kinder sense of community around the game, at least from my experience. I'm not used to seeing boss encounters this detailed in a crafting survival game, and I don't think I've come across a fight I haven't enjoyed. It's impressive, and it leads to a sense of excitement when setting out to track the next boss down.

V Rising review - a wickedly deep, generous, and satisfying vampire fantasy (2)
V Rising review - a wickedly deep, generous, and satisfying vampire fantasy (3)
V Rising review - a wickedly deep, generous, and satisfying vampire fantasy (4)

When you defeat a boss, you're prompted to drink their blood, and doing so gets you the crafting rewards you were after but also access to some magic. There are six schools of magic, each with their own cluster of abilities that, slowly, you'll unlock. The abilities are broadly the same across them, but each magic school has different background effects: Blood magic, for instance, has an inherent life-drain effect, whereas Unholy magic has the capability of summoning skeletons. Frost magic, meanwhile, can chill and freeze. So it's up to you what assortment you want to pack for the situation ahead. Couple that with weapon abilities, which are introduced with copper and then iron weaponry, and your loadout is more or less complete.

But you can't do everything at once. V Rising limits you to two standard spells, an ultimate and a dash, and two weapon abilities at one time, so there are only ever six things to actively think about, which I like. It keeps it manageable. The skill is in choosing what to use and then how to use it, and timing and aiming just right. It actually reminds me a lot of a MOBA game in play, in how you don't have heaps of things you can actively do but there's still a high capacity for skill in doing it. Also, the ability to freely swap your spell loadout around, and change weapons, means there's plenty of optional complexity there.

You can drink blood from characters other than bosses in the game. You can actually drink any creature's blood, barring skeletons and other undead (which don't have any, obviously). Every creature's blood has a purity score, a percentage, which ties into a passive system: as you drink blood with higher purities, higher tiers of the passive buff will unlock - and these can be very powerful. Exactly what the buffs are depends on blood type - rogue, warrior, creature, etc. - but at 90-plus percent purity, you can be doing 25 percent more damage, move 25 percent faster, and heal 25 percent more effectively. Find a very rare 100 percent purity enemy, and you can double that. What this means in practice is that as you explore the world, you'll begin developing a sixth sense for enemy blood purity, making beelines to enemy camps specifically for it. As the game opens up, purity becomes more important - to make stronger followers and for the NPCs you keep as prisoners, or snacks. It's an example of depth in V Rising that's not immediately apparent but dawns on you the longer you play.

V Rising review - a wickedly deep, generous, and satisfying vampire fantasy (5)
V Rising review - a wickedly deep, generous, and satisfying vampire fantasy (6)
V Rising review - a wickedly deep, generous, and satisfying vampire fantasy (7)
V Rising review - a wickedly deep, generous, and satisfying vampire fantasy (8)

The other side to V Rising is base building which, to begin with, feels a lot like other survival crafting games. There are crafting tables, leather tanneries, sawmills and forges - the kind of equipment you've probably used many times before. But it doesn't take long for V Rising to put its own distinctive stamp on it. The machines magically operate themselves, for starters, in a kind of Mickey Mouse Fantasia way. And though there are familiar machines, there are many unfamiliar ones too: Blood Presses and Altars and Coffins and Vermin Nests and Tombstones - constant, charismatic reminders of the fantasy you're in. Then, of course, there's your castle itself.

What I love is how you can't avoid building and decorating a castle - not that I'd imagine you'd want to. You need, because of the sun roasting you from overhead, a roof above you, and the only way to get a roof is by building stone walls and a stone floor. When the last piece is placed, a castle roof magically appears - it's a wonderful moment. But the game doesn't stop there. At the same time, it offers you a range of decorative options. In fact at every developmental milestone, such as unlocking copper manufacturing, more decorative options open up. So yes, now you can now make copper weaponry, which has an obvious function in the game, but you can also make candelabras to dot around the place, or paintings, so why not place a few while your weapons are processing?

V Rising is similarly shrewd in how it encourages expansion. As you progress through the developmental loops, the machines you need will increase in size, meaning you need more space. At the same time, the game introduces stairways and the option of multiple floors, meaning you now have both the means to expand and the incentive. Then it does the same with gardens. Before long, you'll find yourself in a multi-floored castle, complete with grounds, that you hadn't really intended to create. Not that this is a problem! A castle is a vital part of the vampire fantasy, and it's skilfully - and beautifully - realised here. I don't think I've seen a survival crafting game with so many decorative options. It's also helped by some wonderfully lenient usability features, such as the ability to freely move furniture and machines around, dismantle things for a full resource refund, and even - and I love this - the ability to wholesale relocate your base somewhere else. It speaks to a level of consideration and thought in V Rising evident across the game.

V Rising review - a wickedly deep, generous, and satisfying vampire fantasy (9)

You can really feel the two years it's spent in early access, both in the way its edges have been honed and in the amount of stuff that's here. Take the V Blood bosses for example: they're grouped together in acts in the game, and even though I'm a dozen hours in on a sped-up server, I'm still only in act two of four (hey, I effectively restarted a few times). It'll be a long time until I fight Dracula, who's right at the top. But it's not just quantity, it's quality. As I entered act two, for example, new complexities opened up. Acts roughly correspond to zones in the game, and the zone I'm in now has garlic hazards, which start out innocuous before quickly building to something deadly. It's a new thing to think about, a new puzzle to solve, and the game keeps presenting me with them: enemies are now more interesting, walking around in bigger groups and with more variety. Some of the V Blood bosses now even lead sorties against each other, which is a sight to see - and again, it presents its own challenge if caught in the middle of it. It's another example of depth and detail, and of a game showing me it still has a lot more to give.

It's a shame that V Rising got off to such a bumpy start because clearly, when the rules are tinkered with a bit, and it's played around other people, there's a delightful experience here to have. Why developer Stunlock didn't tweak the standard rules from the get-go, I don't know, because it is a grind out of the box. Then again, the ability to do so yourself is available from the start, so make sure you do. Or play online! It's an experience that lends itself really well to having other people to talk to while you play. Slight caveat: I did have all my (non-equipped) stuff stolen once because an NPC follower left my castle door open while I was away, and someone snuck in. Lesson learned. I haven't been raided yet, which is a plus. That's another puzzle for another day - I owe what I know already to EdwardTwilight on my server, who told me about it. Such a nice fellow.

V Rising is one of the most generous survival crafting games I have played, and at every turn, it finds a way to realise the vampire fantasy I came to it for. There's no escaping the inherent crafting and Gear Score grind present in it, of course, but there are ways to mitigate it - and there's enough imagination and depth throughout to sustain your interest in it. It's no wonder it's having a moment.

A copy of V Rising was provided for review by Stunlock Studios.

V Rising review - a wickedly deep, generous, and satisfying vampire fantasy (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Patricia Veum II

Last Updated:

Views: 6226

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (44 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Patricia Veum II

Birthday: 1994-12-16

Address: 2064 Little Summit, Goldieton, MS 97651-0862

Phone: +6873952696715

Job: Principal Officer

Hobby: Rafting, Cabaret, Candle making, Jigsaw puzzles, Inline skating, Magic, Graffiti

Introduction: My name is Patricia Veum II, I am a vast, combative, smiling, famous, inexpensive, zealous, sparkling person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.