June 17, 2024
Layered with deep and complex mechanics, V Rising provides a platform to become the vampire of your nightmares. The Finger Guns review:

When it comes to survival games, I’ve been around the block a handful of times. Regarding action RPGs brimming with abilities, loot and weapons to tinker with, I’ve had a fair bit of experience. As pertains to base building, I’ve done my time. Usually, each of these would be handled as their own dedicated, singular experience in their genre. Not so with V Rising.

From the minds of Stunlock Studios arises a vampire experience probably like no other. In fact, it probably provides one of the most all-rounded and complete experiences when it comes to the vampirical fantasy. Its complexity and depth can at times run aground of needless waiting time and the odd technical issue, but overall, this is a spectacular achievement in how to develop a multi-faceted survival game.

So, awake from your slumber and venture forth from your coffin. There’s a world begging to be explored in V Rising, and only your vampire has the means to cleave a path through it.

V For Vantastic

Emerging from your crypt, you’ll venture out into V Rising’s world either through a private server or on a public one. I played predominantly solo and I can vouch for it not only being possible, but a worthwhile experience in and of its own right. Playing with up to dozens of others on the same world map however? Well, that ups the ante a considerable amount.

You can select and mix between PvE or PvP-focused worlds, providing options for those who prefer a solitary vampire journey or enjoy the melody of blood harvesting with others. Should you wish to, you can even partake in sieging and raiding other’s castles, as well as your own. I value my loot too much for that, but more cold-hearted creatures can take warmth from its existence.

So plenty of options, but what is V Rising exactly? It can be nailed down into three core elements: world traversal for combat and survival-orientated resource gathering, base building for creating your own blood-funded castle, and RPG customisation for weapons, abilities and progression. To say there’s a lot of mechanics to get your veined neck around would be an understatement.

But does it work? You bet it does. The tutorialised objectives guide you on the right path of how to build on each component, slowly developing your repertoire of knowledge. Moreover, V Rising encourages exploration and experimentation in most of its elements. You can tinker your world with an abundance of sliders to make the game downright sadistic or a relatively pleasant stroll, with everything in between.

V Rising review

Preferred Blood Type? Red

Let’s start with world exploration and the survival mechanics first. In order to survive this exceedingly hostile world, your created vampire will need all manner of resources. From basics like wood, stone and hides to exotic materials like grave dust or gems and even tailoring materials like cloth, you’ll be constantly sourcing items throughout the land.

These materials are used for base building, developing equipment, completing progression objectives and allow you to level up. Your vampire’s level is attributed to your combined gear strength rather than XP, so collecting, refining and developing is key to expanding your influence. Moreover, there are multiple biomes to explore, each with unique enemy types, bosses, areas and locations to uncover.

Discovery becomes a massive part of V Rising’s appeal as a result. It’s similar to titles like Don’t Starve, where much of my early time was spent simply trying to understand it all. You can venture into any biome from the off, but be warned, those silver bullets aren’t for the unprepared. You also need blood to survive, ’cause you’re a vampire. Leave necks unscathed for too long, and you’ll perish.

The survival elements are limited largely to blood supply which is bountiful, thanks to the abundance of people to snare. However, this allows V Rising to focus on providing you the means to carve a path through the world. I found myself losing hours at a time going off on the next excursion for resources, or stumbling onto a V Blood (boss), or getting lost mining ore from a cavern.

V Rising’s world is diverse and a joy to explore, making it easy to get lost in. Far too easy.

Welcome To My Castlevania

What does a lowly vampire do with all of these accrued resources you might ask? Erect a castle grand enough to make a royal family appear positively peasantry, of course. Across the map are various large areas where you can place a castle heart, funded with what else but the fluid produce of one’s heart. From there, you can build away.

Lay foundations, throw up walls, decorate with gargoyles, establish blue-hued braziers, you name it, you can do it. Not only for aesthetics, however, V Rising also incentivises castle construction because you’ll need production facilities like the sawmill to refine resources. Want to do some alchemy? Build a dedicated room. Need some weapons? Smithy will serve that.

Once again, the options for both function and form are seemingly never-ending. It’s rare I ever spend any time making a structure look pleasing in a game. In something like Fallout 4, I’d dump whatever was needed wherever it fitted, even if it meant a staircase in front of a door. When I moved my castle for the first time here, I spent an hour figuring out the best configuration, setting up a balcony, I even had a garden.

There’s no external motivation for the look of the castle, but it’s just so pleasing and the options are so expansive. The interface can be fiddly and awkward when you’re doing a lot of building at once, but for console controls it’s surprisingly functional. If you have the time and the inclination, you’ll be able to create some incredible pantheons. Even with my feeble imagination, I created a semi-intimidating hallowed shrine of blood, so that’s something.

V Rising review

One Thirsty Bloodsucker

Of course, if V Rising was simply a survival base building game it would be… well actually, pretty damn excellent. However, it also has combat similar to an action RPG like Diablo. Seriously, this game is a child amalgamation of Diablo, Minecraft, Don’t Starve and Animal Crossing. There are foes of all types lurking across the reaches of your vampire’s new territory, so you need to mark it.

Progression to the “end” of the game requires you to defeat and extract the red liquid of V Bloods. Each set is harder than the last. Extracting the blood of each provides access to new abilities, building options, recipes and cosmetic items. See the loop developing? Gather resources, improve equipment, kill higher V Blood, rinse, repeat. I’ve simplified it a lot, but it’s incredibly compelling.

There are a variety of skill trees, ranging from undead to flame, to ice and every other element. Your vampire mix their dash, two core abilities and their ultimate from any tree. Often, you’ll need to mix up your set in order to maximise your potential against a V Blood or even regular enemies. Coming up against a light-orientated archer who summons reinforcements? Throw on the undead build and get your army of skeletons to match them.

The challenge that comes from taking on higher level V Bloods gradually develops over time, creating a fun difficulty curve. Moreover, there are various rifts and other activities that spawn across the map to engage with. Did I mention you can also morph into a wolf, bear, or rat? You can also take prisoners to harvest for blood. The gameplay options are so wide the Hubble telescope would struggle to capture it.

V Rising review

You Disturb My Eternal Rest?

Fundamentally, V Rising is very fun to play. Combat is deceptively fleshed out and the dance of avoiding so many attacks while trying to land your own feels good. Some encounters do rely on AoEs or reinforcements that can feel cheap, but this is likely allayed through co-op (and proper builds). As mentioned before, the console controls achieve a great deal with limited real estate, but managing the camera and using R2 + L1 mid-combat are tricky at best, overly crowded at worst.

Having said that, Stunlock Studios have performed some blood magic in squeezing so much onto a controller setup, they should be applauded. Speaking of minor issues, towards the middle-late game segments, the time required to refine higher level materials can drag. There were periods I’d sit in the castle, just waiting for that last resource to refine.

Of course, I could have ventured out to gather other things in the meantime. However, if I have an abundance of everything from before, and there’s no XP to gain, there’s little incentive to do so. As such, there can be some drawn-out sequences of downtime. They were relatively infrequent, as I’d use those opportunities to adorn my castle with more gothic splendour, but it’s worth noting.

The other slight pain in the neck (aside from the bite marks), was that my avatar was prone to getting caught on things. Right in the middle of a fight against a dozen heavily armoured bandits or a particularly gregarious fisherman is not the time for it either. Technically, V Rising holds up extremely well other than this, so it’s a relatively small price to pay for a solid framerate and smooth experience.

V Rising review

Coffin Up The Good Stuff

I really do want to stress the minor nature of these issues, however. In the grand scheme of what is a massive, sprawling, bombastic vampire game, they’re paler than Dracula himself. Wandering through your grand gothic halls you spent hours configuring or lording over your servants you’ve devotedly equipped to do your bidding trumps any insignificant problem.

Moreover, play on a server with dozens of other sun-adverse creatures and you have a cauldron boiling over with alchemical possibilities. V Rising is the kind of game people lose hundreds of hours to. The type where you build a community and fulfil those childhood nightmares of night-time hunts. You’re both vulnerable and powerful within this world, which makes it all the more compelling.

To create a solid set of mechanics for just one of these genres alone is an achievement. To create excellent systems for all of them, in one game, that actually runs and realises the vampire dream as well? That’s sorcery. Stunlock Studios and the developers have created one of this year’s best survival action games. Never mind vendettas, there are bloodless alliances to forge and spectacular castles to create.

Baring an incredible set of fangs, V Rising successfully coagulates the blood of multiple genres into a massively compelling, rich and satisfying vampire survival title. Morph into a wolf as you build your gothic fortress, venture out on challenging hunts and team up with or decimate your fellow vampires in a stellar time-sink of a game. Not many vampires can rival Dracula for his throne, but V Rising just might.

V Rising is available now on PC and PlayStation 5 (review platform).

Developer: Stunlock Studios
Publisher: Stunlock Studios

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

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