The coolest thing about V Rising is the way sunlight works. During the night you’re free to travel anywhere you want, hunting humans and creatures and collecting resources to develop your gothic castle base of operations, but during the day you’re vulnerable. If you stand in direct sunlight for even a few seconds you’ll take lethal damage, so you’re forced to stick to the shade under trees. Traveling only gets harder as the sun rises in the sky, making the shadows smaller and harder to find. Day/Night cycles always have a big impact on gameplay on survival games, but here it feels especially palpable. V Rising leaves its mark on the survival/crafting genre with a lot of clever ideas, but it’s too soon to tell what kind of lasting appeal it will have.
Case in point: I’m ten hours in and I’m already over the whole sunlight thing. Where at first it presented interesting challenges that forced me to use my time wisely and plan when/where I go, It eventually started to feel like nothing more than an annoying hindrance on a timer. The problem is that – as far as I can tell – there’s no way to overcome or outgrow the sunlight issue, which is the promise of a survival/crafting game. So far I’ve managed to craft a cloak that increases the time it takes to start burning when I step into sunlight by 15 percent, but that doesn’t really change my relationship with sunlight or make me feel like I’ve progressed past it being a problem. Looking at V Rising as a whole, that’s been my general sentiment for all of its many pain points.
Let me back up a bit. V Rising is as much of a survival/crafting game as it is an action RPG. Your goal is to build and expand a castle by collecting resources and taking on bosses of ever-increasing difficulty. Every boss you eliminate will reward you with new combat abilities and blueprints you can take back to your castle and use to improve your base. In the early game you’ll start by crafting a workbench for making weapons and tools, a coffin to sleep in and respawn from, devices that produce mist to protect you from sunlight while inside your base, and all the machines you need for rendering wood into planks, copper into ingots, hide into leather, and blood into fuel.
The basic resources – wood, copper, bones, grass, and blood – are easy to come by. Wander around your base for a few minutes killing NPCs, chopping trees, and mining nodes and you’ll return with a healthy supply of mats. In order to earn new blueprints and progress, you’ll need to venture out to find V Rising’s many boss enemies, which means going for a long walk. A long, long walk.
This is essentially the core loop of the game. First you select a boss, then you follow its scent across the giant map until you find it. The scent will lead you in a straight line towards the enemy, but you can’t travel that way. V Rising is technically an open world game, but you're forced to travel along narrow roads to and from your castle anytime you venture out. This means lots of walking back and forth along familiar paths, and not much else. Leave your base, walk for five to ten minutes, kill a boss, walk back to your base, repeat. Eventually you’ll learn to transform into a wolf to travel faster, then you’ll be able to ride horses to travel even faster, but the exercise never changes. Even when you learn how to craft a teleporter that lets you tap into a network of teleporters throughout the map you’ll still be limited, as your inventory can’t teleport with you. The vast majority of the game – at least what I’ve seen so far – is just walking back and forth from your castle to a boss.
Luckily, the boss fights themselves are great. Combat is fast, flashy, and Diablo-like. Most abilities are skill shots that work on cooldown, but they don’t require managing a stamina or mana resource, so you can stay in a fight for as long as you’re healthy. The abilities are quite varied, from long range AOE attacks you want to trap enemies in, to dash attacks that offer powerful follow ups if your aim is right. The dozen or so bosses I’ve encountered all had unique attack patterns that made the fights feel different and challenging, especially if I was underleveled.
As a vampire, you have the opportunity to drink from your enemies once their health is low enough. Every NPC has a different blood quality that will provide unique stat bonuses based on their class. Crossbow-wielding rogue vampire hunters will decrease the cooldown of your dodge while armored soldiers will increase your defense. It’s a fun way to add vampire flavor, but all you can really do is take whatever random buffs come to you. You shouldn’t worry too much about your buffs either, because they’ll get replaced every time you feed, and you need to feed frequently in order to keep your hunger satiated.
There’s lots of vampire goodness to be found beyond blood-drinking and sun-hiding. You’ll eventually learn how to enthrall enemies and convert them into faithful followers in an Ark-like taming process that can take multiple real-world hours. Your castle can also be fitted with appropriately monstrous machines, like a Mimic chest that turns your old gear into useful mats and a graveyard that produces an endless supply of bone-filled skeletons to slay. You’ll gain multiple creatures you can transform into, including a human form that can help you sneak through dangerous camps. I suspect you can eventually turn into a bat and fly across the map, which would alleviate but not eliminate my concerns..
V Rising is a great twist on the genre that has a lot of potential, even if the early access preview didn’t exactly hook me. Playing with friends is seamless and straightforward thanks to a simple clan system. I can already tell that, like most survival/crafting games, the opportunity for griefing is massive, even on non-PvP servers, because of the way base-building works. Castles don’t decay until they’ve been unattended for an entire week, so I recommend either playing on a low-population server or just accept the risks and rewards of PvP. Personally, I’m hoping dedicated servers become available eventually.
Early Access for V Rising started today, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on how things develop over time. As much as I enjoy the theme, the combat, and good old gathering-crafting loop, I found too much of my time was spent following the same roads out to a boss, slaying it, then walking all the way back. The map is necessarily large so that everyone on the server can spread out and claim their own little space for their base, but right now the level design is to the detriment of my time and patience. If you’re planning on diving in, maybe prep an audio book for those long journeys through the forest, just in case.
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