V Rising early access review: Is it worth it?

. 28 days ago
V Rising screenshot showing combat on a bridge
Stunlock Studios

Stunlock’s Vampire survival sim has become a worldwide hit, but is V Rising worth it? Here are our thoughts on the current early access state of the game.

Call me old-fashioned, but survival games have never clicked for me. I like farming loot and levels like the best of them, but I’ve never been able to get into anything that requires farming. Maybe that’s because my first experience of ARK: Survival Evolved was with its woeful Switch port, or maybe it’s because for the most part I simply like being left alone, but it’d be fair to say that it’s a genre I just don’t get.

Still, after hearing such deafening buzz around Stunlock’s new blood-soaked Vampire survival title V Rising, I took a jump and exposed my neck – and now I just can’t stop feasting on it. V Rising is not only an incredibly polished survival game, but its moment-to-moment gameplay is fun, rewarding, and even better with friends.

V Rising (Early Access) – Key details

  • Price: $19.99 (USD) | £15.49 (GBP) on Steam
  • Developer:  Stunlock Studios
  • Release date: May 17, 2022
  • Platforms: PC

V Rising trailer

Blood moon rising, but the sun is much worse

V Rising screenshot showing a castle interior
Stunlock Studios
V Rising’s gothic design is a highlight.

V Rising’s best feature is one you’ll clock onto within seconds of rising from your vampiric crypt – it’s a sense of direction and purpose. It feels bizarre to praise a game so heavily for nudging you along a set path to begin with, but in the face of genre contemporaries where much of the early progression is a grind with no real signposting, it’s a breath of fresh air.

You wake up, kill Skeletons to get bones, then fashion some bone weaponry. What also helps is that V Rising takes place from a zoomed-out third-person perspective, and combat is deliciously dance-like. Players begin with the ability to fire a skill shot at an enemy, swing with their equipped weapon, or dodge.

It’s not quite Diablo levels of ARPG, but it certainly nails the fundamentals – weapons have unique attack patterns, and crafting new ones always feels like a reward earned. Even at its most basic, nuts and bolts level, V Rising is a cut above so many early access games. While it’s fun to tear through Skeletons, though, you’ll accrue plenty of material in the initial hours to help make your mark on the map.

Here’s where some frustration sets in, but it’s hardly Stunlock’s fault. Simply put, space is at a premium on many of the game’s servers because of its meteoric rise in popularity. I spent what felt like forever hunting for a place to lay down roots, before having to settle in the shadow of another player’s monolithic castle. The dichotomy between it and my own wooden shack serves as perfect inspiration to build more, though, or at least pitch a vampiric sitcom about two neighbors that are nothing alike.

V Rising screenshot showing daylight and shadows
Stunlock Studios
You’ll want to stick to the shadows if you’re caught out in the sun.

Building your home is crucial in V Rising, however, because daylight brings the potential for your bloodsucking alter ego to be burnt to a crisp. That means you’ll want to get that roof built, pronto, or light a mist brazier to create a fog you can move around safely in. It’s here where the survival elements start to get their hooks into you, as you build workbenches, grinders, furnaces and more to shape raw material into components to be used for construction.

There are few more satisfying gaming experiences in 2022 so far than dropping a load of stone at the grinder and knowing it’ll all contribute to a new wing of your fortress. It’s worth noting, though, that crafting happens in real-time. Sure, a new sword will take a few seconds, and turning wood into planks only takes a few more, but if you’re dumping hundreds of resources that time soon adds up.

Still, seeing your wooden hut grow into an ornate, intricately designed castle is certainly fun, and it only takes a quick look to the game’s community to pick up some interior design tips. One thing of note is that the center of your castle, its “Heart,” requires topping up with Blood Essence to keep the lights on. When it runs out, things slow to a halt, so it’s worth keeping some handy.

You’re not the boss of V

V Rising screenshot showing combat
Stunlock Studios
Mastering combat is essential to tackling V Rising’s bigger enemies.

If that makes it sound like you’re going to be doing a lot of waiting, then you’d be right and wrong in equal measure. While it is dangerous to go roaming the world in daylight, when night comes V Rising’s combat again takes center stage as you raid bandit camps for raw materials, items, and crafting recipes. Some are easy to conquer, others put up a bit of a fight, but all can be fed upon.

While V Rising uses a traditional health gauge, some advanced skills are powered by blood, such as consuming some to heal yourself in the middle of a fight. Feeding requires players weaken an enemy, and doing so leaves you vulnerable to attacks from others. Complete the feed, though, and you’ll get a small buff based on what you drained, with increases to critical strike damage or the ability to take more punishment among them.

It’s a smart system that rewards picking the right moment to strike, but beyond that, you’ll undoubtedly want to tackle tougher foes. Thankfully, V Rising is happy to oblige, with a series of world bosses that spawn regularly. Each offers something different, be it explosive traps, or a teleporting archer. You can take them on as many times as you’d like, and killing each will give you the chance to feed on them and add new abilities to your arsenal.

V Rising screenshot showing a graveyard
Stunlock Studios
V Rising is dripping in atmosphere.

As an example, hunting down the Alpha Wolf boss is a fun fight that sees the beast ensure you use plenty of healing items. Once you’ve killed it, you can gain the ability to traverse distances more quickly by turning into a wolf. Other bosses grant additional skills like flinging magic projectiles and healing spells. These are swappable to allow you to tailor your Vamp to fit your playstyle, but it also makes multiplayer much more fun.

V Rising offers PvP servers where you can pillage the fortresses of others, but PvE with friends is where I’ve spent most of my time. We’ve been able to hunt bosses as a trio, exchange resources, and build ever more extravagant castles. Raiding by moonlight is strangely relaxing, as is piling resources into growing our respective Vampiric empires, and there’s always something around each corner – be that a huge Stone Golem minding its own business or the tree you’re about to cut down getting up and trying to return the favor.

Verdict

We’re not going to give this early version of V Rising a score just yet, as we’re waiting for the developer to implement everything it wants ahead of a full release. For now, though, I have no qualms with recommending you play it, especially at a price point as low as this.

From its enjoyable and flexible combat to the way you can build such incredible castles and kick back with friends, I’ve not stopped thinking about V Rising every moment I’m not playing. It’s clear now it has teeth, but I’m excited to find out if it has legs, too.

Played on PC

Already jumped into V Rising? Be sure to check out our guide content:

How many people play V Rising? | How to get Dark Silver | How to get Sunflower Seeds | How to play V Rising offline | How to enable cheats

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