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V Rising

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Stunlock Studios
Release Date: 2022

About Chris Barnes

There's few things I'd sell my soul to the devil for. However, the ability to grow a solid moustache? I'd probably sign that contract ... maybe ... (definitely).


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PC Preview - 'V Rising'

by Chris Barnes on Aug. 4, 2022 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

V Rising is an open-world vampire survival game where you awaken as a weakened vampire from centuries of slumber and survive a world full of peril.

Over the years, I've watched folks in my Steam friends list rack up playtime in survival crafting games. Like a hopeless bystander failing to flag down a taxi in New York City, I kept saying, "This would be the one," only for games like Rust, Minecraft and Valheim to fly past me. This time, I may finally be hitching a ride with the community's excitement surrounding V Rising.

At first glance, V Rising isn't exactly what you'd expect. With an isometric camera view and a flurry of abilities sprawled out across the bottom portion of the screen, the game looks like an action-RPG. The mouse-based aiming and WASD movement, paired with the top-down camera perspective, give the impression of it being a twin-stick shooter. Yet none of these expectations come to pass. As you unravel the layers to V Rising, it quickly becomes clear what game this is.

It starts with an ax, as it always does in games of the survival crafting genre. From there, you chop trees to make a workbench, which opens up the possibility to create additional tools and build additional material refinement structures. On paper, V Rising brings little innovation to the genre, but the way that it guides you through the opening hours is essential to getting its hooks into someone like me, who always shied away from survival crafters.

I didn't feel lost in a world of ambiguity that required a second monitor with wiki guides to figure out what was needed to build a base. Instead, drip-feed tutorials introduce another level of complexity. These start with something as simple as "swing your sword" in the beginning but eventually lead into missions that require some exploration and discovery. For instance, one of the things I was tasked with building early on required a material I had no way of creating. To complete the building, I needed to explore the map and loot nearby bandit camps to acquire the material. None of this is spelled out, but it becomes obvious when you hit certain building roadblocks that require some exploitation and grinding before you can more easily mass-produce that resource.

Again, none of this is revolutionary for the genre, but what kept me coming back for more was the natural loop: fight, loot, return home, and craft. Playing as a vampire in a game with a day-night cycle, it's a theme that lends itself naturally to this sort of gameplay loop.

With a few specific structures at your base and roofing (once your base is built out more), it's a safe place to seek refuge from the scorching sun. You can use this respite to check in on your material refinement production lines, build additional rooms for your base, and craft better gear to improve your combat level. Once the sun goes down, you can carry out a new round of hunting and looting under the safety of moonlight.

Players aren't strictly beholden to this loop, though. As the sun travels across the sky, the dynamic shadows serve as fleeting moments of relief from the scorching rays. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well this mechanic works. Narrow trees offer just enough coverage from the sun, but don't let your greed get the best of you. As you thin out the nearby forest for wood and the trees disappear, so do their shadows. Clouds roll across the sky, casting moving blobs of shade to help you cross a wide swath of road that was once littered with light. All of these moments make for exciting returns home when you realized that you pushed the limits of grinding just a bit too far. You can survive in the sun for a short while, but you're best off dancing from one spot of shaded cover to another on the return trip home.

The exploration and grinding aren't quite as dull as they may sound. V Rising is not limited to tree chopping and rock smashing. There are plenty of boss-like enemies that you can track down and kill for special blueprints and abilities. These can prove to be challenging battles, but the reward often balances out the risk. You can stumble upon bosses who roam the world freely, which create some tense moments of escape when encountering a boss that's way above your level. You can build a structure at your base to lead a blood trail toward these bosses. Again, this is another clever way to increase your power level and progress in the game. I never felt totally lost or stuck while playing V Rising, and more importantly (as is often the case for me with survival games), I never felt bored. Building a base didn't feel like a chore. The looting and combat were fun to engage with, and the base building was a bonus for a successful hunt.

On a technical level, the visuals and performance weren't anything spectacular, but I admittedly spent the majority of my time playing on Steam Deck, so I can't complain too much on the graphics front, considering my platform of choice. I was usually hovering around 30fps at medium-high settings at the default 800p resolution. I think V Rising lends itself extremely well to the Steam Deck. The controls are tight; the performance is acceptable; and its non-linear, grindy nature is perfect to enjoy on a couch while a TV show plays in the background.

I didn't expect much going into this preview. I'm a skeptic of both crafting games and multiplayer games, so V Rising initially had little going for it. Yet I found this game satisfying to play on private and PvE servers for loners such as myself. The game's roots lie in the crafting genre, with a vampire aesthetic layered over it. It feels like it's pulling from two different areas of gaming and media that have been oversaturated in recent years, but Stunlock Studios does an exceptional job of making V Rising feel freshly unique and dangerously addictive. V Rising has won over a survival crafting genre naysayer like myself, so I encourage other open-minded PC players to give this title a try. I'm definitely looking forward to the final build so I can be couch-locked with a Steam Deck for endless hours of fun.

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