Indie game developers have taken over the survival genre. From Rust to RimWorld to Valheim, some of the most popular titles on Steam are indie survival games. The latest addition to this family is V Rising, a vampire-themed survival game developed by Stunlock Studios. But is V Rising in Early Access worth it, or is this just another unnecessary addition to the genre?
The core gameplay loop of V Rising is as expected. You head out into the open world, harvest materials, bring those materials back to base and use them to craft new machinery and equipment. To get better equipment you need better resources. To get better resources you need better equipment, and so the loop continues. It’s a tried-and-tested progression model that works well.
In between resource gathering sessions you expand your base and hunt. Hunting is the main objective of V Rising. Once you gain access to the Blood Altar, you can track down and kill special enemies that serve as the game’s bosses. Defeating these bosses and feeding off of them can secure new abilities to make various aspects of the gameplay easier. Several structures and crafting recipes are also locked behind these boss fights, so it’s necessary to overcome them to progress further.
The combat itself is well-thought-out, with bosses having a good variety of attack types. Some of the more complex fights will require you to learn attack patterns and switch up your abilities. Unsurprisingly, given Stunlock Studios’ origins as a MOBA developer with Bloodline Champions and Battlerite, V Rising‘s overall combat flow feels very MOBA-like. This means that positioning and effective keybind usage are skill sets you’ll have to develop to win fights. Some players may prefer the more simplistic combat found in other survival games, but I appreciate the additional complexity that V Rising brings to the table.
Let there be light
An interesting aspect of V Rising is that you play as a Vampire. The positive side of this is that you can drink the blood of your enemies to heal and gain new powers. However, there is a huge downside too: the sun is your number one enemy.
During the day you cannot step into the light for an extended period of time. Doing so will cause the sun to burn you alive, dealing huge amounts of damage. If you want to operate during the day, you have to move between shadows. This can be particularly tricky to deal with during combat, where an enemy’s attacks can force you into the sunlight.
I’m not sure if I enjoy this mechanic or not. It does help the game stand out thematically using the vampire theme as an integral part of the design, rather than just a fancy coat of paint. But there’s no doubt that it does get annoying at times. One of the biggest problems is that most of the natural shade you’ll be relying on comes from trees, but you have to cut down these trees as wood is used for a lot of crafting and upkeep.
There’s an argument to be made that this creates an interesting dynamic where you have to consider where you farm wood. Deforesting your base’s surroundings is going to make traversing very difficult, so it’s probably better to move outward first. Even so, I think that the pros of this system are outweighed by the hindrance it causes. Although I can see some players absolutely loving this extra factor that isn’t as important in other similar games. Luckily, while in your base you can easily construct a device that shrouds you from the harsh rays.
Pain in the neck
The source of a lot of the criticisms I have of V Rising are due to it not being a great single-player experience. The actual PvE aspects of V Rising are nothing special, and other games in the genre do a better job. However, that isn’t really the point of this game in the first place. V Rising is very much designed from the ground up to offer a PvP experience.
Once you get to grips with the basics, I’d recommend jumping into a bigger online world. Preferably, this would be with a group of friends, but that isn’t going to be an option for everyone. Thankfully, there is a server browser where you can get into the action against other random players. Although, don’t be surprised if the people on these servers aren’t exactly the friendliest. Anyone who has ever played games like this knows that they promote a kill-on-sight mentality.
I think it’s fair to say that this isn’t going to suit everyone. You can expect to come across plenty of trash-talking, regular base raids, and brutal team-based combat. While V Rising is in Early Access, it might be worth it to seek out the servers that provide a more peaceful PvE-focused experience, but these are less common.
Even though it’s new in Early Access, V Rising is a fine addition to the indie survival genre. There are stronger options on the market, but V Rising‘s PvP focus mixed with its MOBA-inspired combat helps it stand out from the crowd. It doesn’t necessarily have as much mainstream approachability as something like the PvE-only Valheim. But other PvP survival games like Rust have stood the test of time. V Rising should be able to stay relevant with good support and some may find it worth it for the engaging combat. Stunlock Studios’ new game won’t be to everyone’s taste but it’s entertaining enough to be worth recommending to those that enjoy its vampiric theme or PvP-focused gameplay.