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V Rising review: what if vampires were the “good guys”?

V Rising review: what if vampires were the “good guys”?
Juliet Childers

Juliet Childers

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Saying something is Diablo but better” is a tall, over-simplified order, but V Rising really does deliver on it. The vampire-centric game has elements of base building, combat, bounty hunting, survival games, and loads more. The camera movement, top-down orientation, and abilities even make the action RPG a bit MOBA-like. It has also been likened to recent indie darling Valheim -another indie game with base building.

As it has something for everyone, it may also not be successful in pleasing hardcore fans of one particular genre. So let’s break down V Rising for its story, mechanics, performance, and design to see how it stacks up to the excitement around the latest title from Stunlock Studios.

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V Rising

V Rising background

Stunlock Studios, the development company behind this game, doesn’t have too many games under its belt. Only founded in 2010, the Skövde based studio released their first game Bloodline Champions for Windows PC in 2011. Their subsequent titles, Battlerite and Battlerite Royale, were both MOBA-like in nature.

Chinese megacorporation Tencent took a controlling share in the company in 2021, but V Rising began to gain traction thanks, in part, to Early Access. To date, more than 1,000,000 players have logged into creating their castles and challenging daywalkers.

image of vampire and human fighting from V Rising

Setting & tone

“Awaken as a weakened Vampire after centuries of slumber in a world full of danger. Stripped from your unholy powers and starving for blood – you must hunt to regain your strength and fight for survival.” That’s what developer Stunlock Studios sets players up with for V Rising. But they also pose the question “will you become the next Dracula?”

That said, the open world-game takes place in a gothic era countryside. Animated skeletons stalk the night along with bandits, treants, vampires, and all kinds of creatures. Vardoran, the name of the in-game world, doesn’t seem a very hospitable place for anyone.

V Rising story

The basic setup of the story is a weakened vampire slowly regaining its power. However, Stunlock Studios gives players a decent amount of agency as they choose what path to follow. You can become a diplomat or a total, bloodthirsty count or countess. You can even simply convert humans to worship and serve you.

Beyond that, you’ll just have to play and see for yourself what unfolds based on your choices in the dangerous locales around Vardoran.

How long to beat V Rising

V Rising does not have a strictly linear story like in Sifu or Ghostwire: Tokyo. As such, the time it takes one player to “beat” V Rising may differ wildly from any other. Game producers said that the Early Access version of the game provided 40 – 60 hours of content.

In addition, some closed beta players said that they spent ~80 hours in the game. For now, expect to dump a decent chunk of time into this game — especially if you’re playing with friends.

image of  V Rising gameplay

V Rising performance

As with all new games from smaller studios, V Rising has had some hiccups in terms of performance. However, the relatively stable Unity engine keeps things moving fairly smoothly. The game also does not have platforming or jump mechanics outside of prompted “jumps” where your character flips down a small ledge.

With an impressively small footprint of just 6 GB, the game delivers much more than it costs in terms of monetary price and storage. That said, some players will encounter specific glitches. For instance, V Blood bounties will sometimes not spawn where they are meant to.

The “Unstuck” feature available to players in the “Esc” menu is one solution for this. Using this feature revives players at their coffin or a discovered waypoint with their equipment. Sadly, you do lose the rest of your inventory and will have to backtrack to fetch it if you use this feature.

V Rising gameplay & functions

Loot features heavily in the game but it serves more of a crafting purpose than anything else. For instance, players get their first unique set of armor very early in the game as part of the base tutorial. You have to upgrade your armor to unlock more features for your castle.

These integrated crafting tutorials may feel a bit unnecessary for seasoned players of RPGs, but it doesn’t hold your hand entirely. The freedom to travel wherever you want (sun damage pending) is very freeing. Pro-tip: spend any more than 3 – 5 seconds in the sun and you will rapidly begin to take tons of damage. You’ll likely be killed within mere moments, so keep to the shade of trees if you have to travel in the daytime hours.

By far, though, the biggest feature of the game is the V Blood system. Unique characters in the world are known as “V Blood” people from whom your vampire can attain new abilities. This can be as simple as learning to make leather to getting a fantastic new ability or animal form.

image of  V Rising UI

UI and interface

Fans of games like Diablo will find the overall UI setup familiar enough. Despite this, it can start to feel cluttered often. Let’s break down the basic elements of the UI:

  • Blood gauge – in the center of the lower bar and displays how much blood you have and what your current blood type is along with what bonus it offers.
  • Inventory hot bar – located in the same lower bar, this 9-item hot bar lets you switch between weapons or items by pressing numbers 1 – 9 on your keyboard.
  • Special abilities – your abilities are on the lower bar on the right-hand side. As you grow in power and take down V Blood bounties, you’ll gain new abilities.
  • Mini-map – located in the upper right-hand corner, the mini-map is okay, but players will often need to refer to the full-sized map for better context and waypoint management.
  • Objectives – these are displayed in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.
  • Right-hand side hotkey bar – the greyed-out buttons on the right side of the screen have things like a Journal, Inventory, etc.
  • Inventory screen – this screen with your character equipment, inventory, and crafting options pops up on the left side of your screen when you press “Tab”.
  • Crafting or item window – this screen pops up on the right side of your screen when you use “F” to interact with an item such as a Furnace, Blood Altar, etc.

Control schema

Gamers familiar with top-down camera titles like Divinity: Original Sin 2 or Grim Dawn will recall the top-down camera angle. While you use W, A, S, and D to move, the right mouse button moves your camera around in the default control schema. Of course, players can customize these to their preferred setups.

Key mechanics

The game features many different abilities, animal forms, and mechanics that can greatly impact how you experience the game world. For instance, when in your wolf form, other wildlife will not attack you.

In your humanoid form, many animals will instantly become aggressive toward you. Being in your wolf form also grants you increased movement speed. However, you will still take damage from the sun if you stay in it for too long.

That’s really the main mechanic outside of your general RPG combat and base building: staying out of the dang sun. As mentioned earlier, you will be burnt to a crisp within seconds if you don’t get into the shade of a tree during sunlight hours. Your castle can also utilize Mist Braziers to block out sunlight before you can build roofs.

Pro-tip: in-game night hours are from 7 PM to 9 AM while daylight hours are from 10 AM to 6 PM.

image of a castle under siege and a frog boss in V Rising

World, sound, & character design

World design: An open world where you can’t climb walls

Due to the simplicity of the map design, players cannot do things like slide down or climb rock faces. This isn’t a huge problem, but having to run around short rock facades that you could easily climb in real life does not feel rewarding.

Only after you gain new animal forms and abilities can you easily traverse the terrain. Of course, some players may enjoy this facet of the game as it presents just one more challenge in the journey toward becoming a full-fledged, powerful vampire again.

In terms of the foliage, stones, and water, the map feels organic. The forests flow from one area to the next with small streams or lakes dotted around. There are deserted cemeteries, small villages, bandit camps, mines, caves, and more.

Sound design: Solid and atmospheric

Like games such as Minecraft, music and sound effects can play an integral part in games with base building mechanics. Without any music, the crafting and resource gathering may become monotonous. Without sound effects, your character is liable to get ambushed often. Luckily, the V Rising developers considered both of these factors.

The soundtrack sets the tone well while also alerting players to specific scenarios with consistent musical motifs. Unique monsters such as Treants have their own attack noises and combat music will play and then fade as your player enters or exits combat.

image of character creation in V Rising

Character design: Limited but fun

The depth of variation in V Rising when it comes to creating your base character isn’t very deep. You can’t adjust eye width and head size or select body types. However, you can still create a sinister-looking monster or a rather normal-looking nightstalker. Armor selections as the game progress can further help you customize your look.

Other character design for skeletons, creatures like wolves and bears, as well as bandits is fairly straightforward. However, the art style that falls somewhere between stylized cartoon and 3D cel-shaded strikes a perfect balance of quirky and easy to enjoy.

image of player characters in castles in V Rising

Verdict: Get this game!

V Rising is the perfect game for people who need something to disappear into for a while. If you’re in a bit of a gaming slump, pick this up. If you need a break from competitive gaming like League of Legends or Overwatch, pick this up. Need to forget about the real world for some time? This game is perfect for that.

The crafting and resource gathering can become a bit tedious or repetitive at times, but that doesn’t detract too much from the main gameplay loop. Gathering powers and challenging yourself with new V Blood victims never gets old.

Download V Rising today to start reclaiming your vampiric prowess.

PROS

  • Fun gothic aesthetic with classic vampire designs
  • Challenging boss fights and unique abilities for everyone
  • Satisfying castle building and upgrading
  • Loads of replay potential
  • Custom private servers are available
  • Developers quick to apply fixes

CONS

  • Resource gathering and crafting can get tedious
  • Sun mechanic may turn off some players
  • Inventory management is a bit cumbersome
  • Enemies can glitch such as V Blood bounties not spawning where they should

Developer: Stunlock Studios

Publisher: Stunlock Studios

Game Modes: Singleplayer and multiplayer

Game Engine: Unity

Juliet Childers

Juliet Childers

Juliet Childers is an avid reader, writer, editor, and gamer based in Texas. She attended the University of Houston where she majored in Creative Writing with a business minor. She works mainly as a freelance writer, editor, SEO specialist, and proofreader. Her beat: video games, tech, and pop culture.

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