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I’m not a huge fan of survival games nowadays due to the amount of time it often takes to make any progress in them, but when I heard that V Rising was released on early access recently, I just couldn’t resist. At first glance, you’d be justified in thinking that it’d be another one of those janky survival games that stay in early access forever, but I’m gonna tell you right now, it already feels more complete/polished than some popular titles (not gonna name which) in the genre.
For starters, the game’s being developed by Stunlock Studios, who are responsible for Battlerite (which, as far as I remember, was a pretty good arena-based PVP game), and it definitely feels like they drew from that while designing V Rising‘s combat system. A simple way to describe the gameplay is that it feels like a slightly slower-paced Hades.
Right off the bat, you’re thrust into an area full of skeletons and ghouls, and this quick intro does a pretty decent job of teaching you the bare basics of both combat and crafting. There’s a surprising amount of depth when it comes to mixing and matching weapon abilities and magic, but unfortunately, you’ll have to progress a little further into the game to experiment with these mechanics as you start off with just a handful of tools and powers at your disposal.
Once you do reach later levels, you’re likely going to be running around with an entire arsenal in your inventory, as some fights are much easier with certain weapons. For instance, iron reapers are great at clearing out large groups of melee enemies, and their knockback ability can also be used to cancel certain channeled abilities.
V Rising features five different magic categories (so far) and a bunch of vampiric powers, which include shapeshifting and self-healing. Even though you only get two spell slots and one dash, there’s enough choices that you can actually specialize into certain roles when playing with a party. Wanna be an annoying tank? Take two shields and the frost dash. Wanna be a healer? There’s an ability that lets you shoot projectiles that can heal allies.
You unlock most these abilities by feeding on the V Blood carriers scattered throughout the map. These are bosses that will absolutely kick your ass if your gear score is too low, and as of writing this, there are over thirty of them for you to sink your fangs into.
STRONGHOLD & SERVANTS
The game’s extensive crafting and basebuilding portion is where the Valheim comparison comes in. The entire map is littered with resources that you can gather, to the point where you’ll be unwittingly gathering plant fibers and stones whenever you get in a fight. All of these can be refined or combined into materials that you’ll be using to build up your castle.
While the building system isn’t as “free” as I want it to be, it’s good enough that you can make a functional and good-looking base. The annoying part is getting stuff to fit in each room, since you get bonuses to productivity if certain crafting station are placed in matching rooms (e.g. furnaces will work 25% faster and require 25% less resources in a room with forge tiles). Most objects in the game are a bit off-center due to how it seems like everything snaps on to an invisible grid, and this will force you to make unnecessarily large rooms if you’re, ironically enough, trying to be efficient.
There’s a lot of RNG involved when it comes to building a base, however, as recipes for crafting stations, miscellaneous decorations, and upgraded versions of equipment all have to be researched (which is a completely random process), unlocked from certain bosses, or found as a random drop. This can be a bit of a turnoff for some, but it’s part of the V Rising‘s gameplay loop, and it honestly isn’t that bad if you’re playing on a server with decent rates (we’ll get to that in a bit).
There’s also a mechanic that lets you capture humans and turn them into your loyal thralls. Their power is mostly based on the gear that you give them, and the type of NPC they are. Aside from being able to send them out to gather resources, their main function is supposedly to defend your base from raiders. Unfortunately, while I haven’t personally seen them in action (the server I play on is pretty calm), they’re apparently just a minor inconvenience against skilled players, as owners have no way to directly control their actions.
PLAY YOUR WAY
Since it’s a survival game, the base rates for literally everything can be incredibly slow. You’ll likely be spending ridiculous amounts of time slapping rocks and trees on an official server. Fortunately, there’s tons of servers out there with varying item drop rates, crafting/refining speeds, and even building costs, so feel free to find one that suits your needs. You could also just host your own solo/coop game, where you can adjust everything to your liking.
I’ve personally found that a perfect balance would be a PVP server with somewhat increased rates and a restricted siege window. It’ll get you through the slower early game much quicker than usual, but you’ll still be crawling through the next tier after that, especially with hostile players roaming the map. It’s the kind of server I’m currently playing on with a couple of friends, and the grind’s definitely still there, especially when other people keep showing up in boss arenas and resource gathering spots.
The part that sucks (heh) for players who like to PVP is that, like with any other game in the genre, you’re likely going to get completely destroyed by the people who have been there since day one, or those who are willing to spend every waking hour grinding in their server of choice. The game does have some mechanics that let you recover after a raid, but the tedious process of gathering resources again and fixing your gear (which costs a lot) is likely only going to appeal to hardcore survival fans.
There’s also the meta, which seems to heavily favor a single spell: Chaos Volley. This applies to both PVE and PVP, because that ability in particular is just hilariously overtuned right now (high DPS, low cooldown) and can be acquired really early in the game. Paired with other things that buff spell power, there’s literally no reason to not use it, and it kinda takes away the challenge in most fights. Obviously you could just avoid equipping it entirely, but if you’re in a PVP server, you’d be purposefully putting yourself at a disadvantage.
For those who prefer PVE, on the other hand, you’ll have a lot of content and challenging fights ahead of you, even without the hectic PVP action. Even with the appropriate gear, some enemies can still catch you off guard and kill you, even those low level archers who I can only describe as pyromaniacs.
Although V Rising is enjoyable in its current state, there’s definitely a lot of things they can improve on. From the disproportionately high number of resources and time required to progress and maintain your equipment in later stages of the game to the imbalanced nature of its PVP, the game definitely needs a lot of fixing, and maybe even a few overhauled systems (e.g. the flawed raiding/defense mechanics).
The game, despite being in early access, already has a lot of content to offer. I’ve gotten a good 80-ish hours of play time out of it as of writing this, and I haven’t even hit the endgame yet (though it’s worth mentioning that some of that time was spent server hopping).
The devs seem to be focusing on bug fixes at the moment, but I’m sure they’ll be putting out more major updates in the following weeks as there’s a ton of room for new endgame content. In the meantime, it’s still a pretty good time sink, and if you’re into action-filled sandboxes, V Rising will be right up your alley.