V Rising Early Access First Look: A Classic Survival RPG

The survival game genre is one that I always find myself coming back to. Whether it’s a new game releasing that I know I can get lost in for days, or the oldest save file I have on Minecraft, survival games are naturally addictive because your progress is always apparent. Starting at the lowest level then one day realizing how far you've come can feel really fulfilling. And that's only one aspect, out of many, that V Rising succeeds at in strides.

It is a rare occasion in the current gaming industry for a title to be released in early access and not have the large glaring issues that early access games are known for. Whether it be server issues, performance bugs, or just not enough content to justify any price tag. These are the reasons a lot of people rightfully groan when they hear “early access.” I hope to put those worries to rest with this review since I think V Rising is a pretty great time all around.
The Story and Play Modes
When you start V Rising, you're greeted with a little cinematic detailing the fall of a vampiric empire that was defeated and overthrown by men. And now it is up to you to resurrect from your coffin and participate in a vampire uprising. 

When creating your game you’ll have the option of Online Play, where you'll play with a random number of accounts on the same server, or to create a Private Game, where you can just play with your friends that you invite. Both options feature PvE and PvP, but Online Play has Full Loot PvP and Duo PvP. 

Full Loot PvP essentially lets players attack and loot other players and their bases, but also can destroy bases completely. Duo PvP is like regular PvP but everyone is restricted to only having two players in a clan.

All of these options are valid, but I spent the most time playing PvE, as I was looking for a more community-based experience and didn't want the stress of leaving my base unattended just to be pillaged while I was gone. Some people love that experience, though. So it's awesome to see so many ways to play at launch.
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Crafting and Base Building
Crafting and base building in V Rising is just as quick and satisfying as its combat. In the early game, you’re going to be dedicating a lot of time to the objectives that pop up in the top left-hand corner. This is where the game will start giving you tasks that push the player in the right direction of getting the basic necessities you're going to need to start exploring more of the map. You'll learn how to start crafting starter weapons and tools that gain more abilities the more you upgrade them.

The building system is very quick. The only requirements for most things that you build are that you have the right materials. Almost anything you place can be easily moved and there are very few items that have very specific ways to be placed. You can only build one floor as of right now, but you can technically make a second floor. You just have to build up a hill. You also can't stack floors on top of each other. That's something I know I would like to see in future updates.

It's not as robust as Valheim's base building is, but instead is a lot more user-friendly and does enough to meet my basic desire to build a decked-out vampire mansion. 
Character Customization
The look of your character isn't something all that important to the overall experience since 90% of the time you're only going to be looking at the back of your character's hair. The player does have options to zoom in and out to see your character up close, however, so the customization is appreciated. It's not the most robust character creation I've ever seen but it helps differentiate yourself enough from the other players you may greet in the open world. 

After you’ve created your character and name, you awaken from your coffin in a dark tomb. This serves as a great area to get used to the camera and movement. Your mouse can control your camera when holding down the right-click, and you melee by left-clicking. The space bar gives you a small dash which at first glance is just a dash. But after a little reading from your ability journal, you realize that if you attack after dashing you get 5% of your health bar healed. A small mechanic but there were too many times in my playthrough where that tiny sliver of health was the deciding factor on if I beat a boss or not. And that's only 1 out of 5 dashes that you can acquire.

The Abilities That Keep on Giving
The other 4 dashes can be unlocked by defeating V Rising’s varied and unique bosses - who also drop magic abilities, rare and common resources, and crafting recipes for equipment you’re going to need.

The bosses themselves each have their own specific attack patterns and environments to fight that make combat feel so much more engaging. You can’t just go into every boss and spam one attack. You have to quickly learn how the bosses attack and realize what abilities would work best for specific situations. If you're playing with friends, using an ability like Blood Rage would be a great pick because it shields yourself and nearby allies for 110% of your spell power and increases attack speed by 25% for 4.5s. I don't want to spend this review detailing every single ability because I’d be here all day, but just know that there are A LOT and all of them are very useful.
The Combat & the Grind
Have you ever been told to try out a survival game or MMOPRG and responded with something along the lines of “Oh I don't like ‘grindy games.' They're too repetitive and I never feel rewarded enough for the time I put in”? Well, V Rising does definitely have a ‘grind’ element to it that may turn some people off to it at first glance. But I can't think of a survival game that I’ve played that is as instantly satisfying and rewarding. The grind is mandatory, but it's also just so much fun because of the game's stellar Diablo-like combat. 

Combat in V Rising obviously pulls inspiration from Diablo with its isometric camera and cool-down abilities, but the gameplay systems go much deeper than that. At first, you start the game with nothing but your vampire claws. Then as you attack some skeletons you get bones. Get enough bones and you can make a bone sword.

You quickly notice that all weapons have a 3 hit attack combo. Eventually in combat you will make the conscious effort to dash right after completing a combo.

And of course we can't forget that you are a vampire. You'll notice that after you damage an enemy enough, the game will prompt you to ‘feed’ with ‘f’. This will instantly teleport your character to your unlucky prey where you will start drawing blood from them. If you drain them of all of their blood, you can keep that blood stored for later when you want to heal. Or if you’re impatient, you can just kill your enemy instantly and not take any blood. You can’t move while doing this and feeding is on a cool down, so you have to be strategic with how you use the ability in combat.  

Think the rabbit hole of systems this game has to offer is over? Well not yet because there are different blood types that improve certain stats. This gives the game another layer that I don’ think it necessarily needed, but I appreciated nonetheless. Your blood type depends on whose blood you drink. If you kill a normal warrior enemy, your blood type will change to Warrior. If you kill a ferocious animal, like a bear, you'll inherit beast blood type. When I noticed my blood type was changing I didn't understand why it was put in the game - since the way your blood type changes combat is so small and incremental it didn't seem worth it in my play-through. But in multiplayer sessions with a friend or two, strategizing what blood types you each have can make a big difference.
Performance and Final Verdict
Typically games released in early access are infamous for constant server crashes, performance issues, etc. but not only did the launch of V Rising go smoothly, I encountered no crashes at all during my play through. I had steady frame rates that only ever slowed down once or twice while fighting hordes of small rats. One time I thought I had a bug where enemies and NPCs would clip out of the environment whenever they touched a rock, but I quickly realized I was just slow and that your characters can not see behind trees and rocks. Not a bug, but I do wonder what was the reasoning to do that. Immersion and realism maybe? However, I found it took me out of the experience. Seeing NPCs pop in and out of the environment was just a little distraction and is the smallest nitpick I can think of. 

Stunlock Studios have delivered on creating a great survival game with enough MMORPG elements that make it feel like a combination I didn't know I wanted. The boss and loot systems genuinely feel rewarding, and the combat is engaging and ever-evolving. If this is the amount of content fans get in early access, I cant wait to see what else they add to this already stacked game.

We'll reserve our final score for V Rising until the full game is released, but we highly recommend checking out this great title in early access.
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