Diaries From V Rising: Vampire Farmer

I’m a vampire man.

Disclosure: I received a copy of V Rising to cover.

V Rising is a diamond in the rough, a comeback story and a success story all wrapped into one. Knocking out five hundred thousand sales in less than three days, V Rising is blowing ahead in a world where developer Stunlock Studios seemed destined for a legacy of abandonware and dead free to play games. It also managed to succeed in a world where the sheer number of lower budget survival crafting games that launch into early access and then immediately fade into irrelevance grows seemingly by the hour. It’s tough to get people excited for an extremely saturated genre, and at least the first week has shown they’ve managed to pull it off.

But is the game any good? So far, yeah. I have some problems, but V Rising is turning out to be a fantastic game.

Right off the bat, V Rising seems to be keen on avoiding some of the pitfalls of other games we’ve seen launch and then immediately die. Specifically I’m talking about the addition of PvE servers. I can wallpaper my house with all the news reports on sandbox games whose developers abjectly refused to add PvE servers for “the vision” and wound up with dead games as a result. I’m looking at you, The Exiled and Wild Terra 2. V Rising allows players to join official servers split between PvE and PvP, while also allowing you to host private servers with or without a password. Offline singleplayer is also going to be an option. PvE servers can also toggle castle raiding.

As a game with non-instanced housing, you’re going to want to choose your server carefully. I say this because player housing grows as the player upgrades their castle heart, and eventually the servers become very cramped when it comes to available building ground. On the other hand, those servers are veritable feasting grounds for free crap as castles stick around a few days at most should the owner depart and never return, after which even PvE servers become available for your looting. Think decaying buildings on Rust.

V Rising has you playing the role of a vampire. Go figure. The whole purpose of the game is for you to establish your creepy vampire castle on the big map and gradually over time raise your gear score, take down bosses, and unlock stuff. In a PvP server that would also include avoiding being killed and looted by other players, laying siege to other player’s castles, and engaging in clan warfare. All of this takes place in a game that cycles between day and night.

I know what you’re thinking; “I have to maintain my castle or it goes kaput?” Yes, but it’s a very easy task. Your castle heart requires blood essence to maintain which the game hands out at mass quantities. It should take you less than ten minutes to kill enough random roaming mobs to fill your castle heart and keep it steady for another week without maintenance. The game also has an extended tutorial that unlocks recipes and keeps you somewhat focused.

One thing you’re going to want to do rather early on in V Rising is to map out the playable area, not just because it lets you know where some choice building spots are but because it unlocks fast travel locations and reveals points of interest. POIs tell you straight out what resources you can expect, and thankfully resource grinding in V Rising is not a second job. For example I went on a mission to kill an early boss and simply by collateral damage and accidentally hitting trees I ended up back at base with a few thousand pieces of lumber. Resource grinding, at least where I’m at right now, is a 10-15 minute expedition at best. You will have a wealth of resources rather quickly if you know what to hone in on.

Another trap a lot of these games fall into is that because the developer’s focused so hard on making it a PvP-centric title, the PvE ends up being neglected and vestigial at best. That’s not the case here. The bosses in this game are, dare I say, redonk. Ignoring the obvious fact that bosses are stronger than your average bear, they also have their own abilities that grow more powerful as you whittle them down. Boss fights in V Rising are intense, and gear score plays less of a role outside of sheer offense/defense numbers. I took on Polara the Feywalker, a druid-ish boss that summons familiars, and with two decently equipped players we got our asses handed to us several times before finally taking her down. It does feel like a true accomplishment when you kill a boss on your first try, especially one that your gear isn’t quite up to the recommended number.

Another thing you’ll figure out quite quickly is that bosses in this game roam. Many of them do, at least. I learned this the hard way when I got steamrolled in a bandit camp early on only to respawn and show back up to collect my loot (you drop everything except your gear on death) only to find that Lidia The Chaos Archer had decided to detour and show up at the camp. That wasn’t the last time I got my ass handed to me twice in a row that day. Even roaming militia groups will have the level 30+ member that just knocks the crap out of you. It’s a dangerous world.

Navigating the map often means weighing the risks of going out during the day. The world is heavily wooded, so you’re never bereft of shade. In one protracted fight against a boss however, the arena we were fighting in was covered in pillars that gave shade. But as the boss went into sicko mode as his health went down, those pillars increasingly got knocked down offering less spots to get into cover under.

As you obtain better gear and suck the essence out of bosses, you increase your arsenal of abilities. For example the sword gives you a whirlwind attack while the spear has a quick repetitive thrust ability. You really learn the length of several seconds when a boss creature is beating the living daylights out of you and your dodge is on cooldown. You also slowly gain access to various travel forms with their own benefits, and the ability to hypnotize and enslave humans as your servants that can be sent out on missions.

I also kinda like the blood mechanic. As an undead vampire you have but one need; blood. Every enemy has a type and blood quality that you can very clearly see on their person. Whittling an enemy down lets you drain them of blood, replenishing your pool and taking on their blood type. This grants buffs like increased critical hit, movement speed, etc, with tiers based on the quality of the blood. The effect is you get buffs that, while not expressly time-gated, are temporary in nature because you eventually need to replenish your blood.

It’s not uncommon to roam around and just see piles of loot on the ground. This isn’t one of those games where mobs in the world only exist to target players and ignore each other, as you’ll regularly come across the carnage of the militia battling it out with bandits/thugs, or monsters wrecking house against patrolling NPCs. And you’re free to collect the spoils, with the exception that you can only get essence from your direct kills.

But V Rising isn’t perfect, as you’d expect from any game. The early experience in this game is rough given even in the starter zone you’re going to do a lot of running and hiding. Playing in PvE servers doesn’t mean you won’t get ganked, it’ll just be at the behest of a militia brute or an unfortunate encounter with one of several vampire hunters that show up at the worst possible times. Shield enemies and rogues spam the crap out of their stun abilities and there’s a lot of points in the map where enemy congregation is high enough that they’ll just swarm and devour you whole.

There’s also a point around level 30 where the game just seems to come to a screeching halt. You can’t progress because you don’t have the proper tools and the bosses outlevel you by a fair margin. The goal here is to unlock merciless upgrades for your gear and there’s a few ways to go about it by lucking out with RNG and obtaining the right recipe books as drops or by farming paper and unlocking random recipes at the research podium. You do this and boost your gear score up to confidently take down some bosses, and then you can move on. I suppose it’s only annoying because progression up to this point is highly focused, and then it just hits a wall where it doesn’t properly explain what you need to do.

I’m also not a fan of the mid-tier zones so far. Granted I haven’t spent much time in them, but they become so overly populated with militia members not to mention the farms are coated in garlic that drops your damage output while exponentially increasing the damage you take, and that garlic effect takes forever to fade out. It’s a frustrating experience that I know will get better as I unlock more stuff. But it’s frustrating.

Ultimately your choice of server is going to depend on what range of shitheadery you want from other players. If you want a brutal game where players can and will attack you on sight, you have the option for that. If you want a PvE game where people leave each other alone, you can do that too. If you have a group of friends who just want a world to play in together, that’s definitely an option. And if you want to go it alone, that is always a choice.

But there’s always something happening in the world of V Rising, be it gaining powers, tracking bosses, farming resources, or just sitting by and letting your castle process your loot. At the current juncture I’m at, my character is roughly halfway up the gear score ladder with new opportunities now that I have access to iron gear. Expect more diaries from V Rising in the coming future, but boy howdy am I having fun.

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