V Rising review: Blood Sucking, Tree Punching Freaks

Diablo meets Minecraft in V Rising, a survival game with vampire stuff.


Survival games have a very specific appeal. I watch my kid play Minecraft and while I would rather watch a snail race, he can play for hours on end. I played V Rising with a media friend during the review period, and listened to him talk about why he was having a good time to help me understand. I think I had a good time too, but was it the game itself or the social element? In some ways it was both. In other ways, I’m still wondering what the sauce is here. Or blood? Vampires, get it?

Having a curse is kind of sick, actually

Getting up out of your coffin in V Rising
Source: Stunlock Studios

In V Rising, the setup is simple. You’re a vampire who lost everything, but now has an opportunity to get it all back. You burst from your coffin with nothing but the tattered clothes on your back and your bloodthirsty curse. You aren’t Simon Belmont (although he is actually around here, funnily enough), so it’s actually a pretty alright night to have a curse. The daytime sucks though, as the sun will burn you to a respawning crisp. Get out there and punch rocks and trees until you can make a castle. The end!

Ok, fine, it’s a little meatier than that. The whole world is against you, and the only way you can actually recapture your past glory is to fight back. V Rising isn’t just about survival, it’s about, well, rising. The game’s core loop is not just to build your base, stave off your thirst, and eventually stop getting killed by angry moose. You also have a list of Big Bads, each of whom has a special reward or two in store if you defeat them. Whether it’s new insight into vampiric knowledge, sick new powers, or simply a new way to build a chair, working your way up the hierarchy of gothic fantasy gangbangers is the goal.

Blood-geon crawling

Combat in V Rising
Source: Stunlock Studios

This is where V Rising aims to stand out amongst other survival games. The twist here is adding Diablo-like action-RPG elements. There’s isometric combat with multiple weapons, lots of different powers, and a sort of class system that resembles that genre’s character buildcrafting. Boss battles are a big deal, forcing players to mentally shift from running around and collecting materials to paying attention to attack patterns, timing their own attacks, considering skill cooldowns, navigating space control, and so on and so forth. It’s almost a totally different, second kind of game smashed into the first one.

The action is definitely fun, and can make for a fresh break from the more “cozy” mundanity of building up your base by trading resources, watching timers go down, and of course building up automation. That stuff is pretty by the book, although V Rising does a commendable job of communicating everything it thinks is important to the player. You can open up a station and look at all the possible creations and what their ingredients are. Then you can look at your map and check where to find those ingredients. You can even look at the boss ladder and see what the ones closest to your power level offer as rewards.

Rise and grind, Bloodsuckers

A look inside an elaborate castle base in V Rising
Source: Stunlock Studios

Whether or not V Rising’s genre mashup works for you seems to boil down to pacing. The loop can be simplified down to crafting, boss fight, crafting, boss fight, rinse and repeat. Eventually, multitasking gets more important and efficient. You get contraptions that will refine ingredients for you while you do other things. Crucially, at a certain point you unlock sturdier buildings that have roofs, which means you can comfortably work on things while the sun is out. The road to that point, though, is quite harsh. It’s fun to make jokes about punching trees when it comes to survival games, but the way those early hours play out is pretty important to these kinds of games. In V Rising, which has such a cool-looking aesthetic and ostensible focus on combat, it’s a bummer that the opening hours are so drawn out and tedious. It’s almost like those boss fights being so tied to crafting options and overall progress, despite being a good idea on paper, backfires.

That pacing is part of why you’ll come to find playing V Rising and similar games feels so much better with friends. It’s because vibing as a group makes the time pass. There’s a massive gulf between playing V Rising by yourself and with other people, and it makes sense. In a way it’s part of the inherent buy in when you’re staring down the barrel of starting a survival game. Do you have homies locked, loaded and ready to go? Do you have a backlog of podcasts to catch up on while you push through those early hours? Or do you simply get the right kind of brain engagement from crafting systems in the first place? The answers to those questions are going to color your experience before the “real game” kicks in.

V Rising offers something distinct, and pretty cookie cutter at the same time. It’s a survival game, but with a novel genre blend meant to attract a different kind of audience. There’s a lot of these, but V Rising brings the action-RPG and gothic styles to the table in a way that feels unique. So that’s fun, but the survival and crafting part is about as boilerplate as it gets. Therefore, if you’re the type of person that shrivels up and shrieks at survival game systems like a vampire considering the concept of brunch, V Rising won’t change your mind. But if you can hang with the concept and also enjoy some Diablo-like combat, having those two things together in one game is pretty rad.

Contributing Editor

Lucas plays a lot of videogames. Sometimes he enjoys one. His favorites include Dragon Quest, SaGa, and Mystery Dungeon. He's far too rattled with ADHD to care about world-building lore but will get lost for days in essays about themes and characters. Holds a journalism degree, which makes conversations about Oxford Commas awkward to say the least. Not a trophy hunter but platinumed Sifu out of sheer spite and got 100 percent in Rondo of Blood because it rules. You can find him on Twitter @HokutoNoLucas being curmudgeonly about Square Enix discourse and occasionally saying positive things about Konami.

Review for
V Rising
  • Novel mixture of action-RPG combat and survival/crafting
  • Cool and challenging boss fights
  • Survival mechanics are pretty boilerplate
  • Very slow start before the "good stuff" kicks in
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