V Rising is an entry in a rather saturated genre of Indie games, the survival/crafting game. You’ve seen lots of these before, from Minecraft to Don’t Starve to Subnautica. However, even in a genre bursting with options, it’s still possible to stand out from the crowd, usually through some combination of aesthetics or by taking a twist on the formula. V Rising has done both with the beautifully ruined gothic world you must conquer.
Yes, conquer. For you see, you are not the Hero in V Rising. You are a creature of the night, a master of dark and unnatural powers. You are Nosferatu. A Vampire. And from your dark castle (once you’ve built it) you shall see this world on its knees before you.
V Rising is currently an Early Access title, but don’t let that fool you. I have seen full releases with less polish than I’ve seen from this game.
I can, of course, only speculate what the ‘V’ in V Rising stands for.
Bloody Good Time
For the purposes of this review, I chose to create my own world rather than playing online. I was immediately astounded by the sheer scope of options you have when creating a new world in V Rising. The main options are roughly what you’d expect: things like if you have Player versus Player enabled, the difficulty, etc. But the advanced options let you more or less customize every single part of the game. From loot drop rates to damage taken by specific individual vampiric weaknesses, V for Vendetta Rising has the option.
Several of the things I would like to complain about the game are technically optional, thanks to the frankly extensive world options at your disposal, like being unable to teleport while holding crafting materials, or resource costs, or even weapon and armor having durability can be freely disabled. However, I chose not to change any of the settings for my personal playthrough in order to have the experience most in line with what the developers imagined.
As I mentioned before, Veni Vidi Vici Rising is a survival/crafting game. Your up-and-coming vampire overlord rises from their coffin with nothing but the scraps on their back. If you want to have your own castle and throne and all of those cool decorations, you’re going to have to work for it.
Like most survival/crafting games, you grab some spare bits lying around, fashion them into crude tools, and then use those tools to get better materials to fashion into tools. Rinse and repeat until you can kill God. In this case, the tools also function as different weapons as well. For example, the axes you use on trees are excellent for fighting living tree monsters, while the mace you use to mine stone is equally effective on stone golems.
But the real twist on the formula is that in most games—even beyond the survival/crafting genre—darkness is dangerous. All the way back since the first person was eaten by a grue in Zork, dark places in video games are usually bad. Especially at nighttime. But I did mention that this is a game about being a vampire, did I not? In this game, it’s not the night you have to fear but the day, because sunscreen is still a couple hundred years away from being invented and if you go outside you’re going to learn firsthand what it means for the sun to be a deadly laser. I’m not joking, you will catch fire.
The good news is that there are advantages to your vampiric nature. The biggest one is that you can pop open any living enemy like a juice box. Not only is the taste delightful and refreshing, but it refills your blood pool and changes your blood type. No, I don’t mean O or AB or anything like that, don’t be silly! I mean blood types like ‘beast’ or ‘rogue,’ because nowadays D&D parties can’t even give transfusions, I guess. Here’s where it gets crazy. These blood types give you a specific buff with your buff getting stronger based on the purity of the blood you drank, but drinking a different blood type will override your current one. Additionally, you have a blood pool that goes down over time that you use to passively (or actively) regenerate health. And if that goes down, so do you, so try to remember to eat, okay?
A video game protagonist wakes up in an on-fire science lab with nothing but an AI and a high-tech gun to…
But what about base crafting? I did promise you that you could build your own castle, right? You can. Your castle is built around something called the Castle Heart that maintains the integrity of your defenses, keeping out wandering enemies (and players). And much like you, the Castle Heart is powered by blood, so you better start sacrificing your enemies to keep it going. The Castle Heart also powers all of your machinery, like a grinder to make bricks or the sawmill or the furnace. You get the idea.
Something I noticed about the default settings is that the refinement machinery is really expensive and time consuming. It is possible to make these machines faster and cheaper by matching the floor to the subcategory of machinery, like ‘workshop’ or ‘alchemy’ or ‘crypt,’ but those all require materials you get via refinement, so you have to sit through quite a bit of the normal, slow speed with high costs before you can discount it, and those only increase efficiency by 25%. In other words, your machines guzzle stone and lumber like tomorrow’s a dream.
Victoria’s Secret Rising handles progression a little differently from most survival/crafting games. Much like, for example, Subnautica, the world is not procedurally generated. You are in a static world from start to finish.
(I would normally consider this to be a problem with replayability in a game like this, but I cannot overstate how customizable the difficulty is, so I can already imagine all of the challenge runs people will inevitably make)
Instead of progressing by naturally stumbling across new resources and using them to upgrade in order to expand the area you have access to, you acquire new crafting recipes or castle facilities the old-fashioned way: murder. Specifically, you have to hunt down, defeat, and then consume the blood of one of the game’s bosses. They vary in difficulty, but most of them have some means of summoning minions and/or area denial. Pro tip: don’t fight the ones with area denial if it’s about to be daytime. You will die.
Combat in this game is handled in a way similar to Diablo or similar games, and the camera angle makes that comparison even more obvious, but your abilities are far more limited. You have up to four spells hotkeyed at once, one of which is an endgame spell so you’re probably going to have only three most of the time, and one is your dodge. A dodge with a very long cooldown.
There isn’t a mana system, except for your Vampire powers, which draw from your blood pool. Otherwise abilities are handled entirely on cooldown.
There’s no character level either. Your ‘combat level’ is based on what gear you’re wearing, so even sheathing and unsheathing your sword can change your combat level. This does also mean that it’s possible to end up losing all of your progress if your difficulty allows you to lose gear on death, as you might end up without the materials for replacements and no means of fighting the enemies surrounding your scattered loot. Choose your difficulty responsibly.
As stated, I played solo which gives me an interesting perspective on several of the design choices, and how they might relate to multiplayer—especially Player versus Player.
For example, a moment ago I mentioned being unable to teleport while holding crafting materials. In VVVVVV Rising, your major means of traveling a far distance is by using fancy vampiric teleporters. These teleporters are connected to any that you’ve been close enough to for them to appear on your map, even if you haven’t quite been there in person. But you cannot use these devices if you have any crafting materials in your inventory at all. So if you’re making a run to grab a bunch of resources, you have to walk all the way back to your castle. Preferably before sunrise.
In a singleplayer game like mine, this means that resource gathering is an annoying slog (unless you know that you can change that during game setup) but in PvP the context changes completely. It means that going out for anything risks you getting jumped (and killed and robbed) by other players. I also wonder if that’s why the machinery is so slow: to make it harder to use it in an emergency situation and encourage preparing your defenses in advance.
Sink Your Teeth In
There’s an attention to detail and level of polish I wasn’t expecting. When moving around, for example, your character will turn their head to watch the mouse cursor. Little touches like these can go a long way. I’ve already mentioned that this game has more polish than many full releases I’ve seen.
The aesthetic is hard to describe properly. It’s reminiscent of cell shading (if not actually cell shaded), but at the same time it has a darker gothic style to it. You are a Vampire after all.
Character models all have little touches to them that make it easy to tell at a glance what kind of enemy they are, from their weapon(s) to their size and outfit. The bosses stand out for having unique designs, even the ones that are just Woodland Predator, But Bigger, like the Alpha Wolf and the Ferocious Bear. They aren’t merely resized, reused models, but have their own touches, like scars.
The environments are really pretty, thankfully, since you spend a lot of time in them. There’s a good variety of foliage and trees, even knowing you’ll but cutting most of them down for resources, so as to not feel too samey while in the middle of a forest. Rocks are the exception, being recolors of the same rock model, but you can’t mine from cliff sides, so being able to know at a glance that this is a designated mining rock is fairly useful. Though, admittedly, Sulfur Rocks and Copper Rocks are very visually similar, being the same model but in Yellow and Orange, respectively.
I do wish that the HUD could be more useful sometimes. If an enemy is too strong for your combat level, they have a skull icon in place of their combat level. This is useful for knowing that you need to flee, less useful for knowing when you’re ready for a rematch.
Things That Go Bump in the Night
Verisimilitude Rising has a strong soundtrack that reminds me of the old FATE games, and if you haven’t heard that music before, know that there is no higher praise I could give the music.
The sound effects are satisfyingly crunchy and match well with context and actions, really helping to absorb you into the experience. I did note that the footstep sounds are currently limited but given the setup I’m willing to let that slide.
The voice acting is incredible, but to be fair I am biased by liking one of the VAs for his previous work. (Errol the Stonebreaker, if you’re curious). The voice lines are all well-handled and not annoying either.
On a technical level, the mixing is really well done so that nothing feels too grating on your ears, and everything has the desired impact.
V Rising is an excellent game that manages to stand out even in a frankly bloated market of contemporaries, and I can scarcely imagine what the full release will be like if this is still early access.
Oh, the ‘V’ stands for Vampire, I get it!