Steam Breakout V Rising is a stellar survival RPG

A vampire stalks a village at night.

Image: Stunlock Studios

I have complicated feelings about modern vampire history. Violence is cheap. Tasty humans are plentiful. And skyscrapers provide ample shelter from the sun. The sanctity of human life means little to creatures that kill people over a simple meal. It can feel powerful to be so removed from the life and death considerations of mere mortals, but such environments can also feel deeply alienating. Fortunately, the new survival game V rising solves my main complaint with properties like Vampire: The Masquerade that the creatures of the night, the so-called outsiders, are too powerful. To be an oppressed minority, the player must struggle, and in V rising, you most certainly do. Base building survival game doesn’t hold back from trying to kill you by exposure, starvation or angry wildlife. He deviates from the too common, VTM-esque model of vampires as a player-centric power fantasy.

V rising, which has been tearing up the Steam charts in recent weeks, is presented as a multiplayer vampire action-survival game, but you can also play it in single-player mode. According to its Steam page, you can build vast castles, fight holy warriors, and plunder villages. And if you watch the videos, the main draws are the gorgeous castles and flashy magic attacks. Which I wouldn’t know, because I’m still a fragile new vampire just researching recipes and mining copper for gear. Unlike what you see in flashy promo videos, you won’t immediately hold back your rivals. You start with next to nothing and have to work your way up in terms of power and resources. Most of the game, at least at first, is about killing enemies for their bones, scraps of paper in their pockets, and their firstborn. Well, maybe not the last.

V risingit is real-time combat is fast and messy, but the other half of V rising is a meticulous inventory management game. If I want to live in my own abode without burning alive during the day, I must throw bones into the brazier of mist that protects me from the sun. If I want a roof over my head, I must constantly supply blood to my fortress. I can harvest blood by slaughtering my victims, or I can build a rat farm to lure unsuspecting rodents into my abode. If all that logistical decision-making and supply management doesn’t sound appealing to you, you might want to pass up this survival game. But the game felt rewarding to me because of the crafting, not in spite of it.

A vampire in V Rising extracts the blood of a mining foreman.

Screenshot: Stunlock Studios / Kotaku

Maybe I’ll eventually get to the point where V rising feels like a power fantasy. For now, the game takes every opportunity it can to remind me that vampires are mortal and that I have to fight for every second of life I have. Surviving the Fantasy Lands of Vardoran feels like an accomplishment as gathering supplies as a vampire is really difficult. You can venture far from your stronghold to gather more valuable materials, but there’s a catch: if you’re carrying resources, you can’t use fast travel points. And if you get shot by a sentient tree or a wayward bandit, you drop all your inventory there. Every piece of copper, every roll of fabric, and every whetstone I collect can feel like a small miracle. Nothing is cheap, easy or disposable. You are a vampire, but the game also requires you to be a worker. Over time, I began to feel that my character was actually a natural part of the setting, rather than an intrusive stranger.

There are ways to automate the job, like luring rats into your den for extra blood or raising skeletons from the grave so you can grind their bones into craftable dust. But some key resources can only be obtained by attacking bandits or killing minibosses. Which means putting yourself at the mercy of the sun. Often I would rush back from a successful bandit raid, only to be caught off guard by daylight. But instead of being vaguely ashamed of my sleepless night like I do in real life, my vampire would almost immediately catch fire.

Despite its lethality, sunlight is my favorite mechanism in V rising. The only way to avoid being burned alive is to wait patiently for (boring) nightfall or rush to the nearest tree or pillar for shade. At first, I thought I could just hang around a tree and wait a few in-game hours for the sun to go down. No. My character caught fire and I realized the shadows were moving like in real life. It also meant that I had to be careful about felling trees or digging rocks during the day, lest I deprive myself of vital shade. I was constantly diving for the cover, but I appreciated that touch of realism from the designers. It made the world feel terrifying and alive, rather than just a pretty backdrop to loot.

The combat is fluid, and it’s technically possible to defeat any enemy you encounter through careful dodging and ranged attacks. In practice, the real enemy is time. Cutting down an enemy’s defenses isn’t always the best option if you only have about six hours before sunrise. Taking too long to get to a distant boss lair often means having to get home before sunset or camp next to a cliff for a few hours.

One thing to note about the start of the game is that it’s very light on scripted storytelling outside of the interface text. You are immersed in the world and need to understand the systems with almost no tutorials. Death is your main teacher. If it’s something you enjoyed Ring of Elden, so maybe that’s not a problem. I find that the most interesting stories are the situations I stumbled upon. Once I was seriously injured by a carnivorous plant. To avoid sunlight when my health was low, I ended up building my first home base next to a deadly treant. Since I mostly watched him fight wild animals, I had no idea that he was one of the strongest enemies in the early game. Another time I was ambushed by a hunter of vampires during my third confrontation with a bandit who had already killed me twice before. And I can’t forget the time I was able to harvest 800 pieces of wood in one go, because I accidentally ran into a necromancer who gassed (don’t ask) the entire forest as he tried to to kill me . V risingThe world of is full of possibilities and dangers, likely to kill you in wonderfully unpredictable ways or bestow good fortune when you least expect it.

Despite the drawbacks, V rising manages to be fair in the face of his challenges. Either you learn to play conservatively or you die very quickly. And no matter how good you are at its combat system, your victories mean nothing if you can’t safely bring everything you’ve gathered back to base. And it’s a fascinating formula that is already captured the attention of a million gamers. V rising does not offer players a world in which we are gods. He gives us a hatchet and tells us to get to work.

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