Two vampires fighting side-by-side in V Rising.

V Rising review

A confident 1.0 release for an action-RPG/survival game hybrid that was already excellent in Early Access.

(Image: © Stunlock Studios)

Our Verdict

An even better version of one of the best Early Access survival games.

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Need to Know

What is it? A vampire-themed hybrid of action RPG and survival sandbox.
Release date May 8, 2024
Expect to pay $34.99/£29.50
Developer Stunlock Studios
Publisher Stunlock Studios
Reviewed on Ryzen 7 7700X, RTX 4080, 64GB RAM
Steam Deck Playable
Link Official site

I first started playing V Rising almost two years ago now, not long after it  launched into Early Access back in May 2022, and immediately it became an obsession. My friends and I would jump online every week and stay up until the early morning to work on our cute little vampire castle together, like we were playing a macabre version of Animal Crossing.

Eventually we all moved onto different games, but V Rising still frequently crossed my mind. I kept wondering what the full release of the game would look like, considering how feature rich and uncharacteristically bug-free the game already was for an Early Access title. Now 1.0 is here, and mostly it is just a more polished version of that initial launch, though with some very welcome additions—and I'm obsessed all over again.

Fangtasy world 

(Image credit: Stunlock Studios)

V Rising is an action-RPG at its core, but with mechanical layers that make it more of a survival sandbox. You play as a vampire, and every conceivable vampire trope has been tied into some element of the gameplay. Sunlight sets you on fire, garlic and silver will inflict debuffs, and of course you have to drink blood to survive and grow in strength. 

Most of your time is spent hunting down bosses, killing them to steal their powers. If you're on a PvP server, you'll also be turning those powers on other bloodsuckers—vampires never do seem to get along, do they?

What brings it all together is the crafting. Upgrading your gear requires you to farm resources, but they have to be refined at your player-built castle. Defeating bosses unlocks different workstations you can build, further expanding your options for what you can make.  

(Image credit: Stunlock Studios)

This gameplay loop is where V Rising really shines. It's a familiar formula—a little bit Valheim-with-vampires—but it stands out thanks to a progression system that's wonderfully well-balanced and rewarding. Boss fights feel tough but fair, and each unique enough to make every new encounter fresh and exciting. That's pretty impressive considering there are 57 of them out there to hunt down. 

Each drops its own loot, from the aforementioned workshop plans, to spells, weapon blueprints, and even new animal forms you can transform into to access different areas. Some rewards are more vital than others, but it all feels meaningful, and that steady pace of dopamine hits is what'll keep you playing lost past your bedtime. 

You can feel the benefit here of V Rising's journey through Early Access, the gratifying feel of its gameplay loop perfected through two years of player feedback. And if it's still not quite in your sweet spot, a suite of options let you tweak the experience to your liking, including two new difficulty modes for 1.0: "Relaxed" and "Brutal". 

(Image credit: Stunlock Studios)

Your castle at the heart of it all is brilliantly easy to create and customise, a far cry from other RPGs that feature similar mechanics. I’ve recently been replaying Fallout 4, as I’m sure a lot of us have, and I completely forgot how much of a pain it is in that game to get all the parts of your buildings to line up. By contrast, V Rising makes building the gothic castle of your dreams a breeze, every wall and feature snapping into place without any hassle. 

Using it as a base for your adventures works just as smoothly, with quality-of-life features like dumping all of your items into appropriate chests for each item type at the press of a button. There’s even a new mechanic in the full release that allows you to relocate everything at your old castle somewhere new, including all of your chests with their loot still inside them, with no fuss.

Deadicated servers

(Image credit: Stunlock Studios)

V Rising's biggest weakness is that none of this works quite as well alone. For this review, I had to play solo to see all the new content in time (something I'd never done prior) and I couldn't shake the feeling that the world feels lacking in character when you're on your own. 

Admittedly, playing with friends almost always enhances your experience of a game, but it does go a little further than that in V Rising's case. Many of the bosses, for example, are on the wrong side of overwhelming when tackled alone, bombarding you with summoned minions and homing attacks that make you pray for a partner to offset some of the heat. And while building and designing your castle is still fun and useful on your own, putting the effort in to make it look just so does start to feel a bit pointless when you don't have someone to show it off to.

Playing alone also makes the game's lack of narrative much more evident. Outside of a pretty vague opening cinematic and a few pieces of lore you can stitch together from NPC dialogue and certain boss descriptions, there really isn’t any story to speak of in V Rising. Not every game needs one, of course, but even just a little more world-building—perhaps some notes and diary entries to find on your travels—would have helped give the game more personality. 

When your friends are making endless vampire jokes in your ears it's not something you really notice, but when you're making repeated treks across the map solo, it can all start to feel a little hollow without that narrative meat to it. Maybe I just missed hanging out with my mates, but if you are thinking of trying V Rising singleplayer, be warned that it doesn't feel like the intended experience.

Give and stake

(Image credit: Stunlock Studios)

Whether solo or multiplayer, the game runs perfectly. I haven't encountered a single stutter, graphical bug, or other technical issue to speak of. That's consistent with my experience of the Early Access version, but it's certainly not unheard of for a new update to break things (oh hey, another Fallout 4 reference)—not so here.

That's despite the 1.0 release introducing several graphical improvements. The lighting in particular is drastically better—admittedly a little ironic for a game where you spend the daytime cowering indoors—and I noticed that a lot of foliage and greenery has been added to some of the previously barren areas of the map in a bid to spruce (ahem) things up.

It feels a bit weird writing a review of a game I've already been playing and enjoying for two years. I knew it was going to be a good score, because even before touching the 1.0 release, I'd already experienced the majority of what V Rising has to offer and loved it. 

The developer would have had to have monumentally screwed up to tarnish that already fantastic experience. Instead, with small improvements and more endgame content, it's thankfully just made a great game even better.

The Verdict
V Rising

An even better version of one of the best Early Access survival games.