V Rising doesn't make me feel much like a vampire

A vampire chops wood with two axes
(Image credit: Stunlock Studios)

I remember my first night in Minecraft, hiding in a hole I'd dug in the ground, waiting for the sun to come up while zombies mumbled and grumbled outside. V Rising reverses that. I spend my days in the dark, then come out at night to hunt. Emerging from my lair, I transform into a wolf and search the land for veins to tap: veins of rich copper ore.

As a survival game it was inevitable V Rising would have you chop down an unsustainable number of trees. Which I did, with twin axes I made from scavenged bones. I also had a mace made of bone for clubbing menhirs into stone or ore, and a sword made of bone for attacking anything that could fight back. But it took a lot of copper ore, transformed into ingots via the furnace back at my castle, to push my solo civilization out of the Bone Age.

(Image credit: Stunlock Studios)

I use the word 'castle' loosely. Back then it didn't even have a roof, and even now it's just a big flat rectangle with walls where I keep all my crafting equipment. There's a tannery, a lumber mill, a grinder, a blood press to condense blood essence, a research desk, an upgrade desk, and more besides. 

Since V Rising is played top-down, construction is all about clearing ground and snapping things onto a grid. It makes building less janky than it tends to be in survival games where your perspective is closer to the ground and you can see the seams, but it also feels less creative. There's no way to put anything on top of anything else, meaning my castle is doomed to remain flat rather than reaching for the sky with towers like clawed fingers yearning to tear out God's heart. What I've made is the opposite of gothic. It's practical.

The first few times I got caught out by sunrise were tense experiences. You're fine in the shade, but spend more than a couple of seconds out of it and you smolder, then go up like flash paper. As the sun moves, so do the shadows, which I assume every player learns the hard way by bringing up the map screen while safely positioned next to a tree then closing it to find they're on fire.

There's always the temptation to start chopping as well. You're in a copse or a grove or whatever the word is for a thing too small to be a forest, surrounded by wood that could be turned into planks back at Castle Practical. If you're careful about it, just taking out this tree and that tree, then you won't catch fire. Until the sun moves, of course. Remember how the sun moves?

(Image credit: Stunlock Studios)

Instead, I mostly continue traveling by using the dash move to get from shadow to shadow, waiting for the timer to refill then dashing again. It's tedious but necessary, because while there are teleporters to get you across the map, you can only bring gear and consumables when you teleport rather than crafting materials. My pockets are always full of precious junk on the long journey home. 

To its credit, V Rising makes you explore to collect certain materials before you unlock the ability to make them at home. So you pull up the map, mouse over the yellow circles noting bandit camps and the like, and find one with the goods you need. Taking bandits' blood is secondary to taking their leather until the tannery unlocks. If they've got paper I'll have that too, for the research desk. It's a constant push to get out there and fight things, like the bosses whose special blood unlocks more building upgrades and new powers.

Combat's the good bit, as you'd expect from the studio who made Battlerite, with plenty of abilities and enemies to try them on. I can make corpses explode out of the ground or throw a frost bat to freeze people, and switch between a crossbow, sword, and spear as the situation demands. Some enemies have shields that incapacitate if you strike while they're blocking, or throw nets or explosives. And some of them are bears, like the one who blundered into my castle one morning because I'd left the door open.

(Image credit: Stunlock Studios)

Hunting a boss means following a smear of red through the air, then having a knockdown battle while surrounded by their flunkies. The bosses are varied, and fighting one who throws traps feels quite different to fighting the one who is just a big wolf. At the end of all these climactic hunts, once I've drunk their blood and unlocked a new window and a slightly different dash, I immediately go back to the hunt for crafting materials. Did they have any paper? I can always use paper.

I fought one boss in a mine, a foreman who took so long to put down the sun was practically up by the end of it. Which was fine, I figured. I'm underground, and there's a lot of copper down here to keep me busy. Then the rooster crowed and the sun rose, and the boss respawned with it. V Rising is designed for multiplayer, so bosses can't stay dead—that would deny other players the chance to kill them and take their precious upgrades. But knowing that everyone I kill comes back does take something away. That's supposed to be my schtick, surely. Respawning is what vampires are all about.

(Image credit: Stunlock Studios)

I appreciate the small vampire-themed touches. Like the time I raided a chest without checking what was in it, then realized I was sizzling. The chest contained silver coins, and silver burns vampires. Well, it does in the Anno Dracula books anyway and that's good enough for me. I also appreciate the option to transfer matching items from your inventory into storage being labeled 'Compulsively Count'. In some parts of the world, vampire myths say they're so big on numbers they can be defeated by scattering sunflower seeds on the ground, which they'll have to count all of even if the sun comes up while they're doing it.

Most of the time so far, I haven't felt like a vampire in V Rising. I'm doing things I should probably have servants for. Which I can get, once I finish gathering more unsullied hearts to put in the blood press and turn into greater blood essence so I can make a Servant Coffin. Hopefully that'll give me what I need, an Igor or a Renfield to gather the basic stuff while I plan the next hunt, or map out an extension to my lair. Someone to bring all the ore, animal skins, and plant fibre to me while I lurk in the dark, compulsively counting the material to make sure I've got enough like the classic vampire I yearn to be: the Count from Sesame Street. "Vun! Vun copper ingot! Ah, ah, ah!"

Read more: V Rising is more than Valheim with vampires


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Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and Playboy.com, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.