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V Rising is a vampiric Valheim you shouldn't miss out on

Stick your neck out for this one

Look at V Rising's Steam store page and you'd wave it off in a heartbeat. Middling art sits atop a generic description that does its very best to not sell the game. "Hunt for blood in nearby settlements... conquer the land of the living." Alrighteyyy, then. Screenshots show what could be any other isometric RPG like Path Of Exile or something – anything.

So, you dive in expecting an average time. One characterised by little more than two palms on the knees once you've closed it down, then a big stand and a wordless stretch. But no! V Rising is the opposite of average; it should be renamed V-ERY GOOD Rising. Forget the art, the description, the screenshots. Just give it a shot.

A few of us from the RPS Treehouse got together for the V Rising closed beta and gave its early hours a whirl. We were all at various stages of play: I'd tickled it a bit, Liam and Hayden were going in fresh, while Ollie had lost an entire evening to it already. So, Ollie was already very much on board, but the rest of us were outliers. Was the game really all that good? Turns out yes. By the end of our session, we all struggled to pull ourselves away from our vampiric lives to attend to our actual human lives, and for one fleeting moment, I swear we all considered whether it was possible to live without sunlight.

If you're interested in playing the game for yourself, our beginner's guide will give you the rundown on V Rising's unique vampire themed systems.Watch on YouTube

V Rising is an early access, open world survival game from Battlerite developers Stunlock Studios, and it's about - quite literally - building your life as a vampire. Think of it as a vampiric Valheim in many ways, just with a top-down perspective and added MMO goodness. To begin your new life, you select a PVE or PVP server, create your bloodsucker, then bam! The open world is your exposed vein.

And how easy it is to transition into a new life, where garlic isn't a priority in your cooking anymore! The game directs you carefully with only the simplest of steps: "Make some bone gloves". The how and the why of bone gloves is left for you to figure out, but everything's interwoven so brilliantly that discovery feels intuitive. Hover over the quest and it'll tell you what ingredients you need. "20 bones". Excellent. The skeletons nearby supply the goods, and act as punching bags for combat practice. You move with WASD and your mouse is used to aim or twirl the camera around. Click and you'll attack with a basic combo, with other keys on your hotbar reserved for dashes and other cool abilities. Like one where you charge an energy orb and fling it for big damage. Another lets you counter an attack with a full-on explosion.

Gathering resources early on is easy, too. Just hit stuff and it'll drop straight into your inventory in fairly large quantities. Crafting doesn't root you in place, either, as you can set things to piece themselves together in the background while you go about your business. The game understands what makes survival games tick by eliminating chores from chores.

A vampire runs across a bridge in an autumnal V Rising forest.
The game really does look lovely. Although, those of us on Nvidia cards had a few FPS hitches, while Ollie in the AMD camp had no issues at all. This could be ironed out over time, though. | Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Stunlock Studios

What ensues is an exciting bounce between quests that gradually ramp up the complexity. It's not long before you're wandering the woods with a shopping list of 20 bones, 40 animal hide and 10 copper ore. And to acquire those ingredients, you might need a new tool; a new shopping list. Then, before you know it, you're snapping together walls and setting foundations for a new home. Turns out vampires don't claim their territory by pissing on trees. They craft blood altars and sawmills instead. More and more, the quests ramp up! Sawmill equals planks. Planks are a gateway to research tables. At research tables you can spend paper on new technology. New technology means... well, you get the idea.

There's never enough time in an evening for V Rising, basically. Sure, it's not super dissimilar from the survival game offerings out there already, with the same core loop of exploration, crafting, and getting stronger. But even in closed beta form, it's a slick operation that gets you up to speed quickly and isn't afraid to do so. You're a vampire, after all, and this game sure as heck wants you to enjoy it.

It's a slick operation that gets you up to speed quickly and isn't afraid to do so. You're a vampire, after all, and this game sure as heck wants you to enjoy it.

Once you've built a blood altar for your base (and you've topped and tailed your coffins like Liam and I did) the PVE portion of the game falls into place. You're here to fill your pale tum on some type A rum, are you not? So, you must track down – I shit you not – well over 30 bosses. Their silhouettes are obscured until you've reached the required level and then you're able to catch a whiff. No, seriously. Click "Track" on a target and you'll see a Witcher-esque red trail periodically float in and out of your vision as you explore the map. Follow your vampire-senses and it'll lead you to an intense boss fight that flexes Stunlock Studios' MOBA muscles.

Liam and I took on two targets, one a frost archer and the other a second frost archer with a hint of warlock. Both had dangerous area-of-effect spells, like a barrage of icy arrows that would damage and slow, or a meteor shower of orbs that set you alight if you couldn't hop out of the way in time. They were neat encounters that encouraged use of the noggin over crazed button mashing. And for our efforts we got some new powers! A flingable frosty bat and fiery hadoukens popped into our arsenal, both of which were easily swapped in and out of the hotbar. Later, Ollie introduced us to a vampire hunter plucked straight out of Bloodborne, who slapped us down a peg in one hit from his massive, glowy sword. Without a doubt, these fights get much harder later on.

It's perhaps the smaller details, though, that make V Rising so exciting. During the day you're forced to weave in and out of the sunlight, lest you get scorched to a crisp. It's not as annoying as it sounds, either, as there's plenty of overhead cover to duck behind as you explore. Plus, it adds an interesting element of choice to your hunts: do you go out at the time of day that Brighton beach is rammed, and risk fighting in the sun? Or wait until the safety of darkness? And trust me, when night arrives you'll breathe a deep sigh of relief.

Let's not forget that type A rum to fill your tum, though. If you've knocked an enemy to low health you can choose to suck them dry. Each creature has differing qualities of blood, so depending on what you've consumed, whether it be Rubicon or Champagne, you'll gain few or lots of benefits like movement speed, crit chance, that sort of thing.

A vampire fends off bandits in V Rising.
The map was massive and filled with bandit camps, skeleton lairs, and dangerous caverns. Who knows how and if it'll expand in the future.

Some bosses will stroll along paths too, and just, like, go about their day. If they encounter one another, they'll immediately swing fists and have at it. Again, it's a little thing, but when monsters fight each other in any game, it makes the world feel more alive. And it's a world that's wonderfully realised too, even in closed beta form. Animations are surprisingly clean; even the smallest destructible bits clatter to the ground in a neat, satisfying way.

As for destroying other players and their housing? You can't pillage unless you're on a PVP server, which unfortunately we didn't manage to test out. And since it was a closed beta, we didn't really come across many other players, besides some dozing away in their coffins. So it's hard to pass judgment on the MMO side of the game - but I can only see it adding greater complexity and chaos to proceedings. Just the thought of MOBA-style PVP battles or raids gets the blood pumping.

V Rising really impressed, turning the RPS Treehouse from skeptics to obsessed in next to no time. Yes, it's open world crafting loop isn't revolutionary, but the devs have blended the joys of vampirism with the crafting and survival elements so cleanly, it's easy to see this game as The Next Big Hit.

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