Second Wind: V Rising’s 1.0 build is a fangtastic revamp of the vampire survival sandbox


It doesn’t seem possible that V Rising burst onto the scene almost two years ago, but here we are. I sometimes struggle to get into isometric games, but the vampire theme intrigued me, and my gaming group jumped in head first when that early access dropped. We played for a few months and had a great time until we hit a wall in progression, got bored, and then just… wandered away.

So when Stunlock offered press the opportunity to preview the 1.0 launch, I leaped back in to see whether game still had the magic that snagged me the first time.

Now, there’s a tendency in the survival sandbox subgenre to roll out a big early access launch, flounder for a couple of years, and then – if we’re lucky – announce a formal launch with barely a blip. But I’m happy to say that V Rising breaks with the trend. V Rising’s 1.0 launch is the rare survival builder that’s worthy of the fully launched distinction.

In short, V Rising 1.0 improves on everything that made the EA version so much fun. It adds a layer of refinement that I always hope to see in the full launch of a game. While there are still annoyances and rough parts of the game, they don’t detract from the overall experience. I can’t wait to play 1.0 on live servers. Heck, enough has changed that even with a few weeks of preview time, I still didn’t have time to experience everything new. I spent about 30 hours playing 1.0 – that’s how hooked I am – and the only reason I stopped there was that the preview servers are temporary.

I’m happily starting over tomorrow with all of you. Let me tell you why.

My first undead steps

Right out of the gate, when you’re starting a new game, V Rising demonstrates just how much it’s grown up. You now have the option to choose your difficulty: relaxed, normal, or brutal. The relaxed experience focuses on building, exploration, and crafting. All the bosses and mobs throughout the world are just a smidge easier. Brutal is the opposite; everything is harder with the bosses getting new abilities. Stunlock’s preview servers were available only at the “Normal” difficulty, which is fine as that’s what I would have picked anyway. I’m not a hardcore cupcake.

Character creation was more or less how I remembered it, though the team did add additional customization options. I futzed around with the settings, and then I was off. These first few steps into the world were a lot like what I remember from the EA launch: run around, channel my inner Link, break some pots, hack up some skeletons, and hop down into the Farbane Forest at one of two starting points.

The game progression is broken up into acts now, each act representing a collection of V Blood bosses to fight and a loose order in which to do them, based on gear level. Act 1 consisted of Bosses that were all found in Farbane Forest. But as in the EA launch, there are a couple of higher-level bosses that will patrol around the Act 1 zone and turn you into a slightly greasy ash pile if you aren’t careful.

Building the monument to my undeadness

The devs have made substantial changes to the building systems over the last two years. I remember running around at launch trying to find a spot for a castle heart that gave me enough room to build, but it was open-ended, and you could plop that heart down anywhere you fit it. Now, the game features what I would call castle plots – the designated spots where I can throw my castle heart. Instead of moving the castle heart around one or two squares to get the most amount of real estate, now I just plop the castle heart anywhere within the plot and I get the whole thing.

While this is technically a little more limiting, I like it because it takes the onerous parts out of finding a good spot for your castle while still giving you a lot of options.

The castle plots are all different shapes and sizes, but size is less a limiting factor now since you can have multiple floors to your castle now too, so you can always grow upward. I chose a smaller plot with the plan to build multiple levels. In the EA launch version, you could have only single-floor castles, and when combined with the freeform “plot a castle heart down anywhere,” that meant that you could accidentally get a small plot and not have enough room for all of your stuff.

Which brings me to the next major castle improvement: the ability to easily move your castle. For a nominal fee of 100 Blood Essence, you can pack your bags and move on to greener pastures. V Rising handles this pretty well, giving you travel packs and allowing you to place the foundation and walls from your original castle plot to the new one, without your having to deconstruct your entire original castle. Before you can complete the move, you have to pick where you want all your stations and furniture to go.

Once you do that, you complete the move and everything teleports in. I moved my starter castle from next to the newbie spawn point in Farbane Woods up to the edge of the zone, looking into the Dunley Farmlands, and it was easy-peasy. That removed a lot of the pressure to get a “good” spot right out of the gate. Instead, I found a “good enough” space to start building from, then moved my castle to a better location.

There are also merchants in the game now. I spied groups of merchants in Farbane, roughly on either side of the map. Each group has someone selling gems, research books, general goods, potions, and herbs. I appreciated the research books, and I would stop back frequently to check for new stock and things I hadn’t learned.

Research is annoying

Research is one of the kludgier parts of the game for me, something I feel could use a little revision in the future. The game is structured around gear, and your gear is your progression and your playstyle. So if you want to play a tanky character, you get health gear. If you want to play a spellcaster, you get spell power gear. All good, except for the fact that your ability to craft that gear is based on your ability to find the book to be able to research and unlock it. My vampire immortal is at the mercy of RNGesus.

The game also doesn’t make it clear what you’ve already researched and what you have yet to research if you aren’t looking at the research desk. I ended up looking at the pieces I needed at the research desk, typing them into notepad, and then running to the two merchants to see if I could find the books I needed. It would be much easier if the game gave some indication that you’ve already researched the book without being at the research desk. I accidentally wasted money on duplicate books on more than one occasion, and it was annoying.

New magics

One of the areas that the game has improved for me is the magic system. In early access, I felt the magic system was stapled onto the side of the game; it was too restrictive to have any customization in playstyle. There was one way to play a magic user, and that was it.

The new magic system gives more flexibility in how you play, what spells you use, and the overall vibe of the character. While I remember trying to play an Illusion vampire at the EA launch and finding it very frustrating, this time I used blood and chaos spells to devastating effect. Instead of being confronted with a sequential unlock, you can unlock from one of several spells in a different tier when you get a spell point in a particular magic domain.

From there, you can add gems that you find throughout the world that add different to your spells. For example, as a spellcaster, I spent a lot of time running away and trying to keep the mobs at range, and I needed to heal a lot. So I gemmed out my spells to give me a lot of passive healing while I was kitting bosses around. You still get only three spells on your hotbar at any given time, but I was satisfied with the flexibility the gems gave to the spells.

I do feel that the pacing of acquiring new spells is a bit off. For all the physical damage weapons, I can get them right at the start of the game. But new spells can only be learned by defeating V Blood bosses and getting a spell point. After playing Act 1, I found most of my spellbook is still locked, and my look through the V Bloods suggests to me that getting more points is going to a random, sporadic process through the rest of the game. The result is that it seems as if the game doesn’t want me to play a spellcaster and would much rather that I focus on physical damage primarily. That sucks because the magic is fun! It just seems that the game doesn’t want me to use it.

But really, you hate range DPS don’t you

I noticed a slew of new weapons added to the game as well, but I was able to snag only the bow in my Act 1 adventure. Both the crossbow and the bow feel similar to magic in that I don’t think the game wants me to use them. Combat in V Rising is hectic and involves a lot of scampering from things that want to vivisect you. Both the range weapons I played had long attack times, meaning I had to stay in one place and get walloped on by whatever mobs happened to be closer. The damage is the same as the melee weapons, which means that using the bow instead of the sword means you are effectively rooted in place while you attack, and you’re dealing damage dramatically more slowly than you would if you were using a melee weapon. If you’re using just a ranged weapon, mobs generally won’t die fast enough to keep them from roasting you.

The final thing I want to talk about is the kludgey transition from Act 1 to Act 2. After you beat the final boss in Act 1, you are yeeted into Act 2, which starts in the Dunley Farmlands. The game had been very diligent about giving me breadcrumbs on what to do next to progress, but when I first hit Act 2, I was undergeared, and the next breadcrumb requires you to figure out a few things on your own.

This isn’t bad in and of itself. As you progress in the game, it’s natural for the game to offer less hand-holding. But it’s awkward when the game goes from holding your hand to shoving you face-first in a garlic wreath that causes you to take 100% more damage and do 50% less damage and oh by the way here are three skull-difficulty bosses in the same small area of the map. I’m fine with the less-handholdy outcome, but give me a little bit more transition!

Nope, just me.

Can’t wait for more

There’s a lot in V Rising‘s 1.0 that I didn’t get to see during the preview. For example, I couldn’t really tell whether the grind wall my guildies and I hit during the EA launch version is still there. But what I saw of the early game makes me hopeful the rest of the game is just as good.

Two years ago V Rising was a sleeper hit that almost no one saw coming. But it had a lot going for it; it was just rough around the edges. The 1.0 launch is everything I hoped to see from a game that moves from EA to full release. The things that made me fall in love with the survivalbox at the start are still there, just refined and polished. The pacing of Act 1 was spot on. The changes the devs made to the building make it more delightful and less onerous. The changes to the magic system give optionality and remove a lot of requirements. Combat is fast, fun, and challenging – occasionally frustrating too, but not brutal. The gameplay loop with the day/night cycle means there are always easy ways to exit the loop or keep going.

If you haven’t played V Rising since launch, or are debating picking it up – do it. It’s worth it, and it’s the most fun you can have being a blood-drinking immortal of unimaginable evil… or at least ambiguously inconsistent morality. I’ll be playing tomorrow too, and I can’t wait.

MMOs are constantly changing, and our opinions naturally change with them. That’s why we’re here to give some beloved (or not) games a second (or third) look. Has that game that was a wreck at launch finally pulled itself together? How do the hits of yesteryear hold up today? Let’s find out as MassivelyOP gets its Second Wind!
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