From the studio that brought us the brilliant Bloodline Champions and Battlerite, Stunlock Studios have always been tantalizingly close to creating something truly special. After launching just two days ago, the studio's newest title V Rising currently has 30,000 people viewing its landing page, not to mention the 160,000 that viewed the game on Twitch when it originally flipped into Early Access. With sales likely northward of 350,000 in a matter of days, it’s fair to say that the game is a huge success.
While Battlerite saw huge success when it first launched, its player base quickly waned over time. Battlerite’s competitive arena offered too little longevity and depth for some. Rather than address this issue Stunlock, to the dissatisfaction of many, spent time and resources chasing a new fad in its much-maligned Battlerite Royale instead of investing in its predecessor when it was still very much alive. As an entirely separate product that lifted all that Battlerite was, but plonked into a battle royale setting, Battlerite Royale crashed and burned almost overnight.
Despite this misstep, it’s evident that Stunlock learned a great deal, dusted themselves off, and pursued something new yet familiar. As a team, Stunlock has always been exceptional at combat in a top-down setting, while their brief time with Battlerite Royale allowed them to flex their creative muscle in level design. Combined with their emphasis on polish, the culmination of all these things has resulted in a game that’s set to bleed all your free time.
As a blend of Battlerite and Valheim, V Rising scratches a certain itch that up until now has been missing from the survival genre. Despite being an Early Access title for £15.49, it offers a level of polish and content that few fully released games can match. While it’s far from perfect, there’s no mistaking that it’s bloody good (sorry - couldn’t resist).
With rapid gathering, no stamina, no weight limits, a generous inventory size, and quick building, it’s evident where Valheim influenced the team. This extends further if you draw comparisons to Valheim’s bosses and V Rising’s V Blood carriers and the structure of crafting progression and itemization. Comparisons aside, V Rising does do things differently by building on Battlerite’s foundations and bringing satisfying combat and movement to a genre where both are typically stale. It also cuts its own path by placing players in a beautifully hand-crafted world filled to the brim with enemies, unique locations and bosses that offer serious challenge and spectacle. There’s no denying that it’s an enticing world to explore.
Whether you’re exploring an abandoned mine littered with workers, trudging through snowy mountains being chased by yeti or stalking through woodland with wolves snapping at your heels, there’s a moreishness to exploring. Filled with risk as you gear your vampire, there’s also an urge to push the limits of your level as you venture out. You must weigh up the quality of your weaponry as well as your own ability. It’s part of the reason why I loved Battlerite so much. There was genuine skill in perfect positioning and the timing of your abilities. With several V Blood carriers being out of my level range, I managed to kill them just by learning their skillset and whittling them down over time (they’ve all been brilliant to fight so far).
V Rising’s sun system, which I was worried would be faddish or irrelevant, plays a particularly interesting part in the game and how you explore. It isn’t difficult to avoid being burnt by its rays (perhaps too easy at times) but there will be moments when the sun rising has a dramatic impact on your play and survivability. When fighting Quincey the Bandit King atop his mountain, not only did the sun rise but the shrinking play arena resulted in my death as I cowered for cover against his barrage of AoE attacks. Even a gentle stroll for some thread in Dunley Farms saw me licking my wounds as I struggled to kill Christina the Sunpriestess while trying to find shadow.
At times it’s a mechanic that feels subtle and could present greater risks to the player, but there’s a real challenge here for Stunlock Studios to implement a looming threat that doesn’t make play laborious. It’s a tightrope for them to balance and a challenge I certainly don’t envy.
In spite of my love for the game and irrespective of whether you choose to pursue PvE or PvP, V Rising isn’t perfect. Having lost interest in Valheim after killing all its bosses, I fear that V Rising may suffer the same fate for many. Without procedural maps the world may quickly grow old, while the accessibility of horses trivializes much of its size. Combined with a lack of enemy scaling, the moment you get a decent set of weapons and abilities, most enemies outside of V Blood carriers feel entirely irrelevant.
I suspect the biggest disappointment for many, however, will be the building. Though easy to do and with effective results, it simply lacks any creative depth to create original, stunning locations. Where Valheim offers incredible opportunities to build and design truly unique towns and homes, its combat and PvE encounters are terribly weak. In contrast, V Rising offers amazing combat and PvE encounters at the expense of deep base-building. As someone who prefers to battle epic bosses and fight opposing players, that's brilliant for me,but it does curtail the longevity of the game. Valheim has continued to thrive due to its community creations and a player's ability to experiment. Right now, that’s just not possible in V Rising.
Having only just begun its life in Early Access and with well over 50 hours of PvE content available there’s incredible value to be had here. If Stunlock Studios can refine their vision, regularly, add new abilities and weapons and determine how they’re going to tackle the map getting stale, I’ve no doubt that it will retain its playerbase and grow even more than it already has. Stunlock’s biggest obstacle, however, will be to establish what they want base building to be and what role that really plays on gameplay. Right now your home is either a place to hold your belongings and tools, or for an opposing player to sometimes attack, rather than something that you can be proud of.
Regardless of these minor concerns, V Rising is an exceptional game that absolutely deserves your time and money. Stunlock Studios have created a worthy successor to Battlerite and just for the challenge of finding and killing its V Blood carriers, you should absolutely jump headfirst into the crypt.