V Rising is like Valheim, but with a lot more bite

You arrive in V Rising by mythical means, scrambling to establish a foothold in the mysterious world that you’ve been somehow summoned into. You attempt to evade the worst that the fauna and the elements have to throw at you, quickly erecting four walls and setting up a place to rest your head. Over time, you grow in power, harvesting resources from the land in order to track down and slay the most powerful inhabitants of this land.

If any of that already sounds familiar, chances are pretty good that you, like me, spent a couple hundred hours playing Valheim last year. The viking survival game was arguably 2021’s biggest breakout hit, garnering millions of players in just a few weeks. But if semi-mythological survival is your bag, you might also have been playing V Rising. Released into Steam early access last week, the vampiric twist on the survival genre has been one of the platform’s top performers since then. 

The comparisons are difficult to ignore. Both titles put a spin on genre tropes inspired by European folklore, placing powerful monsters into their worlds to hunt down and slay. At this early stage, V Rising is even on track to match Valheim’s meteoric rise. But for all those similarities, there’s a major tonal schism between the two games.

Creature of the Fight

Unless you’re actively spoiling for a fight, Valheim is an almost zen experience. Broadly content to let you dwell in its meadows, its entire gameplay loop is a masterclass in developing and enhancing your hygge-filled camp. There’s a gentleness to its rolling meadows and peaceful forests. That calm could be quickly dispelled by a roaming troll, but it remained a defining feature of Valheim’s success.

By contrast, the entire presentation of V Rising dispels the idea that this is a game willing to sit back and wash gently over you. Your base of operations is no wooden hut filled with simple construction tools, but a towering gothic castle with clanking industrial tools and mysterious alchemical workstations. Your prey aren’t folkloric monsters, but people just trying to scratch out a living in a world where you are the monster. 

Even combat comes with an extra sting. Rather than rushing in with viking-style abandon, developer Stunlock’s adapted what it learned from its criminally-underrated Battlerite games, skewing the camera to lend an extra Diablo-style touch. Fights are tense back-and-forths, shaped by timely dashes and well-aimed abilities. Boss fights offer few places to hide, but you can stalk roaming packs of soldiers through the woods, ducking in and out of shadows before striking out for a quick snack. It’s a vicious, violent, fast-paced affair that suits V Rising’s bloodsucking heroes perfectly, but is very different from the more methodical pace of the fights that disrupt Valheim’s downtime.

V Rising

(Image credit: Stunlock Studios)

When it comes to time between battles, even V Rising’s world is prepared to fight back. Sunlight means you’ll literally combust if you spend more than a few moments out of the shadows. Packs of wolves or roaming bandit squads will attack as you wander forest paths. Villagers will mark their farmland with garlic, offering a powerful debuff if you cross their thresholds. Valheim wants you to enjoy its world, but V Rising feels like a constant battle, making you skulk and sneak and strike from the shadows, delivering on the constant struggle between predator and prey. 

Their shared genre roots and folklore spins mean it would never have been too difficult to draw a comparison between Valheim and V Rising. But while the former is prepared to let you live the good life, the latter definitely isn’t. The prey-to-predator arc is a survival game staple, but it’s a rare game that lets you be both halves of that equation at the same time, making V Rising a particularly enticing spin for you to sink your teeth into.

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