V Rising’s Sunlight Mechanic Is Extremely Cool, Until It Isn’t
One of V Rising’s greatest strengths is how well it ties its gothic horror theme to its survival/crafting game. It feels like the fantasy of being a vampire was just as important to the developers as the resource-gathering and base-building fantasy. Those ideals don’t seem like they would fit well together, but they do. Stunlock Studios is bringing a lot of innovative ideas to the survival/crafting genre, and there’s no better example of that than sunlight mechanic – a common vampire trope that fits perfectly in a survival game. Sunlight has a huge impact on how you play the game. It determines when and where you can go, it affects the difficulty of combat encounters, and overcoming it speaks to both your mastery of the game and your character’s progression. It’s a clever mechanic that I appreciate a lot, conceptually. In practice, however, I’ve quickly grown to resent the sunlight and the hindrances it creates. It’s a good mechanic, but after a while it stops being a fun one.
Sunlight is pretty much the first thing you learn about when you begin V Rising. As soon as you step out into the sun you’ll see a bright red light coming down from the sky and pointing directly at your head. After a few seconds you’ll start to burn, and you only have a few more seconds to find cover or you’ll die. The forest is dense with trees, rock formations, and structures that provide shelter from the sun, but traveling during the day is never easy. The day/night cycle is always an important feature of survival games, and this is such a smart way to incorporate day and night into a vampire setting. It makes you feel free and powerful in the dark, like the whole world is your hunting ground, but during the day you become weak and vulnerable.
Early on, sunlight poses some major problems. It’s difficult to work on your base when you can’t move around freely, so you have to build Mist Braziers that create a fog to block out the sun. These structures use bones as fuel, so you need to make time to hunt in between all your other tasks. As your castle develops, you’ll build a roof to block out the sun and you’ll no longer need to worry about maintaining Mist Braziers. At that point sunlight becomes little more than a nuisance while traveling, which unfortunately takes up most of your time in V Rising.
Once you’ve taken care of the crafting basis, the main loop of the game is about tracking down bosses to unlock new blueprints and abilities. Leaving at night will help you cover ground quicker, but there is so much ground to cover between bosses that when the sun rises you’ll inevitably find yourself either still walking to the boss, or walking back from the fight. During the night you can transform into a wolf to get around faster, but you get knocked out of wolf form if you take a single point of damage, so using it during the day under the constant threat of sunlight typically isn’t possible. At this point it’s a noticeable hindrance – it slows you down on an already agonizingly long journey.
The problem with sunlight is that you never overcome it. You can craft gear that increases how long it takes to start burning, but you’ll always be slowed down by the sun. It doesn’t pose a major threat, and there’s no way you can deal with it completely. It’s just an annoyance. It would be one thing if sunlight blocked off certain paths completely, or if the time of day had a big impact on the size and shape of the shadows, but you’re completely unrestricted from traveling during the day, it just takes longer.
V Rising just launched in early access, and I’ve only seen the first, forest-covered region. It’s possible that further development will make sunlight more interesting and dynamic, or that later biomes will change the way you’re forced to engage with sunlight. I’ve played 15 hours of V Rising and I’m no longer impressed nor threatened by sunlight. I just wish I didn’t have to deal with it anymore.
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