V Rising makes me wonder: is it time to rethink the survival crafting template?

When Minecraft smashed down like a meteor all those years ago, the idea of chopping down trees in games – to make wood to make shelter – felt excitingly new. Before then, games weren’t particularly concerned with the mundanities of survival, presumably in the name of what they thought was fun. Games were for extraordinary adventures, not ordinary ones. But Minecraft changed that. It made a feature of finding food and keeping yourself fed, and not thirsty, and it introduced us to a gameplay loop revolving around it. Make a shelter to survive the night, make a set of equipment, and then when you’ve got a stable footing in the world, you can find myriad ways to upgrade every part of that.

To say that the idea caught on would be an enormous understatement. Minecraft was an era-defining moment. It propelled the whole gaming movement on YouTube, and YouTube with it, and helped launch the careers of so many gaming influencers there. It showed that there was a massive, captive audience for this kind of open-ended, multiplayer, crafting survival thing, and a stampede of other game-making companies rushed to follow it. Years later, there are many really successful games in this area: Ark, Rust, Terraria, Valheim, Palworld, Grounded, The Forest, Enshrouded, Don’t Starve, to name a few. The genre has become so influential it’s spread to brands like Fallout, and elements of it can be found in huge games like Fortnite. The concept is now so familiar it’s understood implicitly wherever it’s used. We know the loop, we know what to do. But why have I never questioned it?

This rushed to mind while playing V Rising, which just fully launched in version 1.0. You might remember it having a moment a couple of years ago in early access. Time has passed but even now, it’s got a really compelling pitch. You are a newly arisen vampire who must build a castle and make your Castlevania-inspired mark on an unsuspecting world. A world in which you’ll worry about the daytime rather than nighttime and where you’ll suck blood to absorb powers and wield powerful magic. A land filled with bosses to beat and where a PvP endgame awaits, based around territorial dominance, should you want it – there are private servers and PvE servers if you don’t. V Rising has bulked out in early access and is a full package now. The problem is, it locks its really good stuff away.

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