V Rising

V Rising is a solid survival/crafting game with a vampire theme and mechanics. I can’t think of a good vampire pun to put here.

I like V Rising. I don’t think it’s a perfect game. But it cost $20, and I’ve played 60 hours of it. If that’s not an easy recommendation, I don’t know what is.

V Rising is a multiplayer survival/crafting game in the vein Valheim or Rust. Instead of following their lead and being in a first person or over the shoulder camera, V Rising has a top down camera much closer to something like Diablo.

And instead of being a human unlucky enough to wash up on some random island, you’re a vampire.

The vampire thing isn’t just a theme. Sure, there’s a blood meter that replaces your hunger bar. But who you drink blood from also heavily impacts gameplay. Drink blood from a worker, and you’ll harvest more resources. Drink blood from a nun, and you’ll restore health when casting spells. Drink blood from a warrior, and you can parry some incoming attacks.

Also, you burn real hard during the daytime.

The general gameplay loop of V Rising is straight forward. After you get through the game’s equivalent of tutorial, and have a simple base set up, you’ll venture out to farm materials to craft better gear. Once your gear is good enough, you can go fight stronger bosses or “V Blood Carriers.” Defeating a boss and harvesting V Blood unlocks additional spells, powers, and crafting recipes. Then you can craft better gear! But that might require expanding your base, which requires more resources. So you rinse and repeat.

Of course, when I say “harvest resources” I mean less in a “harvest crops” sort of way, and more in a “humans in the Matrix” sort of vibe. V-Rising’s combat is probably closest to Battlerite (not surprisingly, given that Stunlock made both games). If you’re not familiar with Battlerite, I’d say it feels like a slower-paced version of League of Legends. Also, damage, health and “level” is all completely dependent on the level of gear you have equipped.

I never really had that “Power Fantasy” moment that I get from games like Path of Exile. Instead, you’re limited to 3 skills from your weapon, 2 spells, and an ultimate skill. Even when you outlevel an enemy, unless the difference is absolutely massive, you can still get put into the dirt. The combat is at its best in the game’s boss fights against V-Blood Carriers. It’s at its most annoying against packs or random mobs.

I don’t have too much to say on the multiplayer, mostly because I feel like you can play the game however you want. My first 50 hours were with a few friends on a publicly-hosted PVE server. The next 10 where those same friends on a privately hosted PVP server, and now we’re not friends anymore. Jokes aside, the multiplayer works well, and many of the factors like resource scaling are configurable. If you want a comfy base building setup with some friends, you can just join or host a PVE server with 5x resources, and the ability to teleport. And if you’re masochistic, you can join a 0.5 resource PVP server. Changing the pace and flow is pretty much just a server config setting.

I don’t think the game’s perfect. There’s a whole system for binding and turning humans into vampire servants, but their utility is limited outside of equipping them with a bit of gear, and sending them out on timed missions to gather resources. While the weapons are fairly diverse, the clothing options are a completely linear path, with no build diversity other than “big number good.”

Arise reborn, my servant! Now go get me copper.

Still though, there’s a lot more thought than often goes into games like this. It’s not possible to build a base in such a way that blocks off other players from a critical resource. The number of bosses is fairly high, and despite many of them just being random humans, the actual fights feel meaningfully diverse.

I think V Rising’s greatest strength compared to a lot of the other crafting/survival games is how complete the game loop feels. In 60 hours, I think I only looked at a wiki or guide 2-3 times, and I never encountered any jank.

V Rising is $20 on Steam. It’s a pretty good time. If you’re looking for a solid survival game, or a base builder, I feel comfortable recommending it.

Ed Note: Screenshots are blatantly ripped from the Steam Store page, at time of publishing. The game’s UI doesn’t look like this anymore, though. I still think these are decent representations of what V Rising looks like, even if the lighting in the screenshots is a bit nicer.

Dead By Daylight: Hooked On You

Constraints are an interesting thing. For example, I am trying to write this review in 27 minutes. Why? Because I am under the constraint of this article going up tomorrow. And to do that, it needs to be done by midnight-ish.

Of course, that’s not the only constraint I’m working under at the moment. In all the time I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve tried to write about one new thing each week. It turns out that playing a new game every week to the point I feel comfortable talking about it for several paragraphs is difficult. Forget playing through something ‘fun,’ even finding something just ‘interesting’ can rough.

The interesting thing about constraints, though, is that they lead to making choices you otherwise might not make. In this case, that choice was playing a visual novel where you date serial killers.

Hooked On You is a spinoff dating sim based somewhat on the Dead By Daylight world. Dead By Daylight is a game about either being a murderer, or trying to escape murderers, and Hooked On You is a game about trying to make out with them. So yeah, there are some differences.

I’m not really a visual novel person, but I did find Hooked On You interesting enough to finish (at least through the one route for the character I decided to pursue). That playthrough took about 3 1/2 hours to finish, but it’s worth noting that time also included me reading every line out loud. There are a total of four characters, so presumably, I could go back and play through the routes for the other three.

As this is a visual novel, I won’t go heavily into the plot, because that sort of spoils the whole point of the game. Instead, I’ll just give my thoughts on the tone and my overall feelings on the game. Also, if you hate reading, you could just watch me play through it here.

Since I’m not really into this genre, I don’t have too much to compare it with. For me, the strongest parts of the story were the interactions between the various in-game killers, and also the few moments where the game takes itself seriously.

Unfortunately, while those moments aren’t ‘rare,’ the game spends a fair amount of time leaning on the fourth wall. It tries to be funny, poking fun at a number of visual novel tropes, including a limited art budget, and has a narrator who talks far too much.

For me, those were the weaker sections of the narrative. They tended to distract from the rest of the experience, and often felt forced to pad out run time. I’m not saying I expected the game to be serious. But swapping between “look how meta we are,” and “Which person do you want to get to know better?” never really clicked.

This is a fairly pure visual novel. Most of what you’ll be doing is reading text. There’s no real erotic content or art in the game, even if some things are heavily implied. The tone of the whole game is far more tongue in cheek, even for the only implied sex scene that I encountered. There was a single mini-game sequence that gets repeated several times, where you have to stop a circle as it goes over an object. It’s pretty much a simplified version of mainline Dead By Daylights skill checks.

So what’s my overall take? Well, Hooked On You is interesting, but I don’t think you’ll get too much out of it if you aren’t already into Dead By Daylight. The game is fairly short, with most options and decisions being pretty clearly telegraphed. The the reward for completing sections isn’t erotic art/text, just more details about characters. As it turns out I do like Dead By Daylight, and thus have at least a passing interest in its lore, so I got something out of this game.

If you don’t have any curiosity regarding Wraith, Hunter, Trapper, or Spirit, and what sort of people they are when NOT gutting folks like fish, there isn’t too much here for you. This is a tie-in product. Maybe it’s more than just a gag game, but it’s also not really much of a standalone item.

Cult of the Lamb

Cult of the Lamb isn’t a bad game, but it doesn’t commit to any of its single mechanics adequately to be an excellent game. The only area where it makes any real innovation is in combining the various gameplay loops that it consists of. But perhaps as a result of that synthesis, none of those loops felt very deep. As such, I didn’t personally enjoy it, and I don’t recommend it.

Let’s back up for a moment, so I can catch my breath from outrunning the screaming mobs. The game is getting a lot of good press and attention right now, and I suspect my opinion is going to be somewhat unpopular. Still, before you crucify me, let me explain myself.

Cult of the Lamb presents itself as a combination of a management sim and action roguelike. You play as the Lamb, resurrected from a sacrificial death by an elder god-like figure, The One Who Waits. Upon being returned to life, you are entrusted with two goals. To build a cult in his name, and to slay the four bishops who trapped him.

I’ll cover the slaying first. The action roguelike portion of the game follows the somewhat standard roguelite formula. Upon beginning a run (or crusade, as the game likes to call them), you’re dropped into a level and given a starting weapon and a curse. There are four or so base weapon types, each with varying speed and attacks.

The dagger is the fastest, but with low damage, while the hammer is the slowest, actually having a sort of windup before it swings. The sword and the axe sit in the middle. There are more variants applied to each of the base weapon types, but they don’t really change how the weapons play, just how much damage they do. Curses are just spells. You spend fervor to use them and they have some sort of damaging effect. You get fervor by killing and hitting enemies.

The system is pretty light on builds, so runs don’t feel that different. You can’t force weapon spawns to show up, and despite the variants, each variant feels the same as the base. For example, the poison dagger and the godly dagger don’t feel different to use, even if the second has much more damage.

Anyway, back to crusade mechanics. The goal of a run is to reach the end of the zone, which looks something like the map below. Along the way you’ll gather various resources and crafting ingredients.

While this might look a little intimidating at first, there are usually only 2-3 combat areas in a run. The rest are actually resource nodes, shops, or other small events.

Upon reaching the final area of a zone, one of two things will happen. One, you’ll face off against a mini-boss for a bit more loot and a recruitable. Or two, if you’ve already defeated the zone 3 times, you’ll face off against the zone’s boss: one of the four Bishops of the Old Faith.

I played the game on medium difficultly, and I’d say that none of the fights are particularly challenging. Only one boss fight in the game took me multiple attempts.

If you win the fight, you’ll get some bonus resources, and if you lose, you’ll lose some of what you’ve collected. Either way you’ll be sent back to your cult after. This is the management sim portion of the game. You can construct buildings with resources you’ve gathered. But you make the the most important building during the game’s intro: the shrine. The shrine is used to gather devotion.

Devotion serves the role that something like “Science points” would in another game. It’s used to unlock additional buildings and structures from your primary tech tree. The other resources you have to keep an eye on are the food and faith meters. While individual cultists have their own stats, these meters provide a sort of aggregate overview of the status of your cult. Keep your cultists fed, or they’ll start to starve, and get unhappy. Keep them loyal, or they’ll… I actually don’t know what happens to be honest. I never had any loyalty problems.

This might have been because the only time someone wasn’t loyal, I sacrificed them to be ritually devoured by tentacles.

Speaking of, rituals! Another building you unlock early on is the Church, where you can perform rituals and announce doctrines for your followers to obey. In theory, it’s kind of a neat idea. In practice, I never once ran out of the resource needed to perform rituals, so I pretty much just performed them whenever they were off cooldown. For some rituals the cooldown was several in-game days long.

The timing system itself is probably worth noting. Time passes the same regardless of if you’re at your cult, or on a crusade. And cultists can’t make their own food. So it’s somewhat necessary to either set things up so that they won’t starve while you’re away, or to try to minimize the time spent on your crusades.

This is as good a moment as any to talk about the cultists themselves.

While each individual cultist does have some of their own traits, they don’t offer much variety. I only ever saw cultists with a maximum of three traits, and most of them have fairly minimal gameplay impacts; things like “15% faster/slower gathering speed.”

The end result is that I never really felt incentivized to get attached to anyone, or to assign any specific cultist a specific task. The benefits to doing so were pretty much non-existent.

It doesn’t help that there are a bunch of other mechanics that discourage you from getting attached. Cultists can die of old age, which encourages constantly acquiring new members. But cultist death makes it feel bad to use gifts or invest any significant effort into leveling up a single member. There’s also a portion of the game where several of your cultists will be randomly selected to turn against you, and you’re forced to kill them. You can also unlock the ability to sacrifice members for various reasons, including to resurrect yourself after dying in the roguelike portion of the game, but I never used that feature.

This is the biggest argument for me on why Cult of the Lamb isn’t like Animal Crossing. Cultists aren’t friends or helpful NPC’s. They’re a resource to be used in your quest to slay the bishops. At their best, they’re pretty much slaves to your every whim. At their worst, you can sacrifice them to a pit of tentacles for emergency meat.

Since I’ve covered most of the game’s mechanics, let me try to wrap it all up into one neat package. The action roguelite section of the game doesn’t have the build diversity of other games like Binding of Issac or Atomicrops, or the mechanical challenge. At the same time, the cult management portion of the game doesn’t offer the mechanical depth of other sim games, like Cultivation Simulator or Dwarf Fortress.

At the same time it doesn’t have the comfy factor of something like Animal Crossing, since many of the mechanics apply pressure to your cult. It feels like a waste to construct various decorations and buildings when the same resource could be used to create another outhouse.

I’ve talked a lot shit, so before I wrap this up, I want to say some nice things. Cult of the Lamb has absolutely incredible art style, that it executes to near perfection. And while the plot twist is pretty easy to see coming, there were a few moments in the game that did creep me out. It’s not enough to change my opinion on the game. In 12 hours of gameplay, I can’t tell you the name of a single cultist or about a really cool run, but I do remember a small set of dialogue from an NPC that twisted the knife on how fucked up the game’s universe is.

So, yeah. I don’t personally recommend Cult of the Lamb. This isn’t because it’s a bad game. But what I personally tend to prize in games is either new weird mechanics/risks, or really fun moment to moment gameplay and systems. Cult of the Lamb doesn’t do either of those things. Instead, it’s a synthesis of existing mechanics, and watered down versions of their systems.

Cult of the Lamb is $25 for all platforms.

MultiVersus

MultiVersus is fantastic. If you haven’t heard of it yet because you exclusively read Gametrodon and literally nothing else, thank you for your loyalty! You’ll be given a ranking position in the new regime. If you have already heard of MultiVersus (because you don’t live under a rock), and haven’t played it, or were on the fence about playing it, stick around and maybe I can convince you to try it.

MultiVersus is a platform fighter developed by Player First Games, and published by Warner Brothers. If you’re wondering why I’m mentioning the publisher, don’t worry. It’s relevant. But first let’s quickly talk about platform fighters as a genre. Platform fighters are, for better or worse, defined by Super Smash Brothers. If you’ve never played a platform fighter, there are few things that differentiate them from traditional fighting games.

Platform fighters, like traditional fighting games are 2D games where you use your character’s moves to hit your opponent. As someone who plays both traditionally fighters and platform fighters casually, there are two big differences. The first is that platform fighters are far more open, with mobility much closer to a platforming game. The second is the win condition. In most platform fighters, instead of each character having a set amount of HP, they have a percent value. When you get hit, your percent goes up. The higher your percent, the more knockback you take when you get hit by an attack. But no matter your percent, you don’t actually die until your opponent can knock you off the stage. Finally, platform fighters often have more characters on stage than just the traditional 1v1, and MultiVersus leans into this. The game’s primary game mode is actually 2v2, with many of the characters having abilities that buff or somehow interact with their allies.

Speaking of which. Characters!

The other thing a platform fighter needs to be good is good characters. That’s easy for Smash Bros, which might as well just be the Nintendo “Who’s Who” list for video games even if the list does have some washed up entries. (Seriously, I’m pretty sure Falco and Fox are more relevant as Smash Bros fighters than their series is. And there hasn’t been a new F-Zero game in a million years.)

This is great if you’re Nintendo, but if you have to invent your own characters, like Brawlhalla, or Rivals of Aether, or anyone else in the genre it can be rough. After all, it’s not like you can just go dig up a treasure chest of intellectual property from the 40 years.

Hey, remember how I mentioned this was being published by Warner Brothers, and said the publisher would be relevant later?

Turns out, Warner Brothers has the rights to a lot of stuff.

A lot of stuff.

MultiVersus currently has a seventeen-character roster, which isn’t huge, but let’s look at a few folks in that roster. You have Batman and Superman. You have Shaggy and Velma. You have Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry, and Wonder Woman. You have Arya Stark, and Lebron James. You have Stephen and Garnet from Stephen Universe, and you have Jake the Dog and Finn the Human from Adventure Time.

If you can read that entire list without going “Wait what” or getting a least a little excited for a moment about the idea of Shaggy absolutely thrashing Batman in hand to hand combat, then please come to my apartment so I can give you your “Least Exposed to Pop Culture” gold medal. I grew up without TV, I still barely watch TV, and I know who these folks are.

Unlike Smash Brothers, though, these characters aren’t from a video game, so it raises the question “How well were they adapted?” Personally, I think they’ve done a pretty good job. Shaggy is this kinetic bruiser, dashing around the stage, doing that funky little leg zoom walk, and tossing sandwiches. Finn is an assassin, charging up these big swipes of his sword and leaping around. From the characters I’ve played, they’re all fun, with their own tricks and traps.

But this does bring up a point I want to cover: I haven’t played everyone, because MultiVersus is F2P, and that means you don’t actually get all the characters. It’s the League of Legends model, where there’s a free rotation of characters, but if you want to unlock a character permanently, you have to buy them with either in game gold, or the premium currency.

This isn’t a particularly evil implementation of F2P, but it does commit a lot of the traditional sins of the model. I don’t want to put too much energy into calling them out here, so instead I’ll give you a quick list of why I don’t like it much:

  1. Premium Currency can only be purchased in specific increments. This means you can only purchase say 1000/2000/3000 of it, but all the characters and skins cost different amounts. So you’ll always have some left over, and if you want to buy more stuff, you’ll have to buy more currency. It’s like the evil video game version of the XKCD nacho cycle.
  2. Skins are expensive, like 15-20 bucks a pop.
  3. There’s a battle pass/daily quest system, so you have that whole FOMO structure, and since a lot of your gold generation is linked to leveling up characters, it’s easy to tell the flow of gold will shut off pretty quickly.
  4. Perks are a gold sink for F2P players.

Oh, that’s right! We haven’t talked about Perks yet. Lets cover them quickly.

Each character in Multiversus has four perk slots, 1 unique one, and 3 generic ones. The unique ones are a non-issue for me. You unlock all unique perks for a character just by playing them. They tend to offer some sort of boost, or change to one of your character’s attacks, but since you can see your opponent’s perk choices before a game, they’re not a big deal.

The generic perks are where I have a problem, not because of what they do, but because of how you acquire them. They tend to offer small buffs to both you and your teammate. As an example, one gives you an additional third jump in the air after you connect a hit. If you and your teammate stack the same buff, you get a better version it. For example, the aforementioned jump perk when stacked just lets you and your teammate have a third jump always available.

But anyway, this isn’t the problem with perks. The problem is that there’s a limited pool of perks you unlock for each character. Then you have to spend gold to unlock the rest, and you have to unlock them on a character by character basis. It’s like a worse version of League of Legends’ old rune system.

The gameplay itself, though, is what carries MultiVersus. And while I might not be a big fighting game person, the friend I played most of my 30 hours with is. To paraphrase his thoughts, while the game is very focused around hitstun and combos, it doesn’t feel super toxic. There’s also a larger focus on mobility, and to quote him directly “The lack of the homogenization of the trinity (grab/shield/stun) and the presence of charged aerials is a significant shift from other platform fighters.”

Personally, I just think smacking folks around in the game feels fun, and even as someone who sucks at fighting, the matchmaking has yet to throw me into a game that I felt like I couldn’t possibly win.

Speaking of matchmaking, let’s talk about the other part of online play: netcode. MultiVersus has some issues, but overall the netcode is far better than, say, Smash Bros online. There are still situations where it feels like your inputs are dropped, but it’s fairly rare.

Overall, MultiVersus is an incredibly fun F2P platform fighter, with a strong (if small roster), and solid mechanics. While it doesn’t commit any special sins of being a F2P game, I feel like it would be better if you could just buy the whole game instead of being hit with the traditional spending traps. That said, I might not have tried it if it cost $40, and that would have been a shame, because I would have missed out on one of the very few games to even try to give Smash Bros a run for its money.

MultiVersus is free to play on PC, PS4/5, Xbox One, and Xbox S.

To preempt the question from the one person I know who will read this article: it’s not available for Switch, and it’s not clear if it will be. Just go grab it for PC. C’mon, it’ll be fun!

Fore Score

Fore Score is a multiplayer minigolf game where you and your fellow players build out the hole by placing extra obstacles and items onto it. If you’ve ever played Ultimate Chicken Horse, the concept will seem pretty familiar. You start with a simple and plain course. After each round you and your friends are given a selection of objects to choose from, and then you place them to make the course harder.

I like a lot about Fore Score in theory, but in practice I have quite a few problems with it. There’s no single thing it does wrong, but none of its mechanics feel super satisfying. I also have problems with the game’s other systems.

Good luck ever making this shot without being ground up by the buzz saw.

Let’s start with the simplest one: the minigolf. Fore Score uses a 2.5d view for most of the golf, and you can’t apply any direct level of lift to the ball when you hit it. However, many obstacles are 3D, or launch the ball into the air. This makes it a sort of awkward hybrid of the two perspectives. The camera is also permanently locked, which again, makes judging certain shots very hard.

Why is the camera permanently locked? Well, it might be because the game doesn’t offer actual networked multiplayer. Instead, everything is a form of couch co-op. The game does support Steam Remote Play, which I have mixed feelings on. On the one hand, it means only person has to own the game. On the other hand, if you aren’t the host, you better hope your connection to the host is stable, or you might miss the critical shot. Because of that limitation, it makes sense that the game wouldn’t want to let every player randomly rotate the camera for everyone whenever they want. If nothing else it would make obstacle placement a confusing mess.

The only good way to describe the obstacles is ‘mediocre.’ There are several obstacles that are just reskins of each other, and boring reskins at that. Of the remaining ones, there just aren’t that many. There are several that will kill your ball and force a respawn with hitboxes that probably aren’t wrong, but are difficult to judge because of the 2.5d view.

There are a variety of blocks similar to the domino block in that they just fill two squares, and don’t do too much else.

Fore Score isn’t unfun, it’s just not as good a golf game as Golf With Your Friends, or as much of a route-builder as Ultimate Chicken Horse. If a game is going to stick with my friend group, it needs to either offer something unique, or be better than other stuff we already play. And Fore Score doesn’t succeed at that.

With that said, there have been some quality of life patches, so perhaps it will get better. If you’re still interested, you can find it here on Steam, and an early alpha here on itch.io.