How vampires and the Steam Link won a cage match with Covid-19

A Steam Link glows in front of a gothic castle
(Image credit: Valve/Stunlock Studios)

Vampires have a lot of advantages, if you think about it. I'm not exactly a vampire salesman, but the concept has a lot of merit when you're laying in bed with Covid-19 and wishing you had vampire super powers to use to feel better.

Thankfully, while I was sick recently, a new ally had just risen from their coffin in the form of V Rising – the vampire survival game that just broke 1m sales in its first week. Unfortunately for me, my head and lungs (being the treacherous and unreliable things they are) had decided that sitting at my computer was off limits. So I cast about my bedroom with tired eyes for a savior, something to entertain me in the waking hours where I couldn't sleep, but also couldn't move around.

An old and often forgotten friend greeted me, its black plastic shell peeking out from the electronics under my TV. A relic of an ancient time long before the Steam Deck, when Valve was taking its first steps into the hardware world, just as I was wanting to do with my goofy vampire in V Rising's moonlit landscape.

This friend was a Steam Link, and it was patiently waiting for me to switch to HDMI2 and let it remind me what it could do.

A vampire relaxes in their sick gothic castle.

(Image credit: Stunlock Studios)

Serving as a techno-magical bridge from your computer to your TV across your local network, the Steam Link lets you access and play games from your Steam library on other TV's in your house by streaming them across the network. While every now and then the Steam Link stutters or lags, the imperfections are forgivable, especially when you're stuck in bed.

Being able to scoop up my Steam Controller (another majestic piece of forgotten Valve hardware) and get V Rising running without moving was the perfect speed for me. Even better, I found that playing V Rising alone on a little private server was just what I needed. Starting out as a long forgotten vampire who has just awoken, I was unleashed on the world with hardly more direction than 'punch stuff and take its blood' and that was fine with me, anything more complicated felt like trying to do tag team quadrilateral equations with an alien physicist. Being able to smack around wolves and bandits while I roamed about, deforesting the landscape like a runaway lawnmower was about as complex as I could handle.

Occasionally I would fall asleep in the middle of breaking a pile of rocks, or while looting the latest bandit camp to suffer my sniffly wrath. Waking up to the distant sounds of the sun setting my character afire like a dry match became an amusingly regular occurrence for me. After while the experience of waking up on fire felt a lot like when someone sheepishly asks you to move your car so they can head home early from your party. In fact, pretty soon I was even catching fire while I was standing in my ramshackle wooden base, as I kept forgetting to light the little magic firepit that V Rising gives you to keep out the sun. I think my brain couldn't grasp following the logic of needing to set something on fire so I don't catch on fire myself.

Nothing felt better than when I finally gathered up enough stone bricks to start transforming my little log shack into a grand gothic castle. V Rising had promised me that not only would stone walls make me look like the decadent Dracula I was at heart, but that with them would come a real luxury for the ages: a roof. 

Of course, I fell asleep halfway through the upgrade process, having already knocked out a wall or two. When I woke up to a bear chewing on me, it only reinforced my desire for firmer boundaries – both emotionally between myself and newly named Mr. Bearis, who seemed to be very attached to me, and also physically, by finishing the walls of my sick vampire castle. 

Repeated attempts to keep up with the industrial revolution levels of resources needed were eventually rewarded with a small brickyard worth of supplies. My mission to convert my bloodless slum mansion into a proper Château de Nosferatu  was finally complete.

A really nice vampire person shows their friend, a bear, their sick gothic castle.

(Image credit: Stunlock Studios)

Having finally been blessed with a roof, I decided it was only fair to reintroduce Mr. Bearis to my new and improved house. Naturally, he helped himself to some appetizers in the form of my legs, but I think we eventually came to an understanding.

Over the course of several days, V Rising did a surprising amount of distracting. It may not amount to a hill of beans for me in the long run, but I have a soft spot for this weird vampire survival game that Stunlock Studios has given us.

Now that I'm feeling better, I'm not sure if I'll go back to visit the weird gothic Winchester house that I assembled in my feverish state. 

But we'll always have Mr. Bearis.

Philip Palmer
Senior Writer

Phil is a Senior Writer of TechRadar Gaming (TRG). With three previous years of experience writing freelance for PC Gamer, he's covered every genre imaginable. For 15 years he's done technical writing and IT documentation, and more recently traditional gaming content. He has a passion for the appeal of diversity, and the way different genres can be sandboxes for creativity and emergent storytelling. With thousands of hours in League of Legends, Overwatch, Minecraft, and countless survival, strategy, and RPG entries, he still finds time for offline hobbies in tabletop RPGs, wargaming, miniatures painting, and hockey.