Van Helsing has really been through the wringer. He’s spent three titles fighting off steampunk nightmares, demons, ghouls, and a slew of other supernatural cannon fodder. Now, he’s back for The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: Final Cut, which combines the three previews game into one package with a slew of new features. It allows players to utilize all six character classes, including new ones that were introduced in the third outing, and play across all three games with one Helsing. Along with a myriad of other smaller improvements, it also adds an endgame with a new level cap of 100, introducing a glory system, rare items, daily events and a full multiplayer mode.
The trio of Helsing titles have always been great ARPG games, with a few flaws here and there that stop them from pushing the likes of Diablo III or Torchlight 2 from the top of the genre pile. Neocore Games’ decision to bundle the three games into one complete edition could be seen as another cash grab now that the trilogy has been concluded, but players who own the previous three efforts have received Final Cut free of charge. Neocore clearly want to reward their loyal fans.
The bundle turns the three separate games into a fifty hour long epic, with a story that carries across all three titles. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing series has always had an intriguing plot, with the fun coming from the witty dialogue and banter between Van Helsing and his sidekick Lady Katarina. The third title gets much more personal, exploring the history of Katarina’s family, as well as looking into Helsing’s relationship with Borgovia and its chequered past.
The events at the end of the second game set up the third act for some satisfying personal development and some good old revenge that ties up neatly at the conclusion. The absurd sense of humour remains throughout and the combination of Helsing’s dry wit with Katarina’s sharp tongue and cynicism makes the pair an excellent odd couple that are a pleasure to listen to. It’s fun to see them grow across a consistent story, and playing as one character build throughout, rather than switching for each game, means that there’s a stronger sense of engagement with your duo of slayers.
Looking at the changes made to the three games in this complete package, it’s clear to see that the Final Cut is better than the sum of its parts. The primary criticisms of the third game were the brevity of the running time, the over reliance on reused assets and monsters, and the game’s decreased level cap of just 30, down from 60. Final Cut seems directly aimed at addressing the complaints of the third title. The new level cap of 100 and the new post-game content combine to create a lengthy looting adventure with potentially endless replay value.
Playing the first two campaigns with the new classes and the co-op multiplayer mode is a strange experience. Neocore have really went all out here to make playing the entire Final Cut a fresh experience, even if you’ve already killed so many beasties as Helsing that the denizens of Borgovia tremble at your approach.
The two new classes carried over from the third game are nice and fresh, and work perfectly when retconned into the first two titles. The Bounty Hunter is all about long-range weapons, using mechanical seekers to track, mark and taunt enemies. The class can also use decoys to explore dangerous areas from a safe distance and lure out foes.
The Constructor plays like a traditional ARPG’s summoner, as they fight at range. Using a vast gun platform, they can summon mechanical allies made from turrets, and use dismemberbots to do their bidding. They’re two fairly unique additions alongside the four existing classes, even if they do fall into existing genre clichés to an extent.
Skill trees have been refined and polished as well, as have attributes. Each class now only has three attributes, entirely unique to them. Three skill tiers are available, with the first unlocking immediately, and the second and third tiers landing at level 20 and 40, respectively. The skills are a refined combination of those from across all three titles (except in the case of the new classes), meaning that even if you’ve played the first two games to death, you’ll still find yourself with entirely new builds and options, all rebalanced with plenty of potential for power growth.
The newly revamped graphics do the business, and the Slavic inspired beasties along with the steam-punk trappings of the title are a truly unique combo that are a pleasure to behold. The game handles a large amount of foes on screen at once very well for the most part, rarely dropping in frame rate, though it unfortunately isn’t particularly smooth to start with. It can be difficult to target one foe specifically to dish out some punishment, and the animation isn’t as detailed and punchy as I’d like. Often, it doesn’t feel like you’re actually killing the foes yourself, even with a melee class.
The new multiplayer features, meanwhile, are serviceable. Players can drop in and out of each other’s games, for up to 4 player co-op action. There are a few PvP modes but they’re nothing revolutionary, and it’s likely you’ll have little interest in touching them, as combat mostly boils down to numbers and watching cool downs. Players can vote when to change to a new location to go questing, with the game host’s quest goals becoming the goal for everyone.
Loot rewards are instanced for each individual and you can repeat the same quests as many times as you want over as many different player saves and still get your rewards. It’s a simply way to do it that really works. There’s a surprising lack of latency that makes playing online mostly painless, but it can be hard to get connected to a game and stay connected. Also, the limited community means that it’s very rare to have someone hop into your game out of the blue to help out. Final Cut is best played with friends online, as long as you can cope with the occasional connection issues.
As with most titles of the genre, you probably already know if you’ll like The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: Final Cut. It’s very much aimed at those with a firm love of ARPG’s. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and while the new content is welcome, it makes little attempt to polish some of the flaws of the previous titles.
The game that comes away the best from this collection is the third in the series, adding enough new content before and after its campaign to address most of the complaints that greeted it upon release. However, playing the entire campaign back to back just makes it obvious how many assets are reused across the three games, which can be a bit grating. The locations and the story keep things varied, but new enemy types eventually become something of a rarity. Plus, your strategy for victory in each encounter is rarely anything more than clicking until everything is dead.
If you own the previous three titles, it’s worth grabbing your free copy just to enjoy the new content and the tweaks. In some ways, it’s an entirely new game and there are plenty of additions to keep seasoned slayers happy. If you’re entirely new to the series, this is an absolute steal at the asking price. It’s not nearly as polished as Diablo III, but if you’re looking to have that loot grinding itch scratched, you could do much worse. That being said, if you’ve dabbled in The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing before and it didn’t grab you, this version won’t convince you otherwise. The core gameplay is entirely the same, with flaws intact.
This review is based on the PC copy of the game.
A few lingering flaws hurt Van Helsing’s swan song, despite the major changes, but it’s still a fitting end for the series with tons of fresh content to explore.