The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing takes the “dungeon” out of dungeon crawl and throws players into a fantastic Steampunk environment. NeocoreGames did an almost perfect job of creating an exciting, new take on the genre, while putting extensive detail into every aspect of the game.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing follows the son of Abraham Van Helsing, a famous vampire hunter from the novel Dracula, and his ghost companion, Lady Katarina, on their journey to Borgova. The setting is a very gothic-noir 19th century Europe that contains an interesting mix of monsters, magic and technology. While Van Helsing still uses the standard mix of swords, guns and magic, the setting is a very refreshing change of pace from typical dungeons.
For a non-AAA title, and one with a relatively low price tag of $14.99, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a very scenic and beautiful game. While a majority of it takes place in the gritty, Steampunk Borgova, there are still a wide variety of additional settings, such as underground tunnels crawling with spiders and forests filled with werewolves. The graphical fidelity is solid, even if not top of the line, but the aesthetics are where the game really shines through; it takes what should be ugly scenery and makes everything look gorgeous.
Despite its lack of multiple classes, the number of options for the character development path feels far superior to many other action role-playing games recently released. There are essentially 5 different skill trees to go down (physical melee, magical melee, physical ranged, magical ranged, and tank), but it’s not required to only stick to one of these, and a varied playstyle can better handle more situations than a one-dimensional character. In addition to the combat skill trees, there are Tricks and Auras, to provide added effects such as lifesteal, damage, or the ability to stop time, as well as Perks which are gained by completing certain requirements.
Players can have up to two skills active at any given moment, but can alternate between another active set or switch between melee and ranged, giving them a total of up to eight active skills at all times. Additionally, every skill can have up to three active Powerups that use Rage, which is gained by killing enemies. These Powerups are where Van Helsing really shines and they can greatly heal him, instantly kill enemies and have a number of other effects.
Not only was there a lot of thought put into Van Helsing, but Lady Katarina was definitely no afterthought. Generally, there are a few companion choices that fit specific roles. Lady Katarina, herself, has 3 different modes: ranged, melee and Ghost form, the latter of which prevents her from attacking while reducing damage to Van Helsing. Additionally, she gains ability points when leveling up, has 10 skills that benefit either Van Helsing or herself, and can be sent to shops/sell items. There’s also a decent amount of control over her actions, which makes her more useful than most half-witted AI companions, and the banter between her and Van Helsing is quite amusing.
Despite all of the positive aspects of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, there are a number of issues with ranging severity. First off, there are still a number of bugs that need working out. In fact, I was able to permanently freeze time while making all enemies invisible at one point and had the game crash, which wiped my previous 3 hours of play, while playing online.
The co-operative gameplay also feels quite limited, as all players need to be in the same area to play together, but works well if all party members start together from the beginning. Going further, there seems to be an issue with the servers, because I could only join games with my Steam friends; I could not connect to other public games. Additionally, once a game is played through, each specific character is stuck on the selected difficulty, and since monsters don’t respawn there isn’t much else to do other than start over from the beginning with a brand new character. Thankfully, none of these issues take away from the core gameplay, but do create a bit of an annoyance and limit replay value.
Besides straight up monster slaying, there is an interesting tower-defense minigame where Van Helsing has to place traps to defend his Secret Lair. While not overly complex, it does break up the standard gameplay and introduces some new, interesting ways to kill monsters with lightning coils, electric floors and gruesome grinders. There are also a number of pop culture references including Monty Python, Sherlock Holmes, and Domovoy Baggins, who carries “A Certain Magical Ring.”
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is an almost perfect action role-playing game with a great variety of detail oozing from its every facet. There’s something for everyone who enjoys RPGs, with difficulty levels ranging from Casual to Heroic Hardcore, where players only get one life. The issues that do exist will likely be worked out in the future and currently only pose a minor inconvenience, making this a great title for a very fair price.
This review is based on the PC version of the game, which was provided to us.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a beautiful game, which possesses a compelling combat system and should not be overlooked by any RPG fan.