Van Helsing has been out of the mass market for a little while now, but NeocoreGames has brought this monster back into the fray with The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing - albeit in a rather different light. Instead of focussing on the traditional Van Helsing, this game takes place in a 19th century Europe that has a rather steampunk feel to it and it does a pretty good job of still making it work rather well.
Instead of focussing on Abraham Van Helsing, this game follows the adventures of his son and his ghostly friend Katarina as the look to rid the fictional kingdom of Borgovia from its current dose of evil.
The story is rather throw-away, with the different segments throughout the game suffering from poor implementation. There's voice acting in there to deliver the different quests, but it's so wooden that it becomes a little bit laughable. Even the ability choose the outcome of certain quests doesn't change much, as it's unlikely you'll care about what's going on.
In short, you have to try and stop an evil scientist who's been creating monstrosities throughout the city, but killing hordes of monsters is a much greater incentive than the story.
Van Helsing plays out like a typical isometric Action RPG, with each mouse button being assigned to a different attack. However, aside from just using a sword, you also have the ability to switch to a ranged attack on the fly. This is a nice addition, but the game isn't really built to cater for you to be strong in both departments.
The maximum level you can achieve in the game is 30 and there are a finite amount of skill points. You also can't farm due to the fact that everything stays exactly how you left it. Once you kill any enemy, it stays dead unless you create a new character and this is a bit disappointing. You can re-spec your character at any time, but it's often best to just go down one particular route, as opposed to trying to be a jack of all trades.
This also becomes a bit annoying when it comes to getting items, as it's not possible to farm for good items. It means that it's best to go down a Magic Find route early on to try and get good items, which is a pretty big flaw.
There are numerous abilities to learn, but most of them feel quite underwhelming. When looking at the competition out there, Van Helsing struggles in this department. Most of the moves look rather generic, with a slight change to the animation being the most you'll probably get to see. However, their implementation, in terms of what they offer, is quite cool. With every move, there are also sub-abilities that can be learned and stacked up through the use of Rage.Rage is gained by fighting and it can be used to enhance your attack. For example, if you learn Bash, you can also learn a move to grant you insane life steal. You can put on three different stacks, and you can use any combination of the three sub-abilities that you want. The game also gives you the ability to create presets, so you can just press Space as opposed to pressing different combinations of 1, 2 and 3 - it's a nice touch.
As you play through the different levels, the game will throw hordes and hordes of enemies at you. By the end of the game, you will easily have killed over 10,000 monsters. This is both a pro and a con. You will feel like a complete badass when you down massive clump of foes, but it does also make the game get rather monotonous after you've been playing for over 10 hours.
This is perhaps most evident during the tower defence-style mission, where the waves of enemies are so long the entire thing just becomes a yawn-fest.
On the graphical front, Van Helsing is a decent looking game. For the majority of the game, the engine deals with the amount of enemies being thrown at the screen without any visible framerate issues. In fact, the only oddity from the perspective of production comes with the sound always lagging being by about 5-10 seconds after you load into a new area.
The music score features some nice pieces, especially in the more lucid areas where there aren't any monsters to fight against. It's nice that this style of game can still feature some pieces of music that remain memorable enough after the experience ends.
Van Helsing is perhaps best enjoyed with a friend, but doing so does throw up some interesting oddities. For example, only the host will see the majority of the cutscenes and story segments. Not that they're really worth watching, but it's a bit of an odd decision, especially as it means the other players are free to attack a defenceless boss until the cutscene ends. Other glitches include enemies taking no damage if the host changes to another active window and auras breaking visually.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing has some interesting concepts, but quite a lot of them get lost in a sea of odd decisions. The game limits itself in areas where it shouldn't, and goes completely over the top in areas where it wasn't necessary. Even when playing co-operatively, the game just creates more issues. Let's hope the developers can fix the game up in the future when they release more content.
|Huge hordes of enemies to mow down.|
|The skill tree system has some nice touches, with sub-abilities.|
|There are some nice tracks in the game's musical score.|
|Huge hordes of enemies to mow down.|
|Seems to limit itself in odd ways.|
|Quite a few glitches and bugs, especially with the multiplayer.|