The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a fun, fast-paced RPG. The steampunk-style story takes place in 19th Century Europe. Developed by Neocore Games, Van Helsing was released in May on Steam with two new scenarios added earlier this month.
Van Helsing is reminiscent of the classic RPG playing style, and players acquainted with the Diablo franchise style of gameplay will come to love this game as well. The influence of other games/movies/books is ever-so present at every turn. Loot, inventory and gear are displayed simply and logically, and the combat is easy to get into, making the learning curve simple. This is a joyous relief, as I and many others are fans of this style of gameplay.
You play as Van Helsing Jr., son of the infamous demon hunter Van Helsing. The game takes place in a dirty, industrial, low-wealth area called Borgovia for about two-thirds of the story. Borgovia has apparently degenerated as a result of an evil scientist's unrelenting thirst for progress and science. The story is scattered with humorous references and sayings from The Lord of The Rings, Ghostbusters and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
Warning, spoilers ahead!
You start out on a quest to reach Borgovia and help the rebels overthrow the authoritarian government, which is pumping out robots to control the city. Once you reach the city you find it overrun with pollution and corruption. The first quests in aid of the revolution involve recruiting more people to help you; an engineer, enchanter and a gambler. You’re on defense for most of the game after that, foiling the scientist’s evil plots and defending the Secret Lair from attacks by his army. However, once the enemy army is crippled, Van Helsing Jr. goes on the offensive, trying to locate Professor Fulmigati (the last boss of the game and the most fun one) and kill him . The closer you get to Fulmigati, the harder his enemies become.
Graphics and sound
As you can see from the screenshots, the developers at NeoCore took no shortcuts when it came to making Van Helsing a beautiful game. It runs very smoothly while also being visually pleasing, even when there are a ton of monsters on the screen at one time. Players can zoom the camera view in and out, but cannot change the camera’s direction. This becomes a problem sometimes during combat, but it is rare. I liked the user interface, which was nice and clean and didn’t get in the way of combat.
The soundtrack is great. Different areas have different background music to fit each theme, as any game should. Hyped up music during boss fights keeps the player engaged without being annoying.
Gear and inventory
Players have two weapon slots for pistols, rifles, short swords or two handed swords ro help them gun down and hack demons until their blood-strewn guts splatter out. The harder the difficulty, the better the item drops are.
As well as the standard RPG inventory you also have a separate tab for one slot items like potions or essences. Essences can be used to upgrade items with the help of the town alchemist, who will socket them into items with essence capacity slots. These then add extra stats to the item. The alchemist will enchant and disenchant your items for a fee.
One nice feature I’m glad to see is that players are able to gear their ghost girl companion Katarina. The AI also allows you to control the way she behaves. You can order her to fight with melee or ranged weapons, or stay in ghost form. She can also autoloot and carry some of your items. Players can also send her to the local town store and sell items at any time, so you don’t have to stop slaying demons to return to town and empty your inventory.
Abilities,skills and leveling
As with any RPG, we get to level up our characters and make them into legendary heroes. Every level that players achieve earns them five Ability points to add to Willpower, Body, Dexterity, or Luck. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing offers two main skill tabs and a third tab for Tricks and Auras. The main skill tabs include Mystic Warrior (Physical/Melee/Sword) and Occult Hunter (Ranged/Magic tab/Gun). In each tab contains three skill trees, which you can upgrade to make each skill more powerful.
You can have up to two Tricks (passive skills) active at one time. In addition to this, players can also have up to two Auras (Skills that do not require mana but instead have long cool downs) hot keyed at one time. You can also select Perks to upgrade every few levels. Perks are essentially major passive abilities including as extra damage, an extra inventory page or more healing.
Unique boss battles
Van Helsing includes another great classic element in that each boss battle is unique. The player has to figure out how to defeat each boss - you cannot just spam right clicks to defeat them. Fortunately it is not too hard to figure out what technique you’ll need in each case. Some bosses may spawn enemies, and you'll either have to clear them out or run and gun. One instance will require you to fight four bosses that hit like a trucks and re-heal extraordinarily fast at once. You'll then realize that you have to defeat them in a certain order. The boss battles are probably my favorite part of the game.
The multiplayer mode inThe Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing allows each player to either create their own server set with a level limit or join an existing one. You can also add a password to a server and make it friends-only. Once inside a server, you play the story coop mode with one to four other players and their companions. It is fun, but games with four players do seem a little too easy even on Heroic (Hardest difficulty). I would also like to point out that the game is can be tricky on Hardcore mode as you only have one life, and sometimes when the game is switching from dialogue to combat a bug causes the player to die from taking too much damage before the fight even begins.
The similarities between Van Helsing and the Diablo series made me wonder how looting would work on multiplayer, and whether it too would also be littered with greedy instant looting. Joyfully, I can say that it is NOT set up that way! The loot is instance-based, meaning that everybody gets loot and no one is able to pick up extra items intended for other players.
The variety of skill tree options and the number of possible character builds give the game great replay value. After completing the game as an Occult Hunter, I just had to play it again as the Mystic Warrior, gutting all the mobs in my way with powerful AOE attacks. Neocore Games has released free DLC, and has said that they plan to continue releasing free DLC for The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing throughout the year. Trophy hoarders will be pleased to know that there are currently 96 Steam achievements to unlock.
All in all, this is a great RPG and well worth the cost of $14.99.