The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing – Review
Follow Genre: Hack 'n Slash, Action RPG
Developer: NeocoreGames
Publisher: NeocoreGames
Platform: PC, Xbox 360

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing – Review

Site Score
7.9
Good: Great atmosphere and graphics. Witty dialogs. Fluent gameplay.
Bad: BUGS. Not very original.
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0
(0 votes)
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Based on the title, I was expecting an adventurous puzzle game for five year olds but it turned out to be a hack ‘n slash ARPG. Imagine my disappointment… Not really.

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Story

You play as Van Helsing Jr, son of the famous vampire slayer we know from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Together with your ghostly-girlfriend, Katarina, you set out to save the city of Borgova, where a mad professor is trying to grab control with his violent machines… Or something like that. From the start it’s clear that the story is just an excuse for the gorgeous gothic setting of the game and to get your hands dirty with the blood and intestines of enemies. In all fairness, I wasn’t paying that much attention to the plot anyway because all i wanted to do was to hack, slash and, in my case, blow shit up.

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Graphics

For a 15 eurodollar game, it looks gorgeous. It’s a combination of fantasy and gothic with a pinch of steampunk. It has a more realistic look in comparison to it’s ARPG brethren Diablo III and Torchlight II. So if you thought the others were too cartoony, you might give The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing (tIAoVH) a chance. The enemies are well designed and quite original but i can’t say they were extraordinary or very unique.

The lay out of the various health- and action bars on screen took a while to get used to because it’s a tad messy and not that intuitive but I guess this is more a gameplay issue and not really related to graphics.

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Sound  

The voice acting of Van Helsing and Katarina is great. The pleasant banter between the two makes them come alive and keeps the game light hearted. The voice acting of the secondary characters is good with the exception of a few. I did not like ‘the engineer’ for instance. He speaks too fast and is not convincing at all. He sounds like he’s reading his dialog from a piece of paper… In reality he probably was.

Most of the dialog in-game is witty and there a lot of references to other popular media. This keeps a game fun as long as it’s not overdone but sometimes I felt they went a bit overboard, especially with the end boss. He keeps on spewing one liners from famous movies. But all in all it’s well written and funny.

The background music was beautifully composed and complemented the atmosphere of the game perfectly. Seriously, it’s good.

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Gameplay

You can only play as Van Helsing. There are no other classes or characters to choose from. This doesn’t mean that everyone has to use the same abilities to play through the game. There is a lot you can do to customize your character.

Van Helsing has the ability to use melee or ranged attacks. By pressing “R” on your keyboard you can switch between the two. In your talent tree you can use skill points you gain through levelling to strengthen and unlock melee and ranged abilities. You can put skill points in both melee and ranged attacks or focus on either one and ignore the other, the choice is up to you. At first I had put my points in both melee and ranged attacks but after a while it became clear that I mainly used ranged attacks so in “Act 2” I reseted my skill tree (yes, this is possible in exchange for gold) and put everything in ranged. In other words, i went full huntard.

It’s also possible to put skill points in improving passive aura’s and active tricks you learn from npc’s but in this playthrough I didn’t really bother to waste skill points on those.

When it comes to fighting you can use two skills (attacks) and both are assigned to a mouse button. You can change these skills at will and by pressing the tab button you can immediately switch to another premade skill set.

Each skill is able to have three power-ups that you can activate during fights with a rage-system. As long as you have sufficient rage you can increase your attack with one or a combination of these three powerups.

Except for the basic melee and ranged skill, all skills use a certain amount of mana so besides your rage bar you will also have to pay close attention to your mana bar.

In total, each skill tree (ranged and melee) has twelve skills you can invest points in but most of them are comparable damage spells that only differ in the kind of damage they do, ice versus fire for instance. Per tree, three of those twelve skills are passive defense skills. Just as with aura’s, I didn’t put any skill points in these. They could be interesting if you want to make a tank-like character though.

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As mentioned above, there are tricks. You can have two active at one time. Tricks can be something like “heal everyone in a certain range for a certain amount of hit points” or “run really fast for a short distance”. These can be handy when you are in trouble.

Besides skill points you will also gain ability points. You can use these to increase ‘body’, ‘willpower’, ‘dexterity’ and ‘luck’. Body will increase your melee damage, hit points and defense. Luck increases chance to find gold and magical items, dodge chance and critical hit chance. Dexterity increases ranged attack damage and also dodge chance Willpower increases spellpower and mana points.

I think that’s enough boring talk about skills and abilities. What can Katrina do?

Well, she’s like a pet only better. You can program her to pick up gold, potions and items at will, she’s able to attack from a distance or in melee range, she has her own inventory, she can go to the store to sell unwanted items and/or buy potions and she has aura’s that increase your damage or benefit you in another way. You can improve those aura’s with her own ability points she gets when she levels up. And above all, she has a russian accent.

The rest of the game is basic hack ‘n slash RPG: slaying hordes of monsters and questing till you reach the boss. In this regard, tIAoVH is anything but original. A few times there’s a tower defense element where you have to protect your secret lair from… hordes of monsters but for the rest it’s not really innovative.

Is this lack of originality a bad thing? Not really. It’s a good looking and fun game with fluent gameplay… allthough… Sometimes it’s not so fluent. I experienced a lot of bugs. I had to restart the game multiple times because it would close by itself right when it was loading. I could not access the map “old town” without turning the graphics on very low or else it would crash (I could change them back after entering the map) and I had multiple crashes while playing other maps.

Right now I have finished the last boss but for some reason I can’t go back to the first act to increase my level (I’m at 29). However, I can access the new free downloadable content (that will be added regularly) so I’ll be able to reach level 30 afterall. Neocore is working on new patches to address the issues so I hope everything gets fixed soon.

By the way, Diablo III started with a bunch of bugs so if a company the size of Blizzard is allowed to make mistakes, a smaller developer like Neocore should also get a chance to fix everything.

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Conclusion

Besides the (for some players gamebreaking) bugs and lack of originality in gameplay and story, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is an enticing Hack ‘n Slash aRPG that offers atmospheric gothic graphics, witty dialogs and fluent gameplay (minus the bugs). Considering the price tag of 15 euros, this game should be bought by every aRPG fan and anyone else who’s interested. When the bugs are sorted, this game deserves an 8+ rating but for now I put it at 7,9.

Peace out bitches.

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1 Comment

  1. 3rd-strike.com | The Chimera, a man’s best friend.
    January 24, 2014, 11:46 am

    […] Check out our original review of the first game here. […]

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