Vampires are a constant pain in the butt these days, they are everywhere in film, in print and on television. Now they are in The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing but they take a bit of a back seat in this game. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing was not one of the popular games at E3 but this may have been because the previews weren’t grabbing people. The game itself appears to implement elements from Diablo 3, adapting and expanding them to create seemingly new concepts for the game.
Van Helsing takes place in a similar universe as the original Bram Stoker story of Dracula, in the fictional country of Borgova, in particular, around the country’s capital which is also called Borgova. The story follows a young Abraham Van Helsing, son of the original Van Helsing, and his ghostly companion Lady Katarina who has been bound to him by his father in an earlier adventure. In this tale, young Van Helsing is asked by the Borgova Resistance Force led by a Vampire called Vlad, to help out in a war against a group of alchemists who have turned the medieval capital into a megapolis of technical wonder and monsters. It turns out that monsters are the legacy of scientific experiments conducted by the alchemists within the town, and which Van Helsing must kill in order to save the country, and make his father proud.
The Hungarian based developer Neocore Games was previously known for their games King Arthur and The Kings, and they are continuing in the vein of pseudo -historical tales as the primary setting for this new game. That said, however, it needs to be acknowledged that this is not an entirely serious game as was the case in their earlier games. This game contains a lot of humor. In fact, there is a huge amount of puns and pop-culture references popping up at various points throughout the game but fitting into the setting and plot perfectly. In fact players are often left wondering “what will they come up with next”? Players would be within their rights to question whether the game is an action based game or a comedy. The game’s music tends to set the mood and reinforce these thoughts. Some players might think that the music is reminiscent of the recent Robert Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes movies and think that it is the same composer, but it isn’t. It just happens to be a coincidence.
The graphics in the game are by far some of the best seen for a Diablo style game with water texture and other landscape features clearly showing off the considerable amount of work and detail that the developers have put into the game. The work has been good and it shows. On top of this is the most interesting facet of the game, the sheer volume of content material and options that you receive. Take the quest system for example. Instead of having just one set goal to follow, you are given multiple quests to go after and complete. This might be to investigate a random “Ink Well” which you might accidently trigger, or help the resistance retake their city. Whatever you do, quests will often result in game changing consequences. Early in the game I was presented with the choice of killing a werewolf, or letting him live. I chose the latter and this resulted in me having more allies to help me out later on in the game.
Other content surprises can be found in your base defense quests. Occasionally the enemy will attack your “secret hideout” which isn’t really secret because everyone in the game apparently knows where it is located. This creates a mini tower game which can progress from relatively easy to very difficult within the course of a minute so forcing you to test out your strategies in the game.
Although the game uses the same character and gameplay mechanisms as Diablo 3, there are several major differences that can be noted between the two. Firstly, there is the ability system. Rather than having a set list of abilities to acquire throughout your level progression, you are given the option of choosing what abilities you want to invest in, each coming with their own perks which can all be active at the same time. Add to this Manna and Rage which can be active and usable at the same time. Manna being what you pay for abilities, and Rage (built up and accumulated the more you kill) which allows you to have that vital extra edge at critical times. There are also passive abilities which facilitate healing or enable you to go invisible to avoid being killed.
Van Helsing’s companion Lady Katarina is one of the primary features of this game. She has the ability to either be a “ranged”, or “melee heroine”, depending on your style of play. Players are able to invest in whatever abilities that they want as they basically give Van Helsing extra passives such as life steal, which can also come in handy during combat. The AI behind Lady Katarina’s character is excellent as she partners Van Helsing well and does not act like an idiot when it comes to fighting. This is a big plus when things get a bit tough.
The game’s combat elements are where things start to deteriorate. Although there is a large amount of combat within the game, it sometimes gets ridiculous because of mob placement. Players will often find themselves fighting 10 or more mobs or groups at a time, with more turning up to join in to make things a bit impossible. Given that this involves primarily close combat things become rather silly and pointless when the obvious result is that you will be swarmed and killed off because your swords can’t inflict enough damage. This is where things become ludicrously impossible. I ended up taking the “ranged” option and leaving Lady Katarina to take all the damage. Even then, she will only last just long enough for you to kill half the enemy force, before you have to kite them around until Katarina re-spawns. If you invest wisely in her resurrection perk, that shouldn’t take too long.
A negative characteristic of the game is the fact that the mage type abilities in the game are relatively useless, as they provide very little damage when compared to pistols and rifle abilities in the game, so any successful combat strategy in the game has to lean towards Van Helsing being ranged and Katarina being the tank.
The game is very long because of the vast amount of content available to players but can be cut short if players decide to go just for the main quest and ignore the extras. This can be one way of avoiding another irritation in the game. Some quests do tend to be bugged from time to time, either because the player has done something wrong or because the developers forgot a piece of coding. Even so, these are relatively minor and players may take the attitude that it’s not that big a deal.
Although the game has multiplayer capabilities, the game lends itself to individual play more. Multiplay will probably not be used often unless you have a mad friend who has nothing better to do.
The Final Verdict
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing comes out with a relatively simple and humorous storyline, filled to the brim with plentiful and varied content and interesting character development. Unfortunately, the combat elements of the game are often repetitive and very linear, focusing on Van Helsing being more of a ranged character than anything else which will let down anyone who enjoys a diverse playing style.