The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing Review
|ESRB rating: n/a
release date: May 22, 13
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Neocore Games, best known for their RPG series King Arthur have turned towards a simpler recipe this time around. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is what you’d call a Diablo-esque action RPG, filled to the brim with hostiles just waiting to be shot or slashed to bits. With this in mind, you can expect all the elements that have defined the genre, from non-stop hack’n’slash action, to character stats and skill-trees.
In this game you’ll be traversing through Borgova, which can be described as a gothic-noir city from the kingdom of Borgovia (which is fictional, by the way). You play as the son of Abraham Van Helsing, the renowned vampire hunter and you’ll be continuing in your father's footsteps, hunting down monsters (well, slicing through hordes of them, actually). Ah, yes, good old dad Helsing, he was never much of a role model, but he sure could ram a wooden stake up a vampire’s butt when he felt like it.
This is too much, even for the son of Van Helsing!
Peace and quiet at last.
Almost immediately you are tossed into dynamic battles against swarms of enemies. One would expect Diablo-ish minions and imps to start leaping at you from all sides, but that’s not the case here. This game, rather interestingly, depicts a darkish 19th century style Eastern Europe and a range of enemies that corresponds to such a setting. You’ll find that forests and mountains of Eastern Europe are swarming with vampires, werewolves, ghosts and all sorts of monsters (yep, I’m from Eastern Europe and I have to say, nothing has changed. It still looks like that).
Admittedly, some effort went into setting up half-way decent plot structure, but overall there’s not much to get involved in. The sparse dialogue and the various attempts at humor feel mere trinkets that were pinned on a relatively weak and uninteresting backdrop. Chats with Lady Katarina provide some brief moments of entertainment. She’s a ghost that’s been in service to the Van Helsing family for a long time and she represents a sort of sidekick and can be quite helpful in battle. Or you would think. In my solo playthourgh I found that she had a tendency to die often, even when I supplied here with enough health potions to heal an army. Some fine-tuning can be done when it comes to companion AI, but all in all, that won’t help much either. Not saying she’s completely retarded and useless in battle, although she can evaporate very easily when facing multiple foes.
This, of course, doesn’t mean you’ll be drawn away from the game itself. Give it a chance and you just might start to enjoy it. Not because of the characterization, as we already said. The simple gameplay mechanics rely on the recognizable ARPG formula. You chop down rows of baddies, collect the loot, equip or sell the look, level up, upgrade and move on with the story. The action seems fluid and you’ll be able to have some fun while exploring the map for hidden treasure chests and such. Also, grabbing as much loot as you can pays off, so it’s always a good idea to investigate the area as much as possible. During his adventures, Van Helsing uses ranged weapons such as guns and rifles, in addition to using swords, of course. Two-handed swords are an option, as well as dual-wielding. There’s a solid choice of different weapons in the game that can deal different kinds of damage. So, again, that’s a typical ARG stuff. You slice, kill, grab the loot and teleport back to town.
The combat works okay and denotes using melee attacks and ranged attacks (with rifles) in addition to magic. The battles can be exciting and challenging. The developers also added a bit of variety by introducing a tower defense type of mini-game where players set traps and have to withstand waves of foes. This section in the game is rather brief, although it does provide some entertainment beyond the hack’n’slash routine.
The grass is pretty. I just love pretty grass.
I don't care what happens now, as long as it doesn't ruin my hat.
There’s a question of how much some people will be willing to keep up with the mechanics. It’s all pretty standard stuff, you see. Some people are bound to enjoy the fast-paced Diablo-style combat and genuine ARPG fun. However, there isn’t much depth to the experience. Perhaps the game clings too much to the ever-popular Diablo recipe. At the beginning you really feel like there’s an impressive variety of enemies coming at you. A few hours into the game, however, and any potential excitement you might have will soon dwindle, because most of the enemies and battle situations tend to repeat themselves.
Neocore Games has made a solid effort with special effects, character animation and making the environment look pleasing to the eye. However, the problem with this game is not aesthetical. In fact, apart from the graphics, the character design and the art in general are top-notch. Now, I dare say this game will satisfy your thirst for some solid ARPG. Unfortunately, as fun as it can be both in multiplayer and a good 20 or so hours you can put into the single-player campaign, there just little here to make you stay with the game. The gameplay is well-executed, albeit it gets increasingly repetitive as you move on with the story (which, as we’ve already said, leaves a lot to be desired).
Can provide some hours of good, clean ARPG fun;
Companion AI requires improvement, uninteresting story, on the whole gets tedious a bit sooner than it should.
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