Most of us are already familiar to the name of Abraham Van Helsing from the popular culture. He is a Dutch doctor with a passion for the occult, a knack for killing vampires, monsters and demons and the arch-enemy of the evil vampire lord: Count Dracula. A kind of Victorian-era superhero, one might say. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing tells the story of his son, who is way less appreciated or trusted by the populace than his father was. Young Van Helsing receives a distress signal from the remote country of Borgovia, home to the deceased Count Dracula which has been lately overrun with demons and monsters. Travelling to Borgovia with his ghostly companion, the spirit of a Borgovian aristocrat known as Lady Katarina, young Van Helsing will try to bring peace to the terrorized civilian population of Borgovia and to atone for his father’s sins.

The Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing

The Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing is an action-RPG released in 2013 on the same page as games like Torchlight or Titan Quest, even the marvelous and elderly Diablo II. It was developed and published by Neocore Games, a Hungarian independent game developer which has also developed the King Arthur series and The King’s Crusade.

The first thing that sets The Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing apart from games in the same genre is the presence of Lady Katarina as a companion to the main character. Katarina can be equipped to make up for the weaknesses of Van Helsing. You can try several combinations, ie: You can craft Van Helsing into a mage or ranged fighter and send Katarina to fight mêlée or build Van Helsing a mêlée fighter and relegate Katarina to a support character, whether as a spell caster through the use of buffs,  or a ranged fighter.  Katarina will never be as badass as the Young Van Helsing is, so you’ll have to become and expert on whichever role you choose to play. All combinations work well, though some work better than others. The good thing about character builds in The Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing is that by paying a small cost you can almost-completely revamp the builds of both Van Helsing or Katarina, so you’re never stuck with a terrible build perpetually.

There are numerous singular areas of development for customizing both Van Helsing and Katarina: Ability Points, Skills, Tricks and Auras and Perks. Ability Points are the overall stats; Skills are combat powers, which you can level up to make them cause more damage and rare passives on your enemies, Tricks and Auras are buffs that take time to recharge and you can equip two of them at any time; and perks are fame-based skills that add bonuses such as an extra inventory page or a damage bonus for ranged combat when you’re not encircled.

Another great feature from Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing is the loot. Us RPG players surely love looting! And managing loot in this game is really simple, we can even order Katarina to pick up loot for us and we can configure her to fly back to the nearest town to sell all the stuff that we don’t need. In that way she acts alike to the dog in the Torchlight series, although it definitely makes more sense since I cannot seriously picture a dog bargaining for a deal with the village merchant. She also can be instructed to pick specific types of drops and minimum value. You can also restrain her from picking up rare or epic items, so you certainly won’t miss any valuable loot. The on-screen inventory works perfectly in the way that you can always compare the items you’re wearing to the ones you just picked up and decide which ones to keep and which ones to sell.

Combat is yet another jewel of this game. While it starts out rather simply, it grows to become really defying, even for experienced RPG players. The main skills consist in shooting, spell casting or sword fighting. There is a “rage” meter that stacks up as you get kills and you can use it to increase Van Helsing’s ability to hurt demons, steal health from enemies or cause huge explosions (BOOM!). Tricks and auras buff Van Helsing and Katarina. You can toggle between mêlée and ranged combat at any time by pressing “r” and any of these settings allow two different sets of attacks. There also are combo moves that allow you to use the rage meter during combat, pressing “spacebar”  to activate the combo mode and “left mouse button” or “right mouse button” to execute the combo. The rage system seems hard to understand but you’ll definitely understand it once you get used to employing it. The rage can also be activated automatically, through the options menu, but with many skills and perks demanding a full rage bar, such course of action is not always recommendable. Another feature that deserves mentioning is the presence of a really entertaining tower defense-like minigame. It provides a nice break from the traditional Action-RPG playability and is very well crafted.

On the visual and sounds departments Neocore Games did a commendable job. The voice acting is great, with the perfect mixture of seriousness and funny. The level design is great, with snowy mountains, gritty forests, Victorian Gothic villages, steampunk factories and lairs and some monsters that seem plucked out from the pages of a Tim Burton sketchbook. Each character class for Van Helsing looks great and has its distinct features. The Hunter class is the classic Van Helsing look, with the broad-brimmed hat and the pistols. The Thaumaturge class looks like a dark mage or summoner from more classic RPG Games and the Arcane Mechanic class looks like a steampunk scientist / soldier. There are some visual glitches but they don’t amount to harm the experience.

Regrettably, the greatest enemy of Van Helsing doesn’t come in the shape of Count Dracula or a crazy scientist but in the shape of a lackluster multiplayer mode. In order to create or join a multiplayer game you have to create a new character, so the character you painstakingly developed for singleplayer mode is trapped there. Multiplayers games tend to freeze or crash for no reason, with enemy beasts and other players avatar often remaining static on the same spot and the only solution being having to quit the game and re-join or teleporting to the village. What might have been a great addition to the game, falls short because of unfortunate implementation.

At the end of the day, The Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing lands on a genre full of immense games like the aforementioned Torchlight series, Titan Quest or Diablo Series and, while it fails to stand out above its competitors, it does not falter in the smallest amount and becomes an intriguing and exciting game on its own right. It provides a long lasting campaign (averaging 20 hours per gameplay) and much replay value, with a plethora of customisation options for Van Helsing and Lady Katarina. It’s a must have for any Action-RPG fan. Take the train to Borgovia and be prepared for Young Van Helsing’s biggest epic journey. I am certainly looking forward to wherever the next adventure of Young Van Helsing might take me.

 

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