The name Van Helsing brings to mind all kinds of monster butt kicking action so how does the Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing fare in filling those big boots?
What to Do When You’re Going Mon-stir crazy!
So let’s talk about everyone’s favorite monster hunter! Geralt of Rivia? No, the other one! Simon Belmont? What? No, Van Helsing dang it!! The OG of monster hunters! He’s been around since Bram Stoker was pumping out bad ass vampire tales. Abraham Van Helsing and his merry band of vampire hunters took down the big D himself and left a legacy in his wake that no one could touch. According to the lore set in place by Bram Stoker himself, Van Helsing had no living descendants, but that didn’t stop authors, Hollywood, and game developers alike from weaving colorful tales about just that. A whole slew of fiction exists surrounding the heirs and ancestors of VH and that’s where our story begins!
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing released by Neocore Games in 2013 is an action role playing game that follows the story of a young unnamed son of Abraham Van Helsing as he continues on his father’s legacy of slicing and shooting the monsters that plague an alternate universe 19th century Europe. With his sassy ghost companion Katarina at his side, he slogs his way through forests, towns, and ink portals to get to the apparent heart of monster motherland – Borgovia! Or maybe it’s Borgova I honestly don’t even know! They kept changing it around on me!
Just Harpy to be Here
So, the first thing you’ll notice about this game from the get go, is that it borrows heavily from the Diablo franchise. It has top down, isometric graphics, and complex skill and inventory menus that will tickle all of your Diablo III senses. That is until you actually start playing the game in any depth.
The graphics as I mentioned are very Diablo III-esque and really there’s no complaint there. They’re very crisp and detailed, though perhaps lacking the many colors of might and magic that Diablo often boasts. It’s also a relatively short game so there wasn’t a great deal of environmental variation, and because the story forced you to revisit a lot of places, sometimes more than once, it honestly felt like a lost opportunity to add some much needed extra flair to the game. The enemies you encountered on the other hand, had a nice variety depending on the area you were currently visiting, even if they were coming at you in droves.
Now, I’ve heard some bad voice acting in my day. I mean we’ve all played Final Fantasy X right? Well, let me just say…this is so much worse. There wasn’t a lick of talent or professionalism to be heard in this game. Firstly, the voices were incredibly loud compared to everything else, and had no spatial continuity. You could be halfway across the map and you could still hear that drunk guy yelling about goats as if he were on top of you. None of the accents sounded genuine either… none of them. Katarina’s Russian (?) accent sounded terribly forced so listening to her nag Van Helsing throughout the entire game was not super fun. My God please let this be a thing that was at least slightly refined in the sequel! It’s not much to ask for!
Well That Was Orc-ward
If it sounds like I’m kind of ripping this game a new one, it’s mostly because I am. If I think of anything positive you know I’m going to put it in here so it’s ok right? Right! So, here goes! The looting system in this game is kind of garbage. More often than not you’ll basically just be filling your pockets with stuff to sell and occasionally finding something questionably better. I say questionably because comparing stats for old and new equipment is a confusing experience. The blue highlighted defence stat was what I went off of most of the time since everything else was just kind of muddled information. When you get some sweet new armour shouldn’t you know it? Sure, the “legendary” stuff would pop out of the enemy with an orange light and you are then blessed with the task of identifying it…yourself…but the stats and boosts never seemed altogether impressive and neither did the look to be honest. If you walk into this game hoping to look as cool as the dude on the cover, walk away now…it doesn’t happen. We went through the entirety of the story and filled in every inch of the maps and encountered almost no uses for the multitude of “mysterious” quest items we found bundled in with our loot. That kind of baffled me. These types of games are usually pretty straight forward with their multitude of side quests.
The battle system was very on par with your typical ARPG, though again definitely without the flash and fanfare. You have a few sword, gun, and magic attacks to dump your level points into, but honestly it was your various perks and auras that made the constant onslaught of enemy hordes any easier at all. It was really disappointing that you never reached a point in all your leveling where you felt strong. More often than not, battles were a struggle, though at least there really wasn’t much penalty for death other than losing a big chunk of change. Katarina offered a nice bit of help during battles, but honestly once she gained her “explode upon death” move keeping her alive and supplying her with our precious health potions became pointless. Her death-splosion is the strongest move in the entire game. Once we learned of this little ability of her’s we changed all her other abilities to keep Van Helsing alive at the detriment of her own health. The faster she “died” and respawned the quicker we could get through the many, many ensuing battles.
More Like an Una-werewolf Amiright?
So, at this point you may ask, why did we even choose to play this game let alone stick it out to the end? Well, first of all it was in our backlog so that kind of automatically means we have to play it at some point. But our original plan was to find a Diablo III type game that we could play together. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing boasted multiplayer gameplay so we figured why not? Well when all the extra characters are paid DLC it kind of puts a kibosh on that plan. Plus no local co-op is major lame-sauce!
I guess in the end what it boils down to is that The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing never felt very incredible at all. Compared to other ARPGS I’ve played, it just felt like a watered down version. Give me the cool armour, the flashy magic, the exciting missions! If you’re going to patch in other character classes, especially as paid DLC, then don’t add all their armor into the game unless I purchase them or at least make them free. Terrible RNG loot drops make it much more frustrating when you mix in items for characters I don’t even own!
What I’m trying to say is if you’re in the mood for a Diablo-like game this isn’t the one to scratch that itch. That being said I feel like the world of Van Helsing held so much potential and the fact that it all amounted to what felt like a watered down experience I really do hope to see it come to fruition with the subsequent sequels.