Dust off your wide brimmed hat, sheath your sword, holster your pistol and be prepared to don the name of Van Helsing – Monster Hunter. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is an action role-playing game made by Hungarian indie dev NeocoreGames. In the game you play young Van Helsing, son to infamous Abraham Van Helsing who appears in Dracula, the Bram Stoker novel.
In terms of story the game is set in a fictional and mystically twisted 19th century where monsters, magic and steampunk technology mix and match into weird and dangerous combinations. You are on your way to Borgova which is the capital of Borgovia, a city that’s large and crammed with classic horror trope `science` experiments which turn creatures into evil monsters that you must shoot, slash and slay your way through. Due to your lineage i.e. being the son of Abraham Van Helsing you’ve decided to take up the family business. You are accompanied by your friendly, ghostly and charming companion, Lady Katarina who helps you beat the never ending slew of vicious monsters. Due to the way the game plays I feel this is a game more focused on design than story, admittedly the story does give it a fun edge – you’re Van Helsing you get to destroy the many minions of evil but I was far more interested in playing than taking in the story.
Looking more toward the design aspect Van Helsing is a fun almost dungeon crawler really, with an overhead view you control Van and throw him into the middle of quite large and complicated battles against sometimes 20 enemies at a time. It is fun and does give off a sense of challenge and danger. Given the quantity of enemies, the health bars, the numbers for damage taken and received, the screen can quite easily get incredibly busy and it can be hard to tell what’s what, even if you’re in the middle slashing enemies down or standing from afar shooting them. This is made slightly more frustrating at the fact that when it comes to combat it’s 1 click per attack instead of auto targeting an enemy until they die. The combination of these 2 mechanics means it can be hard to target a single enemy and kill them one by one in order take less damage as time goes on.
As an action role playing game it’d be impossible not to talk about the leveling up system and your gear. Once again quite like a dungeon crawler, you’ll find yourself with plenty of loot at all times which means the occasional trip back to town to sell off your wares, don’t worry however as you can teleport back and forth. Seeing as Katarina is a ghost she can’t wear the same things Van can, instead of full gear Katarina is confined to a melee and ranged weapon, chest piece and trinkets likes rings. You may find yourself in the same position as me however by simply making Katarina act as a backpack and letting her wear your hand-me-downs.
When it comes to leveling up though Katarina does shine through with some very nice perks such as paralyzing enemies, giving Van a higher defense or healing Van by draining enemies health. With Van though the leveling up is a tad more complex, each level gained Van receives 5 Ability points and 3 Skill points. Ability points go toward increasing the 4 character statistics which are Body, Dexterity, Willpower and Luck which focus on strength with melee, efficiency with firearms, power with spells and ability to find loot, respectively. The Skill points however go toward Mystic Hunter, Occult Warrior and Tricks and Auras, Mystic Hunter looks at your ability to handle a sword and learn special moves, the same can be said for Occult Warrior but with firearms. Tricks and Auras however look more at spells and buffs, you can have 2 active at any one time for each i.e. 2 Tricks and 2 Auras, Tricks are active – you have to press `x` to use one and `y` to use the other, Auras however are passive. The leveling up doesn’t stop there however, no. After performing certain actions you unlock Perks and a perk can be chosen once every few levels these can range from an extra inventory slot to improving Katarina’s health regeneration ability. Now as you can imagine with all those things to level up for yourself and also leveling up Katarina the game can get quite complex straight off the bat, however given time it all makes sense and feels fine.
Moving away from the complex, strange mess that is the leveling up system and looking more toward the visual aspect. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is quite a visually captivating game and when it comes to the fantasy side, it can feel like a trip down LSD Lane. Given the fantasy via steampunk creation the game comes out to be quite unique and fun, but you must remember as I said before, in the throes of combat the screen can get very busy very quickly and this is probably the only time the visuals fall down as it can feel like you’re clicking blindly into a random mass of evil, hoping and praying that after every click the final brute of a creature has been slain. Van’s appearance also changes depending on the gear you’ve given him which is a nice touch for an indie game and it’s fun to see your option of clothing actually having some change to the game even if it is so slight.
Looking more at the audio capacity of the game, it does have some cool music and sound effects that it plays with. Hearing the constant slash of your sword cutting deep into enemies and hearing their screams, whether in rage or peril, is a nice touch and something that can make you smirk every once in a while after beating a horde of monsters. Where the sound seems quite off-putting and sometimes silly is down to the voices, some voices are done quite well, Katarina and Van seem to have quite appropriate voices, a Werewolf I met had a nice snarl to his voice, yet some of the other fantasy creatures, and I understand they’re not real so they may talk differently, just seem to have these creepy and often just ill-fitting voices, which is a shame as some characters seem really awesome given their look and their sound yet some just don’t seem to match up quite as well and it drags you out of the game slightly when conversing with these creatures.
(Reviewed on PC. Review code supplied by NeocoreGames. Thank you.)
ONLY SINGLE PLAYER SCORE
Story – 7/10
Gameplay/Design – 7/10
Visuals – 9/10
Sound – 6/10
Lasting Appeal – 8/10
Overall – 7.5/10
(Not an average)
Platform: PC, Xbox 360