Game: The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing
Format: PC, Mac & Xbox 360
Bit frustrated by Diablo 3? Love Torchlight 2, but not a fan of the cartoony graphics style? Fancy the best of both worlds? Welcome to “The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing”!
Now, let’s be clear, this is no cheap knock off, this is a really strong game in it’s own right.
From the outset The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing (“Van Helsing” from now on!) sets its stall out with a really well conceived intro sporting both lush visuals and an excellent voice over. Game-play builds from there with a well executed intro / tutorial gently preparing the player, without patronizing or boring them, for what is to come.
Perhaps the most immediately interesting mechanic presented is the partnership between your main character and the mysterious Lady Katarina. Setting up a very enjoyable duet, you are immediately presented with the opportunity to cover both close range and melee options, with the best balance usually Van Helsing taking one role and Lady Katarina the other, although both of them in the same role is certainly possible.
Whilst it seems Lady Katarina’s skills are ideal for her taking the ranged / support role I actually found things easier with her “tanking” with a sword up front with myself calling the shots, literally, from range. Luckily her behavior is clearly and simply configurable, which is refreshing, and her skills, abilities and equipment are also all easy to understand and progress. Much as your own are.
In addition to leveling both Van Helsing and Lady Katarina, you also have the enjoyable challenge of managing the generously frequent randomly generated equipment drops and selecting which pieces to use for both yourself and Lady Katarina. This game really is magnificently loot-tastic, a great asset to any good dungeon crawler in my view.
Luckily these equipment conundra are well serviced by both the game’s UI, which makes comparisons with your own & Lady Katarina’s existing kit both swift and clear, and the ability to send Lady Katarina off to sell off any unwanted inventory. Both these solid mechanics help smooth the flow of what might otherwise be too much management of inventory.
Should those drops not be to your taste, or you want to take that killer drop to the next level there is even a dynamic forging and upgrading mechanic for your equipment which allows you to both create new, and refine existing, weapons, armour and accessories. They really have pretty much covered every base here!
So, it’s clear that much thought has gone into the game play setup and thankfully the same can be said for the design and atmosphere, both of which are spot on. Green forests, misty swamps, dark mines, sewers, labs and villages are all represented and populated by their appropriate denizens. This grants a real feeling of progress as you “clear” each respective area, and the game supports this providing well placed “teleport” points which continue the theme of avoiding grind.
As if all this loveliness wasn’t enough, at what is a very good price point, you also get the opportunity to enjoy it all with friends! Whilst an internet connection is certainly optional, if you’re more of a lone wolf, you can take on Borgovia with up to 4 friends in co-op mode.
But there’s more! Beyond the afore mentioned basic, but well-tuned, dungeon crawler there is even a bit base building and tower-defense thrown in. Not only do you eventually get a hub to call home but you can decorate it with all those trophies you’ve been so heroically winning. Oh, and then defend it from the ravening hordes not only with your sword, guns and spells, but with some suitably deadly traps.
So, if you’re a fan of dungeon crawlers then this is certainly one you should check out, and if you’re not it would also server as an excellent introduction to the genre… particularly at what ends up as a bargain price considering the variety of game-play available! Everyone wins!
The Good: Combines much of the best of Diablo and Torchlight, refining their formula if anything, and adds a bunch of variety into the mix.
The Bad: Not the longest game in the world, but that’s definitely reflected in the price. Certainly some room for DLC?
Overall: 4 out of 5
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing was kindly provided by NeocoreGames and played on PC via Steam by the reviewer. It is also available to buy from the Xbox Live Marketplace.