The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing (PC) Review

By Javier Jimenez 05.06.2013

Review for The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing on PC

Based on Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, Neocore Games has released The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, set in a weird and wonderful 19th Century Eastern Europe. Cubed3 steps into the fray to sample the delights of this gothic action RPG.

A year ago was a different time. The world had gone so long without a proper action-RPG in the Diablo vein. There, right around the corner, close enough to touch, were the imminent releases of both Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2.

Intoxicated by the heady aroma of gold and violet loot drops, many players dragged through endless waves of monsters - twisted creatures nameless and named. They traversed skill trees with an obsessive mania, min-maxing every stat. Untold millions in gold coins were picked up to grow fat and rich and powerful until every manifest nightmare, devil, and madman had been cast down.

Now it is 2013, and some may have thought, "Well, that was sort of disappointing." Yes, both Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2 have their devoted followers. For many, though, they just weren't up to the caliber of good old Diablo 2, or even something as humble yet competent as Titan Quest was for its time.

Something odd has happened, though. Some strange laboratory experiment has slipped the cracks of reality. It's an action RPG, its name is The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, and it's surprisingly good.

On first playing Van Helsing, everything seems just a little… different. Not in a bad way; just in a sort of different way - the way everything in the Metro series (Russian/Ukrainian) is just a little different. The explanation? Hungarian developers Neocore Games.

This is rather an enjoyable thing, really. Everything in the game is tinted by a delightful Eastern European filter. Nearly every character speaks in a charming accent. Monster designs are refreshingly unique and weird, in a way that could only come from one culture looking in at another. The dialogue is not always the greatest; however, it is entertainingly different and humorous.

World and art design is slightly off kilter as well. That deserves some special description, though. Van Helsing's aesthetic flies in the face of modern videogame art design. It's "dreary," and that's a good thing.

Everything is subdued. There is colour; however, the overall palette is not the bright cartoon colour palette of Torchlight II, nor even the somewhat darker palette of Diablo 3. Instead, Van Helsing feels much like a gothic painting, with a lot of dark, ruddy colours, which is great. After all, this is a gothic horror story.

Screenshot for The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing on PC

On the subject of the story, it's about as deep as would be expected from a Diablo-clone. Someone or other was looking for the player character's father, Van Helsing, to hunt down and kill the big bad whatsit and stop the doomsday. However, Van Helsing's son is found, and now it's his mission... It's all been heard before.

While Van Helsing's story is nothing new under the sun, it is told in entertaining fashion. It's fun. The characters are amusing. The plot is unravelled in manageable bits that will keep players engaged and moving forward.

As they do, prepare to be engaged in that timeless activity of click-click-clicking on monsters to kill, kill, kill and loot, loot, loot all those sparkly items. There's a reason the Diablo formula has been mimicked so often: it works, just like Wolfenstein, Doom, Quake and their many descendants.

As with the story, the gameplay is no mold breaker. However, that's not what's asked of it. All it needs to do is be a competent, fun, rewarding, playable, well-balanced Diablo clone - and it is.

It helps that the level design and progression is very good. Overworld levels are huge and sprawling, much like Torchlight II. There are numerous side-quests and caves that help the player veer off the beaten path of the storyline and make the world feel a little more authentic and interesting. There are little dream sequences in towns, dark grottos to explore and optional puzzles in the levels that the game doesn't beat players over the head with, yet rewards well for completing.

All in all, it's surprising how much fun, excitement, humour, and entertainment there is in this little game that came out of, basically, nowhere, with little hype and almost no fanfare.

That's not to say it is perfect. Few games are without their faults. For instance, the game opts for a simpler skill system akin to Torchlight II, rather than Diablo 3's more complex "twisting/rotating" system of up to six active skills at a time. Usually, in this the player will focus on just one combat skill with three optional "buffs" to that skill. For instance, there might be an area of effect gunshot that can be buffed +50% damage to have its area of effect expanded, and so on.

Gamers also have access to two utility skills that can be activated. One might be healing, while another might be an overall damage buff of, say, 10%. Although not bad, by any means, it lacks a bit of the exciting pace Diablo 3 brought to the table. Thus, combat sometimes feels more "grindy" than necessary.

Another arguable design decision is that the game limits the player's ability to "respec" by requiring a large amount of money for each skill point removed. That's right. It's not just a flat fee to completely respec. Payment must be made to remove each and every spent skill point, as well as statistic point. Early in the game, when the ability to re-spec skills is critical in learning what is and is not useful, this can be a needless frustration.

Some other issues are that path finding, both player and monster, is not as smooth as Diablo 3 or Torchlight II. While it's a minor quibble, it's one of those minor quibbles that pops up often enough to turn into a recurring problem.

Screenshot for The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

No Diablo clone fan should let any minor issue put them off of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. This is absolutely a fine action RPG experience. There's everything here that needs to be here, nothing that doesn't, no major complicating issues, and it's all put together well, from programming, to game design, to art.

Given its extremely affordable price tag of $15 / £11.99, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is not just a good value proposition for budget-minded gamers, but also a fine addition to the hallowed halls of Diablo, Torchlight, Titan Quest, and the like.

Developer

NeocoreGames

Publisher

NeocoreGames

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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