Before the Belmonts had ever been thought of, there was another vampire hunter that killed Dracula. His name was Abraham Van Helsing. He fought countless monsters and creatures of the night and finally, he’s getting his very own game. Well, his son is actually the star of this adventure. Let’s grab a broadsword and some pistols and see if this dungeon crawler stacks up.
As stated above, the son of Abraham Van Helsing takes up the title of monster hunter and travels the world tracking down legendary creatures that terrorize the lands. Along side him is a wise-cracking ghost named Katarina that can transform into a beastly apparition and aid in combat.
Like other isometric RPGs, Van Helsing has players clicking the mouse buttons to move, attack and interact with things on the screen. Players of Torchlight and Diablo will feel right at home controlling this game. Like others in the genre, Van Helsing is all about getting better equipment while leveling up, learning new abilities and increasing stats. These mechanics are very complex. When leveling up, players gain both skill points and attribute points to spend. These points can be used to unlock new attacks and passive abilities as well as modifiers to those abilities. Attribute points increase Van Helsing’s main stats such as body, magic, dexterity and luck. It seems simplistic in nature, but when I sat down and dug deep into the system I found it has enough options to keep any RPG player happy.
Van Helsing has two modes of attacking: melee and ranged. These modes can be switched on the fly with a simple press of the R key. With the skill trees set in place, players can add points into both ranged and melee attacks. This is where the importance of modifiers comes into play. Each attack has three modifiers that can be used, with each one powering up the strike using rage.
The rage meter fills every time Helsing kills an enemy. I could manually set a modifier to be used up to three times. So let’s say I have an explosive shot as a main attack. It has a modifier that increases the blast radius of the explosion. If I put one point into the modifier, it will increase the last radius by one meter, and I can do this up to three times so that the radius is three meters. The more points I use, the more rage is needed to pull it off, and with three modifiers per attack, the availability for combos is almost limitless. Players can actually create combos in a menu that can be activated by pressing the spacebar for an even quicker, more devastating attack.
When killing elite and legendary enemies, Helsing gains fame. Fame can level up, and new perks can become available. These offer a permanent increase to stats, more equipment slots in his bag and much more. These are not easy to obtain and players will usually only get one new perk every ten levels or so.
Katarina can level up as well. She has multiple abilities, many of which can offer stat increases for Van Helsing, and special debuff attacks to the hoards of enemies players will be taking on. She can also be equipped with armor and weapons to make her attacks even more powerful. The great thing about Katarina is she can also serve as a pack mule to hold all unwanted items. She is limited on how much she can carry, but much like the pet in Torchlight, she can be sent into town to sell those items. There are also options for her that players can set to accommodate how they want to play. She can be set to pick up certain items and gold as well as being a ranged or melee attacker that can aggro enemies to her while Helsing picks them off.
The game has players taking on quests through the main story and side missions. These can offer up large experience point rewards and maybe a new item or two. The story told throughout the game is one many would come to expect from a tale about Van Helsing. It’s never boring by any means but it’s never surprising either.
The game features four player online co-op throughout the main game. At launch, it was a bit of a mess (one of the reasons why this review is somewhat late) but after a patch, it has become much more stable. Loot isn’t shared, and players can take their own character into other games and bring them back out into single player with all the loot and experience with them.
I really loved the art style and presentation. It has dark overtones but the dialog between Helsing and Katarina keep it comical at times. The music is another great factor that is well implemented. It fit the tone perfectly.
The game is a blast to play and the RPG elements have some very interesting aspects, but that doesn’t mean it is without its faults. It can be brutally difficult. I played through on normal and was dying a fair amount. The enemies rush the player so fast that it can be difficult to adjust, and when damage numbers are popping up on screen with enemies everywhere it can get rather hectic. I found myself not really knowing where exactly Helsing was or how to get out of the dog pile of death. By the time I did, I was almost, if not already, dead. The online co-op is much more stable now than it was at launch, but I still experienced a decent amount of lag. It usually only happens while walking and not during combat, but still very noticeable.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing surprised me. For a game I had never heard of up until a month ago, it is quite impressive. The game may only have one class to play, but the complex skill tree and deep mechanics of the modifiers will keep each character feeling fresh and unique. The co-op works even if there is a little lag here and there, and the overall presentation and story kept me entertained throughout. There is a lot in this $15 game, and fans of action RPGs should really take a look at it. I highly suggest it.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.