Deathtrap the World of Van Helsing is a 3D tower defence game blended with some basic RPG elements developed by Neocoregames (creators of a large amount of Van Helsing games and King Arthur: The Role-playing wargame series). Available for Playstation 4, windows and free to gold members with an Xbox one it is certainly an interesting blend of the two genres.
Personally having not played any of their games there was not really a lot for me to draw on in understanding any thread of the story. But, the game I would say has a premise rather than a story – a reason for you to be doing this rather than some complicated narrative. Which do not get me wrong fits this game like a glove? You play as a guard that has been assigned to guard an old ruin which seems abandoned but little to your knowledge (until it is too late) it is actually a portal that connects this world with the world of ink. This would not be so bad until you realise the world of ink is full of nasty demons and monsters trying to claw their way to this world. So, it is your duty to protect each gate in each stronghold smashing any enemy that dares to try and enter. As I said, the premise is simple and works for the game as there are other areas in the game that your mind will have to occupy and try to riddle through. But, it would have been nice to at least see some kind of different back story for each of the available characters rather than all of them having exactly the same reason for being there.
The gameplay is where this game delights in. On the surface, it looks quite confusing with all the sub-menus and player inventories, tower skills, player skills and tier systems to the levels however it becomes very easy to understand with a little bit of trial and error. The game also does a terrific tutorial on the first level and short video which really helps you get into understanding the game – and hey if you are already quite acquainted with the series then you can just skip it. This is not to say the game is overcomplicated no, as there are three modes in the single player. The basic campaign mode which will place you on different maps where you will have to stop a variety of creatures from entering the portal with well-placed towers and your own sword or staff (or crossbow I guess if you picked the marksman). The scenario mode which is the same as the campaign map except you can also set debuffs that will gain you more experience, gold or loot or even rarer items but come at a price such as fewer resources obtained each kill and the enemies have more health etc. The final mode is the same campaign map but, now there is no limit to the demonic horde attacking you. These may all sound the same because, well they are. But, not to knock it however as with the multitude of maps and how in each mode the trap locations change slightly it means you will still have to try and find a solid strategy that works for you as the monsters you face vary just as much.
Apart from the basic tower defence aspect to the game, there is, of course, the RPG-like progression system which allows you to customise and level not only your character but your towers to making some of those harder maps a little easier. And, believe me, you will need it for some of the higher tiers of difficulty on the maps. There is also the loot which the game provides a fair amount of to agonise over whether you would like more damage and more health. This makes each piece of equipment fairly balanced. Another great thing about the items is that you are able to share them between characters however it is slightly disappointing that you cannot share anything else like the map progression but then again I guess that would mean you would not be able to set each character traps up according to the class you are playing as.
There is also the multiplayer aspect of the game which allows you to take on a dungeon with three other guardians of the ink. Playing online was nice and certainly added to the experience if not by taking some of the stress out of the game by letting you choose a lane and sticking to it. This does not mean to say that it makes it easier as the difficulty can still seem to stack as it seemed that with each new player the where either more enemies or they were slightly more resilient to being thumped on the head with an axe. But if working with people is no fun you can always choose to play a match of versus which pits you up against another player defending a portal which you destroy by actively controlling the minions or buffing them. When playing it the session felt balanced and that both sides have a generally good chance of winning even though the players seemed to be about on average twenty levels higher than me. In this way, it may be level based meaning that Unfortunately the odds will always be more towards the defender’s favour. The mode is a good twist but makes me sad as it reminds me about the cancellation of fable legends.
The game looks very gothic horror and really looks like what I imagine the world of van Helsing to look like. Both slightly beautiful but also part of your nightmares. With all the tough looking demons and the wide variety of monsters that look like they may have spent some time taking inspiration from Lovecraft and their different behaviour, it helps the game not get so visually boring as fast like most tower defence games tend to do. The soundtrack is pretty limited in the game as there seems to only be three different tracks but then again I guess it gives you a perfect opportunity to blast some music you really like while you watch demons getting turned to paste in a multitude of ways.
Overall the game is a great experience. A really good example of the marrying of two genres of games. Although the game modes may not feel very varied meaning the only real reason to replay levels are to obtain some nicer crossbows to allow you to riddle a demon with more arrows. It can be forgiven however by the fact that each map is detailed enough to give a decent gaming experience. The game may also feel complicated at times with all the choices of towers and items and abilities and how one should be levelling them up but this gets easier the more your used to it and the active hack and slash element to the game means that you are not bored in-between waves either. Just try not to try and take a too detailed look at some of the monsters models before you try to sleep.
THE WORLD OF VAN HELSING: DEATHTRAP was reviewed on XBox One