The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is an action role-playing game which will take you on adventure that portrays the infamous hunter in a different light to the traditional dark, mysterious, monster-slaying stories in which he usually features. The idea of looking at traditional heroes of literature and legends in a different way to their usual personas has become a popular theme in recent video games and films alike. It seems now that the time has come for such an effort to be made using the Van Helsing name. The back story to this adventure will prepare you for this new twist, explaining briefly the events up to the time in which the game takes place.
The game acknowledges the traditional Van Helsing tales of finding and fighting monsters in its prologue, which explains that you are in fact playing the son of the great legend himself. Your father, it is explained, has retired from his monster hunting days having formed some form of truce between the monsters he once hunted and humans. He receives a letter however calling for his help in Borgovia, where something is disturbing the peace which he had created. As the son of Van Helsing and also a trained hunter, your character takes it upon himself to answer this call on his father’s behalf. Setting off for the mysterious, fictional town Borgova, a location visually comparable to a gothic, 19th Century Eastern Europe, you are accompanied by the ghost of Lady Katarina, who is indebted to serve your family. As your adventure begins, you are thrown instantly into the action.
As a twist on the traditional tales, the game leads you into an adventure where you find yourself fighting alongside the monsters of old against the increasing threat of the dangerous mad scientists of the region; the cause of the disturbance to peace. You are thrown straight into this action, fighting not monsters as you might have expected but humans and wild wolves instead. The combat system seems fairly basic; you attack by clicking an enemy and press a key to switch quickly between ranged and melee weaponry. Similarly, you click where you want to walk to in order to move in game and click objects and items in the world to interact with them. There is also a handy hotkey for healing yourself during combat if the situation is a particularly sticky one. This system is good in that it makes gameplay fast paced and active, but gameplay itself seems a little bit overly-extreme early on. For example, rather than having to fight a single person off the mark, you are thrown against groups of several opponents. With little experience of what you are doing at this point, it does make the game harder than it maybe should be at this point. You certainly need to be prepared to be thrown straight into the deep end when you get going.
The game appears to have a very in depth set of workings in the background to its quite simply controlled gameplay. The inventory works with a smart system which considers the actual size of objects being carried; always a nice touch to see. Different items and equipment can be directly compared and equipped with ease here to the relevant parts of Van Helsing’s person, however little difference appears to be made to his in game avatar when items are changed. There is also an intricate leveling up system with a vast variety of skills and attributes on which points can be spent at each new level to improve Van Helsing’s specific skills in that area. This seems to have been designed with a lot of thought and variety in mind for a unique style of play, but probably requires a true role-playing game fan to fully appreciate it. Aside from these features, something else that stands out is the respawn system in game. Gold can be found throughout the world of play, and when Van Helsing dies this can be spent to respawn at a preferred location. For example by spending a little extra gold you can respawn there and then on the spot where you have died. Alternatively you may choose to save your gold for other purposes and spawn further away, for example at a town.
Aside from the way the game plays, the look of it is rather nice. For a game which is played from an overhead perspective the graphics detail seems to be pretty sharp, although character models are an area in which the game might be said to be slightly lacking. The initial cut scene which provides a back-story to the game is particularly well presented and worth a short mention just based on imaginative design. As for sound effects on the other hand they too seem pretty good, however during combat there seems to be a bit of an issue with them stacking and suddenly there is just a mess of one sound being repeated by multiple adversaries. Aside from this, the audio appears to fit to the game style fairly appropriately.
The preview build of the game does have one or two issues which could do with resolving before the final release version goes live. For one, if there is a lot going on in the game at one time, such as a heavy combat event, then it does have a tendency to revert to a black screen with the game’s title logo on it, despite play continuing in the background of this. Also, some coding errors may be present as an issue came about where a giant wolf model loaded in game where it was not meant to (scaring the sh*t out of me if I may say so too!). It did not do anything but was simply frozen there, causing me just a little bit of confusion. Aside from these one or two hopefully quite solvable errors, the rest of the game seemed to play nice and smoothly.
As a whole, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing looks to be a very in-depth style role-playing game of the sort which will appeal to the more dedicated fans of the genre. Those from outside of the role-playing style may not find this the best or easiest first step into the style, and some role-playing fans may find that it does not quite suit their needs, but there will surely be a strong group to whom the game will appeal. As for its twist on the Van Helsing legend, it is a good attempt and an a good idea to play with, and it may well be a popular idea among fans of the hunter who will be pleased to see that the legacy is still continuing to be acknowledged and pushed by the gaming industry.
The Good (so far…) – a nice new twist on the classic Van Helsing legend combined with an in depth role-playing system which will appeal to dedicated fans of the genre.
The Bad (so far…) – a little complicated for gamers new to the role-playing genre, and the few errors that are currently present make it difficult to play flowingly at times, but hopefully these are easily fixed by the time of release.
To pre-purchase the game, head to devblog.neocregames.com/order and choose an option to back this indie developer. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is set to release on Windows® PC in late May 2013 for $14.99.