Who better to base a video game on than the quintessential monster hunter, Abraham Van Helsing? His son, of course! The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing starts with a distress message from the isolated country of Borgova, home to the late Count Dracula. Young Van Helsing races off with his noteworthy companion Katarina, the vengeful spirit of a Borgovian noblewoman, who shifts into a monster herself to fight alongside you.
ARPGs – they’ve provided a secondary character that can be equipped to offset the weaknesses of Van Helsing. If you decide to be a magic-caster or hunter, you can effectively equip Kat to be a fighter class to engage monsters in melee, though she will not be nearly as effective as Van Helsing. Conversely, you could go with melee combat for yourself and relegate Katarina to provide you with either ranged, melee or passive support (where she simply stays out of combat but provides you with protection bonuses). Any combination will work, though some are more effective than others.
There are several different areas of growth for Van Helsing and Katarina:
Ability points – effectively they’re your overall stats.
Skills – both passive and active, two skill trees offer different combat powers. Each combat skill can be upgraded to do more damage, as well as unlocking rage enhancements and passive bonuses.
Tricks and auras – Generally no-cost buffs that take time to recharge. You can equip any two at one time.
Perks – Fame-based skills that add things like more storage, or permanent bonuses such as +40% damage on ranged combat when no one is close to you.
For a fee, almost all skills and ability points can be changed so you never are stuck with a bad build. The only selections you can’t change are your Perks which are generally universal in nature.
I’m going to be brief on the graphics and sound, and that’s not because they aren’t worth talking about – they’re very, very good. The dialogue is all voiced, is compelling, and at some moments very funny. Neocore really nailed the balance between the seriousness of the game, and providing some light-hearted banter that I quite enjoyed. The environments are lush and convincing – in fact if I were to complain about anything, it would be that the voices and level of detail likely contributed to the 16GB of space required..
And this is the biggest problem with Van Helsing – the online play brings so many quirks to the game that it can irritate to the point of distraction. I had moments where my character was killed, my party members were inexplicably unable to resurrect me, and paying the fee to resurrect myself resulted in my character being stuck on the ground. Using town portal and then teleporting back was the only way to get back in the action.
There are infrequent moments where a frozen monster never breaks down, basically staying frozen and dead on the screen indefinitely. These types of situations are not isolated, and I know Neocore Games is working on updates and patches, but it’s something you should be aware of going in.
So should the online bugs hold you back? At a paltry $14.99 this is a no-brainer. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is engaging, it’s cheap and more importantly, fun! It now includes scenario mode where you can revisit sections and grind levels if you so choose, which was notably absent from the initial release. Neocore Games should be commended for putting out such a high-quality experience where their story is equally outlandish, silly and serious – I’m personally looking forward to the recently announced sequel.