The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing Review: Hack ‘N Slash With Character
Loot lovers and hack ‘n slash fans have a reason to rejoice with the recent release of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. Developed by the Hungarian studio Neocore Games, Van Helsing is an action-RPG has some serious character. Set in a gothic-noir 19th century Eastern Europe, the team at Neocore expertly blends medieval fantasy and steampunk cities to create an action-packed journey through a unique world that feels very much alive.
Van Helsing will undoubtedly draw some conclusions to juggernaut giants Diablo and Torchlight at first glance. This is in no way a bad thing, however, as Van Helsing takes the elements of both games that makes them so addicting and incorporates them in a fresh way. Action-RPG veterans will feel right at home upon starting the game, and newcomers to the genre are in for a fantastic entry into one of gaming’s most fun (and addicting) categories.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing transports players to Borgovia, an atmospheric region filled with hauntingly lush forests and soot-filled, industrialized cities. As the son of the fabled vampire slayer, Doctor Van Helsing, players are tasked with investigating the corruption that has befallen the land. Claims of strange science taking hold in Borgovia, causing the fragile peace between monster and mortal to unravel, and Van Helsing intends to find out what exactly is the cause behind the bizarre happenings.
Van Helsing, accompanied by the spectral Lady Katrina – a brilliantly beautiful and witty spirit bound to serve the monster hunter – traverse the region searching for clues to lead them to the cause of corruption. Upon their journey, Helsing and Katrina learn that this will be no easy task, as enemy after enemy stand up to stop the two in their tracks. The team finds themselves battling everything from werewolves to failed scientific experiments, leaving no corner unturned as they seek to free Borgovia.
Van Helsing’s narrative moves at a quick place. As they travel across the land, searching for the next lead, the banter between the two serves to both move the plot forward and add depth to the characters. The writing is genuinely witty and hearing the strong personalities of the two clash goes miles to add enjoyment as players destroy the enemies in their paths.
Much of Van Helsing follows the standard isometric action-RPG formula. Players spend their time fighting their way across Borgovia, collecting loot and gold along the way. As Helsing and Katrina kill enemies they earn experience which can be used to level up their stats and purchase skills.
Helsing has three skill trees to choose from, each with their own specialty. Players may choose to specialize in offensive slashing with his swords, blasting enemies from a distance with his gun arsenal, or specializing in various auras and tricks that serve to cause confusion and catch opponents off guard. Katrina’s skills lean more towards the passive side of things, allowing players to pick and choose what bonuses she can provide to Helsing while fighting in the fray.
Each skill within a respective tree has various powerups that can also be purchased. These powerups can be accessed with a simple button press in combat that allow Helsing to unleash even more damage. With so many skills and powerups there more than enough ways to tailor Helsing to fit any preferred play style.
Getting better loot to equip is of course one of the key aspects of the game as well. Defeated enemies drop healthy amounts of treasure, from armors and weapons to alchemical reagents that can be picked up and equipped by both Helsing and Katrina. Each item provides various stat bonuses, causing players to choose carefully as they decide whether to sacrifice their damage output in order to have more defenses.
Hacking and slashing isn’t all that Van Helsing has to offer gameplay-wise. Towards the end of the game, Helsing’s Hunter’s Lair serves as both a quest hub and tower defense mini-game. Helsing can find various components throughout Borgovia that can be used to add traps to his Lair, allowing him to better fight invading enemies. The tower-defense segments work very well and serve as a great break from the traditional action-RPG slashing that dominates the majority of the game.
For an indie title developed by a relatively small studio, Helsing looks great. The gothic-noir of Borgovia looks like something right out of a dark fairy tale. The top-notch graphics work wonders to pull players into the world of Borgovia and add some great atmospheric moments.
Character models look great, even with the camera pulled all the way back. Watching Lady Katrina shift spectral forms in the middle of combat seamlessly is impressive. The character design is impeccable, taking great inspiration from folklore and creating some very memorable enemies. At times, animations do tend to lag a little in the middle of giant fights, but this is easily forgiven and never detrimental to the experience while playing.
Weapons smashing into flesh and the guttural cries of injured combatants simply sound great in Van Helsing. Even with dozens of enemies on screen, each attacking, every sound feels right at place. Helsing and Katrina’s voice actors deliver every line of dialogue pitch-perfect, drawing players into the world of Borgovia
The score for Van Helsing is great as well. The haunting violins of the main theme set the tone for the rest of the game immediately. Players are sure to find the sonorous tones stuck in their heads for hours after playing the game.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a remarkable game. The game has some of the most memorable environments and brilliant character designs in recent memory. While playing Van Helsing it is easy to be pulled right into the world of Borgovia, thanks especially to the smart writing and tremendously detailed scenery. Helsing and Katrina are both great characters that don’t get stale during the game’s 10+ hour campaign. For those looking to get immersed in a visceral action-RPG, get out there and buy this game immediately.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing earns 9 out of 10 Buddhas.
[schema type=”review” name=”The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing | Review Summary” description=”The Awesome: Hauntingly atmospheric setting, great banter between Helsing and Katrina, deep skill system allowing for customization | The Not so Awesome: Occasional delayed animations, veteran players may find the campaign too short” rev_name=”The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing” rev_body=”The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a remarkable game. The game has some of the most memorable environments and brilliant character designs in recent memory. While playing Van Helsing it is easy to be pulled right into the world of Borgovia, thanks especially to the smart writing and tremendously detailed scenery.” author=”Ray Porreca” pubdate=”2013-05-29″ user_review=”9″ min_review=”0″ max_review=”10″ ]
The Author received a review copy of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is available for the PC.
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