When I first saw the title to The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing I thought what the crap kind of title is that? In my mind I thought that something with the Van Helsing name should be something serious. So the corny title kind of threw me off. I was, however, pleasantly suprised by this Diablo clone. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a steam punk styled game with plenty of cheeky humor and is actually a pretty solid action rpg with some minor hiccups.
You play as the son of the famous vampire hunter from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. You are basically following the footsteps of your father in eradicating the world (or at this point in time the town of Borgova) of evil beings and monsters. Joining you along the journey is your companion, Katrina, who is a ghost that is in servitude to the Van Helsing family and also serves as comic relief.
Again, while the premise sounds pretty serious, it doesn’t take long to realize that this game does not take itself seriously. At least as far as the story and content goes. That's in a good way. The gameplay does actually take itself pretty seriously though.
Things look decent. Most of the time
The graphics are decent though they aren’t going to blow you away by any means. The environment is interesting but a lot of times it looks like you could go places but couldn’t. Bushes stick out a little more then they should etc. It’s more of a minor inconvenience then anything and it never ruined the game for me. There are some interesting variations in settings as you make your way through the game.
The models of the characters and creatures (of which there are all kinds of spooky critters) look pretty decent even if a bit plain at times. It doesn’t look bad by any means but it seems like it could use a bit of polish. It's not something I would complain about normally though. It didn't detract from my enjoyment by any means.
The game runs pretty smoothly until you have a run in with a large group of monsters. Which the game tends to throw at you often. It’s not uncommon to get swarmed pretty early on in the game. Unfortunately the framerate drops at times like this and slows the action which makes being strategic a bit difficult. It’s not unplayable by any means but is just something to note.
Other errors included some slight clipping and other oddball things. But, again, nothing major. And it didn’t effect my gameplaying sessions. Just like the looks, I think they could have spent a little bit more time polishing. Apparently there are some improvements with the PS4 Pro but I didn’t have a chance to try it on one of those.
I can speak!
The voices are one of the better points in the game. The dialog is pretty well done and very humorous. As I mentioned before, the game doesn’t take itself too seriously and that really comes through in the dialog. The banter between Van Helsing and his companion, Katrina, is especially amusing. The game is full of puns and pokes fun at modern society and gaming.
One particular part that made me chuckle was the two headed cow that talks. He tried to play it off being a normal cow by saying moo and then got snarky by telling me that, yes, he can talk, so what?
This sounds good to me
Sound effects are pretty good and satisfying. Gunshots have a punch to them and sound effects of various creatures are well done. The music is fitting for the time period and adds to the 1800’s atmosphere. All in all the sound design is well done.
This is a surprisingly good game
The highest point of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is definitely the sense of the humor and the dialog. But the gameplay itself isn’t too far behind. You start out the game by picking one of three classes; the Hunter wields guns and swords in equal measure. The Thaumaturge is the magic wielder of the bunch. And last, but not least, is the Arcane Mechanic who uses science to summon (build?) minions and starts off with a very steam punk weapon; a bomb launcher.
While on the surface it may seem pretty shallow with just three classes but once you get into leveling up and adding points to your skills you’ll find a surprisingly deep level of customization here.
As you gain skill points from leveling up you can use those points on your typical stats such as strength and dexterity. But you also spend points on your main skills. For example you can upgrade your ability to wield swords. Or you can add points to some of your spells to make them more powerful and effective.
On top of that you can also learn passive skills that you can combine for some interesting effects. Your companion also levels up and you have some flexibility on how she can help you as well although not quite as in depth as your own character. You can turn her into a damage absorbing sponge or turn up her power for a great damage dealer. Once you start digging through the (sometimes confusing) skill trees you’ll realize there is a fairly deep level of complexity here. And that makes every play through just a little different which is great.
Unfortunately navigating through all these different skills can be a chore at times since one of the few faults of this game is the control scheme. Moving around the menus is a bit confusing at times but once you get the hang of it, it isn’t too bad. You’ll still find yourself pressing the wrong button at times though which is a sign of poor porting to a console.
What? Tower defense?
Just to throw you for a loop, later on the game takes an interesting turn. You discover a secret lair that allows you to play an almost entirely different game. This mode is more of tower defense game where you create defenses and protect your new lair from hordes of monsters. It’s an odd addition to be sure but turns out to be an interesting distraction from all the hack and slash.
Beyond the main campaign and the secret lair are two end game modes called Scenario and Neverending Story mode. Scenario is a high level mode that allows you to get high level equipment by playing certain, you guessed it, scenarios from the story. Neverending Story mode starts the game from the beginning with ramped up difficulty. Both add a little more replay-ability to the game and the chance to find better loot.
On a side note there is mulitplayer but only online. Unfortunately there isn’t any local multiplayer which is a bit of a negative in my book.
I was pleasantly surprised by The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. The game is actually pretty solid overall with some slight kinks in graphics and controls. But the game is fun to play and the humor is pretty clever and well delivered. And it does scratch that action rpg itch. If you enjoyed Diablo then you’ll most likely enjoy Van Helsing.
The icing on the cake is the price. At only 20 bucks, this game is a steal for the content you get. So there isn’t much of an excuse to not give it a try.
The Good – Fun gameplay, fairly deep skill trees, clever humor
The Bad – Some graphical hitches here and there, especially when there are a lot of enemies on the screen. Which happens often.
The Ugly – Porting to console could definitely use some polish. Controls aren’t the greatest and navigating the menus is cumbersome. No Local co-op.