The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing Review (PC)
key review info
- Game: The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing
- Platform: PC
- Gamepad support: No
- Reviewed on:
- Show system requirements
Neocore Games is one of those indie developers that are working on a title for a few years, release it, get praised for it and then get back to work for their next game. The Hungarian studio does not talk too much of its accomplishments, instead it lets players enjoy and spread the word on its products.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is the next game coming directly from Budapest, Hungary's capital city and Neocore's headquarters.
Van Helsing is a classic ARPG that takes place in a fantasy world filled with magic and monsters that you might have heard of before. But there's more to it, as Neocore's game is a place where magic meets 19th century technology.
Hardcore RPG fans surely remember Arcanum, but The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is of a different breed.
The folks at Neocore seem to be huge fans of Diablo and Torchlight, which is why they wanted to offer a much better alternative to those who were disappointed by any of these titles.
Whether it succeeds or not is for each and every one to decide, but after putting around 8-10 hours into this game, I think The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a little gem that no RPG fan should miss.
The game is set in a fictional universe that strongly resembles Eastern Europe of the 19th century. The protagonist is the son of famous monster hunter Abraham Van Helsing who appears in Bram Stoker's horror novel Dracula.
Truth be told, Van Helsing in Bram Stoker's book had a son who died at birth, so the young Van Helsing appearing in the game doesn't exist in any of the author's novels.
You might think of Neocore's game as an alternative universe of Stoker's Dracula, but featuring a steampunk setting full of weird technology.
Unlike many ARPG titles, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing does have a solid story that unfolds as players progress into the game by completing quests, talking with various NPCs and killing monsters.
The game starts with you, young Van Helsing, and your spiritual companion Lady Katarina, being summoned in the Kingdom of Borgovia that has recently become the main playground for mad scientists and their weird experiments.
Even though Borgovia is a fictional kingdom, I was pleasantly surprised to notice that the location on the map coincides with Transylvania, the Romanian county made famous by Bram Stocker's horror novel Dracula.
However, aside from the position on the Europe's map, there are no other similarities between today's Transylvania County and Neocore's kingdom of Borgovia.
You'll be starting your journey from Gorgon Pass where you get attacked by some bandits, who are easy to disperse, but then you will have to make your way through hoards of wolves and more dangerous thieves.
The first location you will get into is called Markovna. This is a small village in the middle of wilderness, which acts as a main hub for the entire act I of the game.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is the first part of a trilogy, so expect your adventures to continue in the next two installments. I'm not going to offer any spoilers, but Neocore has already confirmed that the first part includes three chapters that can be completed in about 10-15 hours.
It's also recommended to finish all quests in the first chapter before starting on the next one, as you won't be able to travel back and finish them.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a pure action RPG title, featuring the same gameplay style as games such as Diablo, Torchlight, Titan's Quest and so on.
However, Neocore took all the good things offered by these popular franchises, improved them even further, added a few more, and then offered them at half the price.
The hack and slash system is backed by a strong skill tree for both the protagonist and his companion, Lady Katarina.
Some might say that Van Helsing is not going to be popular among RPG fans because it does not feature multiple classes. I'd say letting players choose their own play style as they progress into the game is a much better solution.
You have guessed by now, The Incredible Adventures of Helsing does not feature a class system. However, due to the powerful skill tree, you will be able to experiment with an incredible amount of builds.
Obviously, there will be certain skills that will make some fights much easier, but every boss in the game can be beaten with any build, except those on higher difficulty levels.
Keep in mind that your character is limited to level 30 and that, for each level, you will receive 3 skill points and 5 ability points. The latter can be spent on Body, Dexterity, Willpower and Luck.
Still, your character may end up with a lot more than 90 skill points when reaching level 30, as you can also gain skill points by completing quests for various NPCs.
But that's not all. Young Van Helsing will be able to choose from a short list of Perks the one that suits him best.
Choose wisely though, as the number of perks you can choose depends on how famous you are. The fame system works both ways, so the more popular you become among people thanks to your good deeds, the more hated you will be among monsters and evil NPCs.
At the beginning, you have a short list of perks that you can choose from, but as you complete various tasks and get some achievements, which are not listed anywhere, you will unlock more perks that you can choose when you reach a certain level of fame.
Lady Katarina, your ghost companion, is also limited to level 20 and has a less rich tree skill, but slight more powerful.
Your ghost companion is of great help during your travels, as it can carry loot that does not fit into your own inventory. It can also be sent to the nearest town to sell all the loot and purchase healing and mana potions.
Lady Katarina's behavior can be set to help you in your fights from the distance (ranged), up close (melee) or by protecting you (ghost form).
You can even tell her to gather all gold dropped by the mobs. Healing and mana potions, normal items, rare and epic can also be set to be picked automatically by your faithful companion.
And then there's the “Hunter's Lair.” The lair is your own safe haven where you can rest, forge, upgrade and enchant weapons and armors. Of course, here is where you can also store any useful loot that you don't want to sell.
The lair can be decorated with extremely valuable trophies or you can use the alchemy lab or any of the upgrades that you can add by completing special quests.
This is where all NPCs that you manage to rally to your cause will gather. Some of the NPCs in the lair will have quests for you that will enable access to more upgrades to your safe haven.
Even though it should act as a “safe haven,” you will realize that there's no place to hide for a famous monster hunter. The more famous you become the higher the chance that you will be attacked in your own lair by hordes of mythical beasts.
In order to protect your headquarters, you will have access to a trap system that will smash, hack, slash, dismember, poison or mangle your enemies.
Basically, Neocore created a tower-defense mini-game within The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, so those who have enjoyed “Orcs Must Die” will love this part of the game as well.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing offers a lot more in terms of gameplay, such as Rage that can be used against large hordes of enemies or powerful monsters. Rage will make your attacks a lot more powerful and can make a difference in boss fights.
While you spend Rage, you can activate some of your skills for devastating effects. You can even build your own combos, thus you will be able to unleash multiple powers with a single click of a button.
When it comes to gameplay, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing offers one of the most enjoyable rides I have ever experienced in an action-oriented RPG.
Graphics and Sound
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a top-down isometric ARPG that looks much better than I have expected. Not that I had low expectations, but the folks over at Neocore did a great job with the visuals.
The art work and graphic style perfectly reflect the steampunk setting where the action takes place. The music is great and fits the dark Gothic environment depicted in the game.
The only downside is that it is a bit too short and, thus, repetitive. However, my overall opinion is positive and I believe both graphics and music bring more immersion to the game.
Another positive aspect is voice acting, which is no short of brilliant. Every dialog between you and your noble lady companion, Lady Katarina, is spiced up with wry humor that I have yet to find in an ARPG title.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing features tons of easter eggs and lots of hidden humor that is just a few clicks away waiting to be discovered. Without spoiling anything, I recommend clicking on NPCs as many times as possible, as each has his/her own story to unveil.
If I had to compare Van Helsing to Diablo III, I would say the former is at least as beautiful and immersive as the former, but I believe Neocore's game is more spiritual and fun.
Now, that is one aspect of the game I'm a bit disappointed about. Not that it's faulty, but since its release, it does not work as intended due to a critical issue that disconnects players.
However, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing does offer cooperative multiplayer for story mode. Before attempting to create or join a multiplayer game, you need an Online Character.
The Online Characters are saved on Steam's cloud, so you cannot temper with it in any way. You cannot join a player's game if you are not in the same point of the story as him/her, but the game will tell you that.
So far, the main issue with the multiplayer is that it randomly disconnects you from the host. I have managed to play a 5-minute multiplayer session and I have found it quite enjoyable.
While in multiplayer, you have higher drop loot chance and monsters respawn. Up to four players can join a cooperative game, along with their ghost(ly) companions.
You can make your own private multiplayer game or go with a public approach and wait for other players to join. Unfortunately, I cannot assess the whole multiplayer aspect, as for the time being it's broken.
I'm a huge RPG fan, but when it comes to hack and slash games, I'm a bit picky. I was profoundly disappointed by Diablo III, though I greatly enjoyed the previous installments in the series.
Fortunately, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing restored my faith in the ARPG genre and proved once again that small studios like Neocore can create amazing games even if they do not get too much exposure.
There are some things that still need to be ironed out by developers, but, overall, I can guarantee that every RPG fan will enjoy Van Helsing's adventure in Borgovia. And for the price you have to pay, it would be a mistake to miss such a game.
I sincerely believe The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is one of the best RPG titles released this year and I can't wait for the second installment in the series, which is expected to arrive in about six months.