NeocoreGames’ take on the Van Helsing legacy gives the action/RPG genre a kick in the fangs.
In the past few years, top down action RTS’ have become the go-to genre for budding gamers. Various gaming leagues have begun taking advantage of this large gaming scene by creating international gaming competitions. These competitions are taken very seriously and often feature thousand dollar prizes. Dota 2 and League of legends are the biggest but many indie developers have begun taking their own take on the genre. Such is the case with The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, a game that truly deserves such a long title. Developed by Hungarian based studio NeoCoreGames, a small indie studio, this game is truly a great piece of gaming ingenuity.
This game takes place in one of the best universes I have ever experienced and let me tell you, I’ve seen a lot. It takes place in an alternate 19th century Europe where science and the supernatural mix together and create an interesting and amazing setting. Machines and monsters are both abundant and you can clearly tell the differences. Some Levels take place in small isolated towns surrounded by forests, while others take you to bright bustling cities, where machinery and people are found everywhere.
This great setting helps set the stage for the game’s gripping story. It basically portrays the story of the son of Van Helsing (aptly named the same). Who must travel to Eastern Europe and rid a city of the nightmarish monsters that torment it. The best part of this is Helsing’s relationship with his sidekick Katarina, a ghost who is indebted to the Helsing’s and must aid them. The banter between the often pessimistic Katarina and the more respectful Helsing are sure to make you at least snicker every once in a while.
Katarina also adds noticeable gameplay changes, aiding you in the often hectic combat. She helps add passive spirit abilities, such as stunning enemies in fright or by providing health boosts. This allows you to take on more baddies while still being able to defend yourself.
This brings us to the combat in Van Helsing, which is quite enjoyable. You can carry two weapons at a time, a short range and a long range. These help you tackle your enemies in different manners, maybe leaving Katarina to fight up close, while you shoot from afar. You are also provided with two spell slots. These can be often limiting, as your main spell is a health regeneration which means you only have one free one used for offensive skills. This means you focus more on brute force then on magic, which is a shame seeing the type of foes you face. You fight off supernatural beings like werewolves, giant spiders and possessed scarecrows, but in populated places, you fight soldiers and rouge machines. This helps add variety to the combat and helps distinguish the different settings.
This game also feature a deep and complex RPG system. It brings all the joys and glory of item management and leveling up skills. It has the same mechanics as most modern RPGs but helps involve Katarina into your experiences. As well as unlocking boots for yourself, you also have to level her up and choose what boosts are most effective for your current situation. You also get to enjoy all the enemy drops, getting better weapons and armor from your fallen enemies and buying better gear from vendors. This helps you feel as though you are continually progressing in the game.
A big component of the game is the ability to play co-op with others. This is at the moment my biggest complaint with the game. It is really difficult to connect games with others and it makes playing rather weird. For example, when playing, both characters play as Van Helsing which causes some confusion in enemy concentrated areas. Both Katarinas’ also cause some confusion as you may try to click the wrong one. Also it’s very buggy when loading the levels in co-op; because everyone has different PCs, some are quicker to load then others and often many levels begin with cutscenes which means a player who lags behind might miss some of the intro or just get kicked out entirely.
The music in the game isn’t anything to write home about although pleasant. Usually some faint guitar strumming or violin cover, it gives a feeling of isolation and calmness. The sound effects are also decent but the sound of enemies exploding whenever they die, gets old really quick.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, is a great PC game that varies it up from the usual Action and RPG games that have been overdone to death. The Imaginative setting gives the world a truly unique feel and will please your inner steampunk. The combat while responsive and meaty, could benefit from more use of magic.
Katarina is a great companion and helps keep the story from feeling drawn out and boring though. And The Co-op could use some work before you attempt to play the entire game with friends. Still, for only 15 dollars, this 12-15 hour experience should not be passed up. A truly enjoyable experience.
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