Posted by Joshua Moris on Jun 5, 2013

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing Review

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The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing
Publisher: NeocoreGames
Developer: NeocoreGames
Platforms: PC, XBLA
Release Date: PC – May 22, 2013, XBLA (Coming Soon)
Price: $14.99 – Here

Overview
NeocoreGames is a Hungarian based game developer that boasts its competitiveness and professionalism in the gaming industry. When creating games like King Arthur or The Kings’ Crusade, this studio aims to compete with the leading developers in the current RPG and RTS arenas. In their latest venture, NeocoreGames dives into the history of Van Helsing and creates an action packed role playing title with a world full of fabled adventures. Are they able to bridge the gap with the market’s current competition: Diablo 3, Path of Exile, or Torchlight 2?

Story
The Van Helsing name would have you believe that you would be taking the role of thee legendary werewolf/vampire hunter, yet you don the cape of a younger generation of the Helsing family. Being the son of Abraham Van Helsing, your heritage alone marks you as a dangerous hunter. However, Borgovia is the destination that conveniently marks the course ahead. Where once your father had forged great alliances to restore the city through creation of machines, the city now harbors the most vile abominations known to existence. Prepare yourself as old enemies become friends and old alliances age like milk.

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As the game hits the ground running, you find yourself chasing quests and moving from checkpoint to checkpoint than really grasping the story. Your main objective – as with most Action RPGs – is to mow down the fodder until eventually a boss battle occurs. The story occasionally peeks out as a reference tool but retires back in its hole amongst the ever prevalent battles.

Gameplay
Building their own game engine, NeocoreGames has identified themselves as competitors. Mentioning this aspect is important because the style and movements of the title resemble a near cloned experience from Diablo 3. Ranging from the interactive interface to related key strokes, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing has you at times questioning what game you are playing. Yet the developers also prepared their product by adhering to RPG foundations that even Diablo 3 did not include.

Attributes are an important way to customize your experience as all of the changes are in your court. Upon leveling Helsing, you may upgrade the following attributes: body, willpower, dexterity, and luck. Not only do you have to worry about your own stats, but also you must administer points to your ghostly companion – Katarina – to build her as a support, melee, range, or combination character. Possibilities are endless as you are able to distribute the points custom to your style of play. For instance, if I wanted Katarina to strictly be a ranged mage, I would place most of her attribute points into willpower. On the opposite hand, you could also invest into body and dexterity to make her an adept melee combatant.

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Continuing with great strides, the title also features multiple skill trees. When Helsing levels, he is able to learn new skills by distributing points in appropriate skill trees. To obtain more ranged abilities, distributing points into the “Mystic Warrior” tree would help garner skills like “Flaming Sphere” that hurls a ball a fire at a target! Who knew that Helsing could be so powerful?

Additional to skill trees are more abilities known as “Tricks” and “Auras”. Auras are passive abilities that work in the background metrics and feeds Helsing bonuses with supplemental health, damage, or even resistance. Tricks on the other hand are known as active abilities and either require a cooldown before next use or both a cooldown and mana cost. Skill points can be spent on these abilities instead of the melee or ranged skill tree and provide greater bonuses at higher ranks.

What else does the title have to offer? Perks are nice little tidbits that offer permanent bonuses to your character upon gaining reputation. Similar to your experience bar, your reputation grows by slaying special creatures through your journey. These creatures include any enhanced being that sports a different shade/color to make it stand out from the rest of the crowd. They also tend to be much harder to kill and manifest stranger abilities than the normal fodder.

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Ever feel like running into a massive crowd just to get your jollies pumping? Well, having more than one player can aid you in tearing up the land, but you will experience some lag with that much commotion going on. Lots of monsters/actions equals a lot of pressure on your processor to push through messages in order to make your frames per second look happy. I believe NeocoreGames are actively looking into this issue mainly in multiplayer functionality.

Multiplayer is completely optional, thus yielding no online requirement except for Steam activation. Four players can collectively venture into the world and decimate creatures. Since the game is relatively inexpensive, the option of acquiring four friends to purchase the game and play is reasonable. When you begin an online character, you are asked to join or create a game. By enabling your character to show “Online”, you are welcoming any Van Helsing adventurer to join your instance. At the home screen you may also decide to join someone else’s already created game. There are NO level restrictions when joining other players. At the moment not many players are currently taking advantage of the multiplayer aspect which regretfully lessens its current value.

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Since players can reach the level cap of 30 fairly easily, NeocoreGames released a free Scenario DLC in order to keep the high level characters busy. Players can decide from the main menu whether to continue their normal campaign or to play on Scenario which limits the player to a few high level areas. Scenario pits a player against higher level creatures in hopes to gain greater loot as well as a higher reputation. Teaming up with friends may be advantageous for lower level adventurers in this case.

Visuals
Kudos must be given to NeocoreGames in developing their own engine to compete in today’s market. And with that acknowledgement the engine performs quite well given the close visual comparison with Diablo 3. These guys prove that any company with the right mindset can stand out in the crowd of well-known repertoire. Let’s take the visual effects for example. Given the detail put into making a “Flaming Sphere” happen, they have also programmed the spell to cause changes in an afflicted area. Detail done right can be an amazing thing.

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As text appears on the screen in forms of tooltips or dialogue, you will notice that some words are misspelled. While this is not overly concerning, people that experience such bugs could think the title to have problems in other areas due to lack of attention.

Audio
Even as Hugh Jackman isn’t the voice actor for Van Helsing, I remained content with the overall performance delivered. Or perhaps my mind was too concentrated on what Katarina had to say. She always throws in her two cents whether Van likes it or not. Such comic relief gives a nice twist to the dark themes encapsulated within the story.

Gothic-noir genre titles – be it movie or game – should follow a theme to continually drive a Tim Burton depression into its listeners. Such a theme can be felt during the transitional loading screens. Visually, you have the blood smear dropping across the screen as well as blotching the destination marker. By listening to the audio you can notice darkness in its tones. Combining both attributes together fluidly makes for a good transition from one area to another.

Overall
Lacking in the game at the moment are a couple aspects. Currently there are a few bugs that may leave the game feeling unpolished, but future updates over Steam can help cure this issue. In addition, the story seems to simmer in the background while the action is piping hot. If the team were to balance this ratio a little bit more or add alternate story paths, a greater replay value could be accomplished.

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing delivers a quality title for a fraction of the cost. The game provides a great foundation for gameplay which mimics successful competitors. During development NeocoreGames must have kept the player’s needs before their own to make an understandable interface as well as providing heavily desired RPG elements. How often can you pay $15 for what seems like a retail game?

8-0-capsules-out-of-10

Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.

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