Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Review: The incredible adventures of Van Helsing (PC)

I always refer to these types of games as Diablo style games.  You know, 45 degree angle camera with large maps, plenty of monsters and most importantly loot and lots of it.  It's a genre of gaming that really speaks to our inner magpie as we all want that next shiny object that improves your damage or gives you new powers.  Well the incredible adventures of van helsing is one of these games, and for a great price too.

Set in the fictional realm of Borgova an east european country in the Victorian era where science and the occult seemed almost indistinguishable.  You play as the titular Van Helsing, not the original one but a descendant of his who has arrived in Borgova to investigate rumours of evil doings.  Accompanied by his loyal ghost companion Katarina, Van Helsing is sent on what could be described as something of a "incredible adventure" to save the country from the evil machinations of SCIENCE!

Katarina has two forms for combat - melee and ranged
The game doesn't take the material seriously and for good reason.  You can tell the developers really had fun here in crafting a world of pop culture references and tongue in cheek humour.  Every NPC plays to a stereotype of computer gaming or classic horror movies with outrageous accents aplomb.  The maps are large and packed with things to whack and you will want to ferret out every loot chest and corner to find hidden quests, optional bosses or even hear extra dialogue between Katarina and Helsing as they comment on the environment or their current predicament. 

The maps are varied running the gamut of forests, swamps, caverns, city streets, sewers, mansions and more.  Monster variety is quite high with everything from Werewolves to robot sentries and this pleases me a lot since too many of these games simply re-purpose old models and change the colour to make a new monster.  Van Helsing has plenty of variety for such a cheap game considering it's relatively small development team and far lower budget compared to the titans such as Diablo.

The game does follow the traditional line of these games with a few caveats.  You gain experience to level up which in turn unlocks more powers and increase your statistics.  Every skill has augments which can be assigned as you spend more points on that skill and the system spins off into multiple trees and no single character will be exactly the same as the next.  Van Helsing can be specialised as a ranged fighter or a straight up brawler, but then you can further customise that with elemental damage, status effects and buffs.  More interestingly Katarina can level up too, granting buffs and other specific skills to your character as she becomes stronger.  She also has her own attributes to increase as you see fit.  Katarina does sometimes has to be micromanaged since she has her own inventory with weapons and armour.  She also acts as a pet who can sell unwanted items at shops while you hunt a la Torchlight.

Some levels are densely packed with mobs
The game can be played in coop with a friend who has their own Helsing and Katarina to level up and tinker with.  There is a competitive aspect as well although I cannot really tell you how that works as I didn't play it.  This will not factor into the score though either positively or negatively. 

My only gripe with the game is the camera which can become troublesome when combined with the environment.  Generally the objects will fade or the camera will shift but on rare occasions neither will happen and you have to run drag the monsters to a better area to fight them.  Another issue is clicking on the ground during a particularly large fight.  Since the game compensates for so many enemies on screen by allowing you to simply hold the mouse down to attack without highlighting the nearest target it sometimes prevents you from moving away from threatening groups, which sometimes results in death.  These issues are fortunately few and far between and for the majority of time the game runs like a dream and has virtually no issues to speak of technically.

Graphically the game isn't stupendous but it doesn't look terrible, you have to remember this is a budget title after all.  Environments are large and detailed enough but nothing specific will ever really stand out.  The character models are fine if not a little pixelated on close inspection and this is when running on maximum for everything.  Most enemies have ragdoll death physics except for large monsters which simply vanish off screen leaving some loot.  I suspect this was because it was too difficult or resource consuming to have large monsters cluttering the field, but it's very noticeable none the less.

The skill tree is quite large and varied.
The audio is good again for a budget title.  Character dialogue is delivered well enough and it all speaks to the tongue in cheek nature of the story.  Monsters sound nasty enough and weapon swings and spells are have the right sound to fit the setting.  The music is passable but I personally turned it off so I could hear the dialogue and combat sounds easier.

Overall The incredible adventures of van helsing is a good game.  It has plenty of content to get to grips with for such a low price and replayability with extra DLC character classes and challenge modes for your character(s).  The game plays well and provides that fix for players who enjoy stabbing and looting in their games.

SCORE: 7.9/10

A sequel has recently been announced for release this April so if you enjoy this you may want to look into the sequel.


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