The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing follows the Diablo II formula to heart and the result is a technically flawed RPG that can be entertaining at times, but it’s certainly not that incredible.
The wait between the releases of Diablo II and Diablo III seemed endless. With each new project, the people at Blizzard have proven that they don’t mind delaying a game until they know it is ready and that gave the famed developer a legendary status and a remarkably track record. Of course, this didn’t prevent other companies to develop action role-playing games with hack and slash elements. NeocoreGames’ The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing follows the Diablo II formula to heart and the result is a technically flawed RPG that can be entertaining at times, but it’s certainly not that incredible.
In Van Helsing, you assume the role of vampire hunter Van Helsing as he explores an eastern European setting filled with creatures that want him dead. Luckily, he’s joined by an eternal being called Lady Katarina who can turn into a creature that fights alongside you. Before you embark on a journey to kill every monster in sight, you need to accept missions from NPCs that roam the different steampunk and gothic environments.
The formula is simple enough: you enter a new environment and fight groups of monsters that drop potions, gold or loot. Loot comes in different colors according to its rarity and the more powerful the creatures you fight, the better chances of getting rare item you have. You can equip that loot to your character which includes guns, swords, amulets, capes, masks and so on. Additionally, defeating monsters gives you experience and as you level up, your basic stats improve and you get skill points to spend on different abilities. Like in Diablo, this is one of the best parts about the game because it allows you to shape your character however you want. Creating a character that heals whenever you attack, summoning creatures that fight for you, attacking incredibly fast or combining skills, auras or perks in some creative ways is also a possibility.
Something that makes Van Helsing unique is that you’re joined by a character that fights alongside you. Katarina is a ghost that can turn into a flying beast that fights with you. She also levels up and has its own skill tree, so you have access to even more abilities to unlock. Additionally, you can activate a rage meter, allowing you to make extra damage for a few seconds.
Despite these changes to the formula, there’s nothing particularly refreshing about Van Helsing. This is a well-made yet by-the-numbers action-RPG, so anyone who has played Diablo or Torchlight has seen everything this game has to offer. Also, that doesn’t hide the fact that this is a game where you spend most of your time pushing the attack button for hours on end which quickly becomes tedious.
Sadly, Van Helsing suffers from some technical problems. Whenever you enter or leave and area, the game takes a few seconds to load and these loading times quickly add up when you have to go back and forth between different areas. Also, the game’s frames tend to drop dramatically regardless of how many enemies there are on screen. This is a long game, but it achieves that by throwing hordes of enemies at you. By the time my playthrough reached the dozen-hour mark, the enthusiasm I had for playing the game had vanished. Also, while in Diablo you kept playing for a specific goal (defeating Diablo,) Van Helsing has an obscure narrative that’s buried beneath boring quests, dull characters that have nothing interesting to say and a repetitive and tedious combat.
Multiplayer has always been a strong aspect in these type of games and luckily, Van Helsing is no exception. The only problem is that no one is playing online, so you might have to convince some friends to play with you. Of course, playing with other people isn’t a requirement to enjoy this hack and slash game and the single-player campaign packs hours of entertainment (around 20 if you want to complete both the main and side-quests,) but it definitely helps if you have at least a friend.
In conclusion, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a messy combination of concepts that never pans out. The performance issues, tedious combat, forgettable plot, simplistic loot system and unremarkable multiplayer mode make this take on Diablo hard to recommend. Although Diablo II convinced me of the opposite, Van Helsing proves that clicking on monsters until they die can be tiresome and monotonous and that’s a feeling that will take some time to shake off.