The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing (PC) Review

 PC System Requirements

Minimum System Requirements

  • CPU: Dual Core CPU 2.0 GHz
  • VGA: Nvidia 8800 GT, Intel HD4000 or AMD HD3850
  • RAM: 1 GB
  • OS: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8
  • Disc Space: 20 GB
  • DirectX: DirectX 9.0c
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
  • Additional: Initial installation requires one-time internet connection for Steam authentication.

Recommended System Requirements

  • CPU: Quad Core CPU 2.0 GHz
  • VGA: Nvidia 275 GTX or AMD HD5770
  • RAM: 1,5 GB
  • OS: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8
  • Disk Space: 20 GB
  • DirectX: DirectX 9.0c
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
  • Additional: Initial installation requires one-time internet connection for Steam authentication.

If you’re a fan of RTS-RPG games it is quite likely that you’ve heard of Neocore Games, Headquartered in Budapest, Hungary, this indie studio is best known for their PC strategy titles King Arthur, The King’s Crusade, and King Arthur II. Venturing into new territory, the studio has developed a top down isometric action role playing game, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, loosely based on characters from Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Many should be familiar with Abraham Van Helsing, the famous vampire hunter from books, television, and that unfortunate Hugh Jackman movie. But that Van Helsing is not the protagonist this time around as the game centres on his offspring, who has taken over the family business, stepping into his father’s shoes as a hunter of the undead. Set in Borgovia, a gothic noir fictional kingdom set in 19th century Eastern Europe. Van Helsing, along with his spectral sidekick, Lady Katarina, set forth to rid the world of evil, battling not only classic creatures of the night, but abominations and prototypes gone wrong, unleashed from laboratories of mad scientists

Usually in action role playing games you have the option to select from a number of different classes and /or customize your character’s appearance to your liking. Initially I was a rather surprised, and a little disappointed, that in Van Helsing you do not have the option to choose a class or play as a female; however, as the game progressed it made perfect sense to me as to why Neocore chose this route. Van Helsing is a hunter, and playing as a mage or a healer type character really doesn’t fit with the narrative.

While not evident early in the game, there truly is an extensive amount of character customization available. Typical of games in this genre, as you kill enemies, complete quests, etc., you will earn experience points to spend on leveling your character. You have two skill trees to advance from with 11 possible skills under each, and Mastery Skills once these are leveled. For example, the mystic warrior skill tree is primarily melee damage with swords and the occult hunter, using pistols and blunderbusses. As well, each skill tree has a number of spells to use as a secondary attack, such as ice to slow the enemy, a fire ring setting your enemies ablaze, or an earthquake attack sending out a vicious area of effect attack. Each skill also has three power ups that can be purchased, which dramatically boosts that skills effect. In addition to these skill trees, there are various tricks and auras to unlock and level up (and purchase from NPC’s) which allow you to do things such as a quick heal in the midst of battle or slow time. On top of all of these, there are a wide range of perks that are unlocked during certain circumstances, which can be purchased with reputation points.

Lady Katarina also has a passive skill tree and attributes to level, which gives Van Helsing attack, defense and other such bonuses. A very worthy companion, and depending on how she is programmed, she will kick some serious butt in battle, switching from a lovely ghost to a ghoulish creature, aggressively fighting off foes with a melee attack, using a ranged attack, or remaining in ghost form, giving Van Helsing a +10 resistance to physical damage.  Her behaviour can be set to take on the most vulnerable, the weakest, or defend against those who attack you or attack your target.  She can also be sent back to town to buy potions and sell items to merchants, which is a very good thing, as this game is truly meant for loot whores!

Along with numerous weapons and armor drops, there are gemstones (Essence) to be found throughout Borgovia. These gems can be added to a weapon with Essence capacity, indicated with a purple square on the item picture in your inventory, by meeting with an alchemist. Depending on what type of essence is attached, your weapon/armor/accessory will gain an increase to its stats.

Fans of the genre will feel right at home with the standard hack and slash combat, although only two skills can be equipped at once.  However, by simply hitting a tab the game allows you to switch between two skills sets rapidly, and additional skills can be mapped to F1-F4 keys. Tricks, auras, potions, and weapons sets are also mapped to keys, and you will certainly being playing this with one hand on the keyboard at all times.

As mentioned earlier, each skill has three modifiers that are used to boost the effect of the skill in a number of different ways. These can be used once your Rage meter has increased, and can be used together, or stacked as needed. These can be set up as combos, and hitting the space in the midst of battle will trigger them. Using these will be key to survival, especially when fighting off hordes upon hordes of enemies.

Speaking of which, oh what enemies you will encounter!  Taking inspiration from Slavic folklore, Neocore has infused the land of Borogiva with werewolves, wretched rusalkas, the treasure seeking Domovoi, and the enchanting but deadly Vila to name few.  You’ll also meet mad scientist’s experiments such as Behemoths who have large grotesque horns protruding from their head, Prototypes who have long tentacle like arms, Creepy Dreadnaughts, and other wild and crazy creations. There is variety here and variety is a good thing.

As one would expect in games in the genre, there are a multitude of quests and side missions to complete. Throughout your travels, you will meet many of the unusual residents of Borgovia, and your interaction with them will determine the outcome of your game.  For example, showing mercy to a certain character gave me assistance at a very crucial time later on.

Van Helsing has inherited his father’s lair, which acts as a hub for fast travel, quests, and is home to some very useful NPC’s, such as an alchemist and merchant. This lair can be customised, and built up with traps for defence during a tower defense mini game in the late stages of the game. While I’m not one for tower defense, I thought it offered a nice break up in gameplay.

It’s somewhat difficult to create an interesting story in games such as this, but Neocore took great care to place emphasis on the story and character development and the writing team should be commended on the excellent job they did with the narrative. The banter between Van Helsing and Lady Katarina is especially enjoyable, their dialogue quite humorous, reflecting their very strong personalities.

While some may feel that it takes away from the story, I was rather delighted that Van Helsing was filled with a number Easter Eggs to discover, with many references to popular video games, movies, and books such as Indiana Jones and Lord of The Rings. There was one Domovoy I encountered with the last name Baggins, and the interaction with him truly made me laugh out loud. I encourage you to speak with every character, click message boards, and interact with farm animals, because you never know what might happen.

The single player campaign, depending on the difficulty level you play on, offers between 7 to 10 hours of gameplay. There is also multiplayer content in the form of a 4 player co-op mode. Unfortunately due to some minor connection issues I did not have the opportunity to play the cooperative mode, but playing with others is always a good time. I should note that there will be future free DLC, adding to the multiplayer content.

Even on the lowest graphics setting Van Helsing looks quite stunning as everything is meticulously detailed.  From the tiny village of Markova, the murky swamps, dark coal mines, to the sprawling city of Borgova, each map is rich in detail and full of interesting places to explore. Interestingly, Budapest provided much inspiration to Borgova, and you’ll find some of the city’s notable historic buildings and monuments within the game.

The music in the game was fantastic, particularly the hauntingly beautiful violin in the game’s main theme, quite fitting for the 19th century eastern European setting. The voice acting is also superb, especially Lady Katarina who is voiced by an American actress.  I felt she really nailed the accent. In regards to the sound effects, I did find some of the enemies rather irritating at times, such as the dreadnaught, who continuously droned on and on about hostile behaviour, and bombs/mines dropped by enemies that made an awful beeping noise that would just not stop.  That being said, the good still outweighed the bad in this area.

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a very enjoyable game that I had a fantastic time playing. It really gives some recent Action RPG’s like Diablo III a run for their money, at a fraction of the cost. It truly felt like I was playing a full retail title. That being said, I did find the combat to be a bit repetitive at times, and the build I played suffered from a few bugs, but considering that this is an indie title this is somewhat excusable and Neocore is fully committed to support and updates as needed. This is the first in a trilogy of games and I am a nxiously looking forward to playing the next installment. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing has so much content to offer including a rich and interesting narrative, spectacular graphics, a beautiful soundtrack and an extensive level system, and even with some of the issues I noted I still consider it a must play and an experience that should not be missed


The Good


The Bad