The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing

Perhaps it should be more incredible.

WRITTEN BY: Josh Smith

Right now the world is infatuated with vampires, werewolves and zombies, so much that the supernatural beasts have invaded every aspect of pop culture. There is one family though, who understands the threats that unnatural creatures possess. That family, Van Helsing, has been dedicated to eradicating the warped, twisted monsters of the world. In The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing though, you don’t play Abraham Van Helsing,  the character who goes face-to-face with the dreaded Dracula, instead it’s his son donning the recognizable hat and equipping the title of ‘hunter’ in an attempt to carry-on the family tradition. Coupled with a dungeon-crawling, loot-hunt, Van Helsing looks to take on some of gaming’s biggest titles, Diablo and Torchlight to name two in particular. The question then is, how does it measure up to the competition?

Fans of dungeon-crawling games typically show up for one thing: mounds and mounds of loot. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing does not disappoint, delivering thousands of options that benefit your particular Van Helsing, regardless of they way you choose to play him. And there are options, though nothing as diverse as multiple classes or builds per class. Instead you’re faced with the options of selecting a melee or ranged as your specialty. Once you make your selection -- because opting to mix the two severely cripples your character at later stages -- multiple skills begin to make themselves available. Ranged, for instance, allows Van Helsing to fire ammo that explodes or deals poison damage. Magic is also prevalent, though the options are far more limited and barring specialization will be rarely used.

What seems like limited gameplay actually works well with the setting, a 19th-century steampunk version of Europe, where the Van Helsing legend resides. The flow of the game, split into multiple acts, does a great job of presenting fresh visuals time and again. Progressing from forest wilderness, through a dingy marshland and finally to a city, aboveground and below, the game never grows stale. Numerous one-off instances will add a layer of depth to the landscape and won’t pull attention from the campaign, but they create an additional objective with difficult encounters that give way to impressive rewards. In reality, that’s what should be the overarching objective of any dungeon-crawler, the loot-grind. The story is typically an add-on to make the game flow, and Van Helsing is no different. The story makes sense and includes side quests that distract and offer variation.

Of course, that may be precisely the problem. Dungeon-crawling RPG’s always provide an option to continue your quest at higher difficulties and obtain scaling gear.The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing released with no replayability option beyond creating a new character and starting from scratch. And while a new patch has included some gameplay options to allow continuation beyond the final boss, the fact that the game shipped with a finite ending and that the new patch adds gameplay without fixing some of the more pressing bugs is cause for concern. The tiered pricing, ranging from $15.00 to $50.00, is an easily justified purchase for those looking for a cheap escape into an RPG thriller, but if you’re looking to bolster your RPG catalogue with another title that provides hundreds of hours of gameplay, this isn’t it.

Overall score: 6 out of 10

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