The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing

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The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing

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Of ghosts and men

One of everything


While Katarina is certainly useful in combat, Katarina’s presence really comes to the fore when the two partners in crime start bantering. They are obviously friends but they love teasing each other and the interactions between the two often caused a good chuckle.

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing adds a couple of shades of darkness to what most would describe as a ‘dark RPG’. The world is grim-looking, even during the day, and it only ever really brightens up when our hero is locked in combat with all parties hurling colourful magic spells at one another.

If there is one thing that Van Helsing is going to be famous for, it is its eclectic roster of enemies. There may be some enemies that you will vaguely recognize from other games, but the operative word there is ‘vaguely’. Every creature you meet (or meat, if you are using a sword) is as weird and surprising as the one you slayed a minute before. And if you think that it will be easy to figure out their attack styles, then you have another thing coming. Many enemies have more than one trick up their sleeves and will unleash all kinds of hellish powers upon you. Some plant totems that affect your abilities in a negative way, others cause razor sharp teeth to spawn out of the ground that box you in and block your retreat. There is so much diversity that new encounters with olds foe often feel surprisingly different from last time you met.

Customizing


This diversity can be found in your own foe-vanquishing powers as well. Levelling up goes rather quickly and with each level you get to choose from all kinds of cool tricks that range from new spells to weapon mastery. Many of those can be upgraded or augmented, for instance increasing the area of effect or the amount of damage. To apply these upgrades, you use Rage which is built up in battle and can be diverted into power for the upgrades.

You can customize your character to be a tank, a ranged fighter, a magic wielder or a combination. Your choices aren’t completely fixed, as the game lets you retool your character, though not freely so. You will have to seek out a NPC to do it for you. I gladly made use of this when I realized that the strength of my foes started to exceed my characters ability to the point I was dying too often.

Initially, I focused on magic and had tremendous fun hurling fireballs into enemy hordes. It worked just fine as long as I didn’t let the enemy get too close. But the AI likes to surround you and trap you, and the damage I was taking while surrounded made me realize that I had ignored my close-combat prowess. After redistributing my skill and character points I fared a lot better, and found a completely different combat experience to boot. Rather than the ‘run and blast’ gameplay I had relied on up till then, I was frantically bashing and evoking, combining fast swordplay with powerful magic.

Charm


The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing doesn’t attempt to reinvent the Action-RPG genre, but it does make a valiant effort to rejuvenate it. The imaginative bestiary and fun tweaks to trusted gameplay mechanics add up to a tantalizing, charming experience.