by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
A lot has happened since we last laid eyes on The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. Back in August, I only had the chance to play for a very short time but it was obvious then that the game was coming along quite nicely. Over the last eight months, Neocore has made tremendous progress, so much so that they are confident letting the press and those who have pre-ordered stomp around in their creation.
Van Helsing is no ordinary hero and the game Neocore is working on is not your average game. Sure, all the ingredients of a modern Action-RPG are there; Action-packed combat? Check. A deeply customizable character? Check. An overarching plot to save the world from one disaster or another? Check. Yet while The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing shares all these characteristics with its peers, the game’s setting makes it feel strikingly different. For starters, the game is set in 19th century Eastern Europe, hardly a trodden path when it comes to gaming. Van Helsing also happily mixes and matches pistols, swords and magic and doesn’t shun the use of the occasional iconic blunderbuss or rifle. From that description, you might think ‘steampunk’ but that does not do the uniqueness of the game’s setting the justice that it deserves.
Van Helsing is set in Borgovia, a fictional country inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula. A dangerous place during the best of times, you arrive in Borgovia to find it literally overrun by all kinds of twisted-looking monstrosities. Being a monster hunter, Van Helsing is honour bound to vanquish anything non-human that crosses his path. Yet to permanently rid Borgovia from the evil that is responsible for the monster infestation, he has no choice but to strike an uneasy alliance with his Vampire arch-enemies.
No doubt you have already guessed that you will be playing as Van Helsing, but you may not be aware that you are not playing as – the – Van Helsing but rather as his son. My time with the closed Beta has not revealed how this detail has been worked into the story but I am sure that there will be some references to father Van Helsing somewhere along the line.
The Van Helsing family DNA has seeped through to your character though: you are one badass fighting machine and sport a wide range of attack types. You can take your pick from swords, pistols and magic to dispose of your enemies and your character can be customized to suit your playing style.
Of Ghosts and Men
To spice things up a little, Van Helsing is accompanied by the ghostly form of Lady Katarina. They are inseparable and only ever part when she is asked to go back to town to pick up potions or sell loot. She isn’t just any sidekick but has her own set of skills and characteristics that can be upgraded as she gains experience. Many of those skills apply to her fighting ability, but some also influence Van Helsing, for example by bolstering his defenses or increasing the chance of finding magical items.
Katarina has two fighting styles. When she switches, she transforms into something downright demonic looking. Unaware of this ability, I ended up trying to hack her into pieces until I realized I wasn’t doing any damage and that ‘it’ wasn’t fighting back. It was only when she switched back into her more pleasing looking female form that I realized what had happened.