Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing Review

By Lexley Ford, 1 year ago
Van Helsing's journey to the Xbox One has been a long one, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing was originally announced back in 2012 and at that point it was a XBLA title for the Xbox 360. Three years later and the title had already spawned two sequels on the PC, but Xbox gamers were still waiting on the original. With the Xbox 360 version left by the wayside, Neocore games worked to bring the title to the Xbox One and we finally saw the title released this month, and available for free to Gold members thanks to Games with Gold. So has the wait been worth it?

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The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, which for the sake of simplicity will be referred to as Van Helsing from now on, is an Action-RPG that follows the son of the famous vampire hunter. After receiving a letter from Borgovia, a city once saved by his father, our protagonist heads out to give whatever assistance he can. Upon arrival, his caravan is attacked by bandits and the only bridge leading to the city is destroyed. With his only means of reaching his destination gone, the young Van Helsing must find another way, helping the citizens as he goes along. It is from here that the adventure unfolds in true ARPG fashion, slaying monsters, rescuing lost villagers and collecting more loot than a single person can feasibly carry. The story doesn't carry much weight, explaining little more than to explain which enemies need exterminating next.

As with all ARPGs, defeating hordes of enemies, earning experience, and leveling your character are a major part of Van Helsing. Each increase in level comes with a number of stat points and skill points that can be spent as the player sees fit. There is only one character class to choose from unless you decide to pay for the other two, but there are plenty of skills available to choose from that gives players the opportunity to build a character that fits their play style. Players can choose to spend their points to create a well rounded fighter, though a focus on either melee or ranged combat is preferable.

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Combat is as to be expected from this genre and anyone familiar with similar titles will easily grasp the gameplay. Enemies rush the protagonist, who deftly dispatches them with a swing of his swords or a few well placed shots from his firearms. Switching between melee and ranged is a simple as pressing the left stick, though people with a tendency to clench their controllers, myself included, may find themselves switching between stances purely by accident, of course this is quickly rectified and has no great impact on gameplay. Once a few additional skills have been unlocked, players will find themselves cutting down hordes of enemies with no real trouble, though occasional difficulty spikes mean that a swift death can come out of nowhere. Getting ahead of the difficulty curve isn't a viable tactic either, due to the very limited number of side quests and enemies not re-spawning in areas unless the player returns to the main menu first.

Moving the right stick in the desired direction allows players to spend Rage on power-ups for their skills, giving players the opportunity to add additional effects to their attacks. For example, these power-ups may add explosive damage to a regular ranged attack causing area-of-effect damage, or increase the duration of damage-over-time effects. It's an interesting mechanic that adds more depth to the combat, but using the right stick to select each power up can often lead to activating the wrong ones, or the command not being registered at all. Thankfully, combos can be set up that can be activated by pressing LB or by turning on the ability to automatically use power-ups in the options, the downside to the latter of these is that the added effects can't be selected manually.

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Throughout the adventure, the protagonist is accompanied by Lady Katarina, who can assist in combat in either ranged of melee forms, retrieve dropped gold and carry her fair share of items. She can also be sent back to town to sell items and return with any required provisions. Katarina has her own unique skills that can be unlocked as she levels up, though the majority of them provide bonuses to Van Helsing's skills rather than to her own, as such, her usefulness in combat slowly diminishes as enemies grow stronger. There eventually comes a point when she will spend the majority of her time unavailable. Thankfully, she does have a third combat option, incorporeal, which takes her out of combat completely and provides our hero with a defensive bonus.

The world of Borgovia is well designed, the opening act is set in and around a small village, bringing back memories of Diablo's iconic village of Tristram. Setting out into the surrounding woods, swamps and mines feels true to the genre's roots, while the later parts of the game are set in Borgovia's more technologically advanced city and are a great change of scenery. Unfortunately, many of the city areas seem very similar to each other, none of the latter locations really stand out, and they all blend together into an uninteresting blur especially when your main focus is on the hordes of enemies rather than the scenery. Theenemies can cause there own issues too, as once there is a lot of action on screen there is a noticeable drop in frame rate. This isn't game-breaking, but it is noticeable enough to break the immersion.

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Van Helsing's achievements are pretty straight forward, with the vast majority of them coming from actions such as opening a certain number of chests or dispatching large number of enemies. Of course, there are the usual achievements for completing main storyline quests and a few for things such as completing an escort quest without the defenseless escort taking damage, or retrieving a number of explosives without setting any of them off. None of the achievements are overly taxing, and, with appropriate planning, even the missable achievements shouldn't easily be missed. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the achievement for defeating the game's final boss is unobtainable, as such completionists may want to avoid completing the game until a future date in order to avoid running through the entire game again.

Summary

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is an average Action-RPG that features everything for which the genre is known: hordes of enemies, plenty of loot, and an expansive set of skills to choose from, but there is nothing to set it apart from the crowd. The addition of Rage to the combat is a welcome mechanic, but can easily be ignored or forgotten without being detrimental to gameplay, and while our ghostly companion, Katarina, is never really a hindrance, her usefulness towards the latter parts of the game dwindles into obscurity, acting more like a pack mule than a capable sidekick. Fans of the genre will likely enjoy the romp through Borgovia's landscape, but in the end will be left wanting something a bit more incredible.
3 / 5
Positives
  • Plenty of enemies to slay
  • Plenty of loot to collect
  • Rage adds more flavour to the combat
Negatives
  • Some frame rate issues
  • Repetitive locations
  • Very limited number of side quests
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent around 12 hours slaying thousands of creatures, selling tons of useless items and earning enough gold to retire on, earning 17 of its 26 achievements. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Lexley Ford
Written by Lexley Ford
Lex has been gaming for nearly three decades and has been a Newshound for TrueAchievements since 2011. When he’s not writing news he can normally be found immersing himself in a good story, both written and in-game, or just blowing stuff up (only in games).