The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a classic Action-RPG set in a nineteenth century Eastern Europe where both magic and monsters are real. I put my wide-brimmed hat which I quickly traded in for a trappers hat with better stats and with a ghostly noble female companion I set off into a wilderness teeming with creatures and monsters armed with a sword and dual-wielding pistols.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a classic ARPG with all the pleasures that loot-hunting brings. Van Helsing is a versatile hunter and with character stats and skill points to spend each new level, I have enjoyed starting to sculpt a character to fit my play style. He can be a swordmaster with brutal efficiency in melee range or an occult hunter with rifle or dual pistols lethal at maximum range. Lady Katarina, the ghostly companion perfectly complements both melee and ranged Van Helsing as she has three main behavioural aspects: ranged damage, melee damage or passive protector.
Katarina also comes with her own ability points, small gear set, skill set and my personal favourite, behaviour set. The last allows the player to set her Appearance (melee, range or ghost each has a different look), her behaviour (four options to set who she prioritizes on attack), Item collecting (a list of items she can pick up for you automatically, including gold, gear and potions) and when she goes off shopping to sell unwanted loot, she can be sent with a set health and mana potion shopping list.
The combat system was difficult to grasp at first and for the first few levels I did quite well on normal mode by randomly hitting buttons. It started to make more sense once I had more skill points to invest. The mechanics as I understand it: There is a selection of active skills that gradually unlock through skill points. Only two can be used at a time and they bind to the mouse buttons. Each active skill has three modifiers and three modifier points that can be spent. You can put one point in each or three points in one or any combination of your choosing.
The powerups are fueled by rage and the rage bar (a yellow indicator behind the health and mana half-circles) fills up as enemies are damaged. Powerups are triggered either by hitting 1,2 or 3 or Space Bar for a powerup combo. The combo is set by the player for all 6 modifiers of both active skills and unleashed with one button press. There is more information from Neocore Games on rage and the PowerUp system here.
In the few hours I have spent in the world I found it very accessible. There was no offensive flash or flicker, even the spells that make use of bright light were done well and never used excessive or full screen visual effects. The isometric viewpoint is great for anyone who suffers from motion sickness and there were no other related triggers in the first part of the game. The user interface is easy to read with high contrast and the only use of colour alone as an indicator is for the gear type, but as all gear have detailed stats on them, the type is not something that I paid much attention to.
All dialogue has subtitles that are integrated in the user interface and I had no difficulty playing without sound. There are multiple sliders to adjust the different types of sound and I never felt as if I was missing anything or that I needed any sound or audio cues to play.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is very accessible and does not require particularly fast reactions when played on easier modes. Some precision with the mouse cursor is required for targeting (there is no target or aim assist), but I managed to play for quite some time on normal difficulty with a splint that markedly reduced my precision by just swirling over the mob of enemies that surrounded me in melee range and holding down the mouse buttons dispatched them fairly easily with Katarina finishing off the stragglers that bounced around too much for me to target.
It is a game that can easily be played with one hand only as long as your mouse has a few extra buttons, space bar is vital in particular. The user interface is clickable to open windows and the menu as needed. Pause anytime to take a break and as a classic ARPG, it can be played for five minutes or five hours with equal enjoyment.
Complexity of Controls
The controls employed are easy to use and all keys are remappable. It is mostly single key presses with the option to hold the mouse buttons to keep attacking or moving. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing can be played with a keyboard and mouse or a mouse only. Although there is no controller option included, a script could easily add controller support on the PC.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is reasonably accessible and the developers have done much to make a complicated genre easy to access. The dialogue is text based with a voice over (and for fast readers there is the option to click through at your own pace) and the text is easy to read in a clear font against a high contrast bordered background. There is no particular reliance on memory and no complicated control scheme, plot or a ton of quests to track.
The RPG elements that are easily overwhelming has been very well implemented with both a basic and advanced tutorial to walk players through (both can be turned off by experienced players). It is a complicated genre with ability points, skill points, loot with stats, players with stats, mana bars, rage bars, potions, skills, experience, currency, crafting and as such does require a basic understanding of how each system works and how they combine to create the game.
It is a single player campaign with the option of up to 4 player co-op. Players do have a constant companion, but there is no player choice in the social interaction with NPC other than accepting a quest or not accepting a quest. The language used to say yes/no is sometimes a bit convoluted and those who struggle with the social nuances, like Aspergers/ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) may be a little confused, but the for the first part of the game, the first option was yes and the second no, which simplifies matters.
I have spent just over five hours playing The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing and as an ARPG enthusiast I can’t wait to go back and explore some more. I have not had the opportunity to try out the hunter’s lair “where players can build and develop a hideout and place traps to defend it from waves of terrible monsters” or co-op play, but my impression of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing so far is that of a well fashioned action RPG.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is available for PC on Steam today, 22 May 2013 for the promotional price of £10.79.
The game preview is based on the PC Steam Preview Build of the game.