Grab your best monster hunting Fedora because we spent some time diving into the dark, “weird science” world of ‘The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing’ this last week and we’re ready to report back. Originally released in 2013 on PC, Neocore Games ‘The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing’ (there is really no short way to write that title out!) saw a port to PS4 in 2015 and although we are couple years late to the party, how can you go wrong playing through any game that lets you hunt monsters while wearing a stylish hat. So sit back, grab your beverage of choice and settle in for our review of ‘The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing’.
Set in a beautifully dark, steampunk meets weird science, victorian age, ‘VH’ finds the lea young Van Helsing, son of Abraham Van Helsing the famed Vampire Hunter of the Dracula legends, on a journey through the gothic city of Borgovia. A mix of technology and magic, Borgovia plays center stage to Van Helsing's adventures and is a beautifully designed setting for the game. The mix of steampunk and magic allows the game to provide a wide range of enemies, weapons and spells that all work together to give ‘VH’ a satisfying ARPG feeling. The city itself provides a wide range of sites to be visited offering variety and creativity to the world.
Unfortunately the story doesn’t fair as well as the setting. The story itself feels campy, leaving me with little interest in what was happening around me. Character voice over work felt hollow (the exception being Van Helsing himself as well as his companion Lady Katarina) and the dialog felt out of place in the dark, gothic setting. This all felt like a missed opportunity as the setting and characters really laid a solid foundation for what could have been an incredible story.
The gameplay mechanics have ported well from the PC release with the mouse and keyboard being replaced with the familiar feel of a controller. As a long time ARPG player, one the greatest trends I’ve seen in gaming over the last five years has been more and more ARPG’s making the leap to console. NeocoreGames has done an exceptional job with controller layout. It feels intuitive and smart, menus are well designed and navigation is smooth for the most part. There are a few design choices that could have been polished a bit, specifically in the area of having to access all of the different menus (there are a lot). You do end up spending a little more time than I would like R2’ing (it’s a verb) your way through the menus but overall this is a minor issue.
However as great as the controller layout is I did find the control responsiveness to be a bit sluggish from time to time. Specifically when casting spells there seemed to be a delay from when I pushed the button to when the spell would actually begin to cast. It wasn’t a deal breaker by any stretch but can be a bit annoying when you're trying to spam your healing spell because you over committed and pulled the room; not that this ever happens in an ARPG(except always).
NeocoreGames did an exceptional job with the RPG elements of VH offering some very robust character leveling systems. When you dive into the game you will be greeted with multiply ways to level your character. Everything from standard stat points, spells, rep points to weapon modifications will be available to you. This coupled with a ‘on the fly’ weapon swapping system which allows for two completely different sets of skills and abilities really allows the player a ‘play your way’ opportunity. It was a well thought out set of systems and I commend NeocoreGames for their investment here. I tip my absurdly large Monster Hunter Fedora to you sir.
To throw even more variety and customization into the mix you also have full control over the behavior, skill point allocation and spell makeup of your companion Lady Katarina. Think Casper the friendly ghost, but with the ability to turn into a life draining wraith on command. Lady Katarina accompanies Van Helsing on all of his adventures and can be an incredible tank, DPS or healer as you see fit. She does have a health pool and upon death (‘How do you kill that which as no life?’) she simply floats along until a cool down timer clears and then she is back up in fighting form. She does have an inventory and is smart enough to use health potions and benefit from your healing spells assuming you remembered to equip her with the former and actually use the latter.
One of the greatest strengths of VH is its multiplayer. This game is tough, even on the easiest setting, so having some friends along is always a welcome treat. With the robust customization system you can really build a team of monster Hunters with great synergy, combat skills and matching hats. Couple this with drop in, drop out co op system and you are in for some great late night grind fests. My one gripe with the co op player is that there is no support for local co op. I was a little surprised by this as NeocoreGames had some great ARPGs to look to for examples of solid couch co op. It really would have been some sweet icing on an already delicious cake but instead we are left with a tasty cake that is missing the icing…or something. Not my best comparison, I apologize.
If you don’t own The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing on PC already and you’re a sucker for a solid ARPG experience VH won’t disappoint. Despite its shortcomings, VH offers a solid ARPG experience, beautiful setting and some great control layouts. As a PS4 player it s a game I definitely want in my collection.
- Great Setting and Aesthetic
- Excellent Control Scheme
- Wonderful RPG depth
- Sometimes Sluggish Controls
- Missed Opportunity on Story and Delivery
- Where’s my couch co op?