Van Helsing is a daft game that never takes itself too seriously, breaks no new ground, and can be seen as derivative. It has loads of in-jokes, contains a character that makes fun out of “Eastern European brides/girlfriends” (a trend that seems to happen with certain divorced men in the US/UK), and it occasionally can be a bit too clever for its own good. And those are some of the good parts of this game.
The effort seems to have taken a cue from the over the top cheesy B-movie Van Helsing and run with it. There are oodles of nods and remarks about B-monster movies, pulp dark fantasy/horror, and even science fiction.
This game takes elements of Diablo (naturally), but has no always on DRM. It reminds you of Path of Exile/City of Steam/Marvel Heroes, but is not a Massive Multiplayer Online Action RPG. And it has the charm of Torchlight (I, II) but is not as flashy.
There is an online element if you want to play it co-op, but I didn’t delve into that part of the game as it was having issues. These will, presumably, be ironed out.
In the game, you play the son of Van Helsing, and a monster hunter in your own right. At the outset, you are off back to Borovia to clean up a mess your father accidently caused. You have a secret base, which everyone knows about, that is run by a camp vampire and your sidekick/girlfriend/dogsbody is a bitter sarcastic ghost.
Your secret base is in fact so badly hidden that there are two occasions where you play a tower defense mini-game. The parts to make the traps are one of the pick-ups from the many mechanical nuisances you encounter. While not exactly brutal, this element to the game breaks up the normal adventuring fare a bit and is quite entertaining.
Most of the game takes place in a gritty steampunk-esque Eastern European City (whose map looks an awful lot like London) that is filled with all sorts of beasties supernatural, mechanical, and a combination of the two. As the story goes, there is a mad scientist on the loose who has killed off his fellow mad scientists and has decided to make the entire population into complaint supplicants.
Graphically, it is adequate. The game runs on XP up and has fairly low requirements. Sounds assets are quite good as are options for tweaking your gameplay.
As with most ARPGs you level yourself and your companion with skills and stats. Weapons get better as you head along the game and you can add to those stats via gems as well as via other means. Not only does your ghost girlfriend sell and fetch for you, she fights alongside of you and even provides passive buffs is you are in range. Thankfully the AI is good enough that she doesn’t wander off and drag adds into a fight at inopportune times.
I had a blast with this title. I found the settings, the cheesy storyline and repartee’ to be most entertaining. So much was I enthralled by it all that I had to put a timer on myself since I didn’t end up staying up until the wee hours playing it.
What is even more satisfying is that the game is only $15. It has the polish and content of a much more expensive game. If you want a bit of daft B-movie ARPG fun, then you could far worse than this. You will have no idea where the time went, that is for sure.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB.