Indie Corner: The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: The Final Cut
What do you get if you combine Eastern European folklore and mythology, an extensive analysis of hack & slash roleplaying games, and the desire for innovation? You get an exciting game in which you can play as the son of the legendary Van Helsing, accompanied by the loyal family servant, who is a ghost, all set in a steampunk world. Needless to say, the people at NeocoreGames were ambitious. But did they succeed in developing an awesome game?
Best. Team. Ever.
Story-wise, the game plays as a basic Action RPG. You are Van Helsing, a legendary bounty hunter, on a quest to unearth and defeat the evils of Borgovia, and man there are plenty! From basic spiders to steampunk automatons (think the Nutcracker) or a cyborg magic werewolf (yes, you read that correctly), The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing offers a variety of baddies to cut up, throw spells at, or shoot into tiny gory bits. And it’s all great fun! To make it even more interesting, the monsters that you encounter are often rooted in eastern-European (Slavic) folklore. An example of this is the “Rusalka”, a mythical water nymph, who’s great at ambushing your party of two, eager to take a bite out of your ‘Steampunk Bounty Hunter Hat’. Luckily, ‘Helsie’ does not need to face these creeps all by himself. He is accompanied by Katarina, the ghost who is doomed to serve the Van Helsing family until the end of her never-ending undead life. Here lies one of the strong points of this game.
The banter and sarcastic comments that spawn from the two characters travelling through Borgovia are very funny, and sometimes downright hilarious. But do not think that this ‘ghostly gal’ is simply there for comic relief. Behind her Victorian dress and semi-see-through façade, she is a powerful companion. And she can carry all the stuff you do not want to burden yourself with.
Innovative gameplay done too well(?)
Up to now, this might seem like a simple Diablo II(I) clone, set in a completely different world.
This, of course, is partially true, as the influence of the most famous Action RPG is clearly visible in the way the quests are presented, the presence of a central city to which you can teleport to, and the division into several chapters or acts. The graphics are not comparable, and the game rungs less smoothly than a big studio production, but it can definitely be an alternative to the bigger games in the same genre, thanks to its fresh way of dealing with the character development.
Rather than focusing on a fixed skill tree, your bounty hunter is completely customizable. From the very first skill point you earn, it is up to you whether you want to be a melee fighter, a gunslinger, or a steampunk mage, or a mix of these, resulting in 6 playable classes, though no one is going to stop you adding skill points to another tree. The negative aspect of this is that inexperienced players almost always end up with an unbalanced player during their first play through, though that doesn’t necessarily ruin all the fun. Oh, and you can do the same with Katarina.
The developers moved even further away from conventional RPGs by limiting the amount of active skills to only 2, and giving you the opportunity to temporarily improve these skills by spending 3 ‘buffs’, to be divided among splash damage, the possibility to slow your enemies, or the brutal critical damage. This means that each attack you can do can be boosted to max damage, max slow, or max splash, or anything in between. Personally, the combination of a ranged fighter and big groups of baddies often made me spend 2 points into “splash damage” and one into the “slowing effect”. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat. Etc.
The biggest flaw of this system is that after a while, you are so used to certain situations that the enemies do not offer any challenge anymore. My ghostly girlfriend would stop the first wave of enemies with her physical attacks, while my character would keep blasting away at the monsters that made it past her claws. Same thing for boss battles: stay away, apply slow, deal critical damage. Luckily, you can increase difficulty of the game, but even then it didn’t offer much of a challenge once you figure out the best way to deal with certain creatures. It seems like the developers did their job too well. The system feels so easy to handle, you are able to dispose with ‘specials’ from a very early level. Not that I’m complaining, I had a lot of fun with this game. Although I sometimes missed some challenge.
But wait. There’s more!
Besides the fun campaign, the game still offers additional content in the form of your own hide-out (which is occasionally attacked by waves of enemies), side-quests, lore, daily challenges and weekly events, a glory system after you reached max level, a tower defense mini-game, random scenarios, and even a multiplayer mode! Not all of these are as well-done as the others, of course, but it keeps the game re-playable without having to grind for the best gear. To me, this is a game you can play for a couple of months, and then return to it later to find a new experience, but the same amount of fun.
|The good:||The bad:|
|+ Amazing setting (Eastern-European, 19th century, Steam Punk Gothic world)||– Too easy after a while|
|+ Very funny dialogues and events||-Cannot be compared to bigger budget games on the level of performance|
|+ Innovative skill system|
The Incredible Adventures of van Helsing: The Final Cut offers an atmospheric setting and an innovative skill system, combined with a lot of humour and plenty of extra content. Perfect for gamers who want to experience an alternative Action RPG without having to dish out plenty of cash, and who can deal with less shiny graphics and an unbalanced level of difficulty.
4 out of 5