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Page 1 of 2The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is an upcoming action role-playing game from Hungarian developer NeocoreGames, who are probably best known for their King Arthur "role-playing wargames" (Van Helsing is in fact the first game they've created that doesn't have the word "king" in its title). Neocore was kind enough to supply us with a preview build of the game, which contained about half of the first act, or four hours of gameplay. This was enough to show the mechanics of the game and how character advancement works, but still leave plenty to the imagination.
In Van Helsing, you play the son of the Van Helsing character from Bram Stoker's Dracula (or, more likely, the son of the Hugh Jackman character from the recent Van Helsing movie). You're a monster hunter, and you're friends with a ghost named Katarina, who serves as your companion. Interestingly, despite being a ghost, Katarina can use equipment and fight enemies, and she's also given a behavior panel where you can choose how she fights, when she uses potions (if ever), and what items she picks up (if any). Torchlight fans will be happy to hear that you can order Katarina back to town to sell excess equipment and buy potions.
Van Helsing uses a classless system. When you create your character, you just give him a name and choose a difficulty level (including a hardcore option), and that's it. Then as you play, you put points into your attributes -- body (melee damage, hit points, defense), dexterity (ranged damage, dodge), willpower (mana points, spellpower), and luck (magic find, dodge, critical damage) -- and your skills. There are three skill trees -- one each for melee attacks and ranged attacks, plus another for "tricks" and auras, which you find or purchase as you play your way through the campaign.
I mostly played a ranged character during my time with the game, and so I invested points in the Shoot skill, which increased my basic ranged attack damage, and the Explosive Shot skill, which gave me an area-effect attack. I also could have picked Icicle Shot (to slow enemies down) or Flaming Sphere (to burn them) or Full Resistance (to improve my resistances). The more points you put into a skill tree, the better the skills in that tree work, and so you're better off specializing rather than trying to be a jack of all trades. Of course, the deeper you get into a tree, the more expensive the skills become, and so you might have tougher choices later in the game. My character only reached level 11, and so I only saw the first two tiers (out of three) for each tree.
The interface for Van Helsing is about what you would expect for an action role-playing game. The camera gives you an isometric view of your surroundings, and the left mouse button does the bulk of the work, allowing you to move, attack, and pick up loot. You can also use the right mouse button for a secondary skill, press the Q key to quaff a healing potion (all of the healing potions are the same, so a single key is enough), press the R key to switch between melee and ranged attacks, and press the shift key to attack without moving.
What you do in Van Helsing, for the most part, is kill stuff. During the early part of the campaign, you encounter bandits, werewolves, mechanical men (who look a lot like British redcoats), harpies, and more. You also talk to people to pick up quests and purchase equipment, which sometimes requires you to make decisions. For example, at the end of one quest, I had to make a choice about killing or freeing a werewolf. I decided to let him go, and later I got a reward because of it. I also saw some places where I had to choose what to do with quest items, where different actions give different rewards.
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