The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing Review

15 Jun 2013

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Independent
Developer:Neocore Games
Release Date:2013-05-22
Genre:
  • Role-Playing,Action
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
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Introduction

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is an action role-playing game from Neocore Games, which is probably best known as the developer behind King Arthur and King Arthur II, "the role-playing wargames" (released in 2009 and 2012).  In Van Helsing, you control Van Helsing's son in a world more related to the Van Helsing movie than to Bram Stoker's Dracula.  That is, in the game you and your father aren't academics with knowledge of monsters; you scour the globe hunting them down and killing them.

As Van Helsing opens up, the elder Van Helsing is sent a message from "the resistance" of Borgova asking him for help, but since Dad isn't available, you decide to take the job yourself, and together with a ghost named Katarina, you set off for the land of Borgovia (standing in for Transylvania), where Borgova is located.  Along the way, you're ambushed by bandits and have to deal with an outbreak of werewolves, but eventually you reach your destination, where you discover that the resistance is being led by a vampire, and that the main enemy is a mad scientist named Fulmigati, who plans to use a poison gas to turn the populace into his slaves.  ("That's insane," says Van Helsing.  "Which part of 'mad scientist' did you miss earlier?" asks Katarina.)  The main part of the game then involves you tracking down and defeating Fulmigati.

Characters

When you create your character in Van Helsing, you don't have to do much.  You just select a name, a color for your cape, and one of four difficulty settings (from "casual" to "heroic").  You can also make your character hardcore, where you're only allowed one death.  Fortunately, once you begin playing, you're given more options, and you're allowed to build up your character in any way you want.

Each character has four attribute scores -- Body (melee damage, defense and health), Dexterity (ranged damage and dodge), Wisdom (spellpower and mana), and Luck (critical damage, magic find, and dodge) -- and each time you gain a level, you're allowed to spend five points on these scores.  You can also improve your attributes by wearing the right equipment, solving quests, and by eating special foods.

Each character also has three skill trees available -- Mystic Warrior (melee skills), Occult Hunter (ranged skills), and Tricks and Auras (a mix of active and passive abilities).  The first two skill trees contain your basic combat skills, and they have eight active skills and three passive skills each.  Meanwhile, the Tricks and Auras section contains space for ten tricks and ten auras, but you have to find and purchase these abilities as you play your way through the campaign.

As an example, in the Mystic Warrior tree there are active skills for Strike (your basic melee attack), Cleave (where you hit all enemies in a 120-degree arc), Earthquake (an area-effect spell), and more, and there are passive skills for Parry Expertise (which increases your parry chance), Fury (which briefly increases your damage after you kill something), and Bodybuilding (which increases your hit points).  Meanwhile, in Tricks and Auras, you can purchase tricks such as Arcane Healing (which heals you and your allies) and Sphere of Timelessness (which stops time for a few seconds so you can escape a bad situation), and auras such as Hunter's Rejuvenation (which gives you health steal) and Treasure Hunter (which increases your magic find stat).

But wait, there's more!  Each active skill has three power-ups associated with it, which you can purchase with skill points just like the skills.  Power-ups add special bonuses to attacks, like a stun effect or extra damage, but they require rage, which you only earn after killing creatures, and so you can't use them all of the time.  Depending on how dexterous you are, you can add the power-ups individually just before you make an attack, or you can pre-define a set of power-ups and then release them with one key.  You can only add three power-ups (including multiples of the same power-up) to each attack.

Also, as you spend points in the Mystic Warrior and Occult Hunter skill trees, you increase the damage of the skills in those trees (where X points spent gives you a +X% bonus), and after every ten points spent (up to 50) you receive a new passive bonus.  That means while there aren't any restrictions where you can spend your skill points, it's better to focus on one of the two main skill trees rather than spread your points around, so you can maximize the damage that you do.