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One interesting change to the battles in Van Helsing III is that you no longer find healing potions. The game just assumes you have an infinite supply of them, so you (and Katarina) can use them as much as you want -- provided you can survive long enough for the potion cooldown to expire. You also heal automatically in between battles (or after not attacking or being attacked for long enough), so there is almost no downtime when you're out exploring a map.
When enemies die, they of course drop gold and equipment, but sadly the loot tables are terrible. I rarely had enough gold to try out the money sinks in Van Helsing's lair (including gambling, enchanting and forging), and even though my character had over 300% magic find for half the game (and ended up around 450%), I only found five unique items total, and no set items. And that's with a couple of encounters where I'm pretty sure you're guaranteed to find unique items. Dull combat coupled with no loot is not a recipe for success for an action RPG.
Meanwhile, the campaign is also sub-par. Once again you get lots of nice banter between Van Helsing and Katarina, but that's about it. There are only a minimal number of side quests, and almost none of them give you any choices (and where there are choices, I couldn't tell if they actually changed anything, like when you choose a torture method in your lair, and the only difference is whether your jailor sings to or reads poetry to your captive). Worse, the main quests are DOA. They just direct you from map to map as you hunt down Prisoner Seven. "Make your way through Map A. Make your way through Map B. Now make your way through Map C." That's how exciting the main storyline is.
Of course, along with the standard action RPG fare, the Van Helsing titles are also known for their tower defense mini-games, and Van Helsing III is no exception. Sadly though -- well, sadly if you enjoy the mini-games like I do -- there are only three of them in the game, and they are a lot less about setting up your defenses than they are about Van Helsing killing everything himself. This seems like a strange decision by Neocore Games. The campaign should be where Van Helsing kills stuff, and the tower defense sequences should be more about the towers, but that's not how it is. So along with everything else, I was disappointed by the mini-games, too.
Despite Neocore Games having numerous titles under their belt, and despite Van Helsing III using an engine almost identical to the one employed by the first two games, Van Helsing III is surprisingly buggy and sloppy. There are broken quests, there are broken enemies (who just stand around and don't do anything), your character gets a "scroll" tab for his inventory even though there aren't any scrolls in the game, you can meet a shopkeeper who sells items for 40 million gold when you could play for months and not earn that much money, it takes almost a full minute for the game to start up, and almost all of the game information available in your journal was lifted verbatim from Van Helsing II, whether it is any longer accurate or not (and so among other things you can learn about Neverending Story Mode, which doesn't exist in the game). Plus, all of the bugs from the first two games (like the frame rate dropping in half after playing for about an hour) seem to be back as well, just to add to the merriment. And those are just the problems I noticed.
Well, bleah. That's my executive summary for The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III. I enjoyed the first two games in the trilogy, but this final entry felt like Neocore Games couldn't wait to move onto something new, and so they only put a minimal amount of effort into completing it. There are too many bugs, the balance is awful, the new classes aren't as fun as the old ones, and the campaign is dull. You still get witty banter between Val Helsing and Katarina, but that can't make up for the rest of the drek. Maybe at some point Neocore Games will corral what they have into a reasonable package (in fact, they are), but for now Van Helsing III has too many problems to be a reasonable purchase, even at its modest asking price.
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