The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a third person hack and slash game very similar to the Diablo / Torchlight series. If you’ve played any of those, you should be able to drop right into Van Helsing with a good idea of how to play. The game seems pretty demanding hardware wise, and it heats up my computer, which is unusual for a top down isometric game.
You play the title character Van Helsing, a monster hunter on a mission to the country of Borgovia to answer a distress letter. It seems some unspecified evil is causing trouble for the people there. In the game’s world, monsters seem pretty commonplace, and you are actually accompanied on your quest by a snarky ghost named Lady Katarina. Gameplay-wise Lady Katarina is the equivalent of the “pet” in Torchlight, or a “merc” in Diablo 2, except that she talks to you all the time as part of the story. She has her own gear/stats/skills and can go back to town to sell loot for you, just like the pet in Torchlight. In combat she can hold her own for a while, but dies pretty quickly later on in the game.
The game is broken up into 2 city hubs like Diablo 2 Acts, each with its own main town, NPC shops, and quests. The game is filled with little hidden quests that you may not find in 1 playthrough, even though the maps are not randomly generated. I’ve finished 2 characters and the maps were exactly the same both times. There is an option in the main menu to have enemies respawn each time you leave and re-enter a game (like Diablo 2), and you can turn this on or off whenever you want. Like Diablo 2, you can’t see what level the enemies are, but if you’re having a hard time, you should probably go back and level up a little more. This isn’t possible if the enemies don’t respawn. In my experience if you don’t grind at least a few levels, you’ll end the game around level 27 (max level is 30).
The game has an extensive loot system similar to Diablo/Torchlight with normal/rare/set/epic item types as well as “+magic find%” attributes that can be found on gear to boost your chances of getting rarer items. There is also a way to upgrade particular items with “essence” which is kind of like gems in Diablo, or ember in Torchlight. I haven’t used the system much since every time I find a better weapon I just sell the old one, and don’t bother breaking it down for all the essences that I’ve put into it.
The game’s stat system should be familiar to people who play dungeon crawler games. Body (hp / melee damage), Dexterity (dodge chance / range damage), Willpower (magic damage/ mana), and Luck (critical damage / magic find) are your four stats and you get 5 per level up to distribute as you please. The skill system is more complicated because you don’t just choose skills (which can cost more than 1 skill point), you can also choose the “power ups” that can be used with the skills. These power ups are activated before you cast the skill, and use a “rage” meter which is separate from your mana bar. You build rage by killing monsters while mana just regenerates by itself. So an example would be activating a damage boost power up right before casting a lightning bolt spell. The power up drains some of your rage bar and the spell drains some of your mana bar with the result being a lightning bolt with increased damage. You can toggle an auto-activate to your power ups if you don’t want to deal with pressing the button every time. You’ll probably run out of rage really quickly though.
Another thing to note about the skill system is that your skills are broken up into several categories, though they all take skill points to level up. There are your main Skills, Auras, and Tricks. Auras are passive boosts that you have on permanently, though you can only have 2 auras active at any time. An example would be the Rampage aura which boosts your critical hit damage. Tricks are just another set of skills and personally I don’t see why they were separated from the other skills, except that they don’t use mana. An example would be Arcane Healing, which is an area affecting heal spell. Tricks have a cool down to prevent you from constantly spamming them.
+Decent story set in a medieval fantasy world.
+Gameplay is mostly intuitive though some things really could benefit from further explanation. For example there is no explanation of the skill system. I went about 5 – 6 levels before I put points into any skills because I was afraid I might be wasting points on weak skills. Turns out you can re-spec them later, so go wild.
+Pretty simple multi player co-op system. I’m able to join my brother’s game pretty quickly and easily with an average ping of 80 ms. One thing I noticed is that the game’s multiplayer server browser doesn’t tell you if a person’s game has a password until you’ve tried connecting to it. That’s kind of dumb. A bunch of people constantly try connecting to my brother and my games and disconnecting because they don’t know the password.
-There is very little information online for beginners. In most games of this type, you can find a wiki or strategy website where people share their character builds. I found one site like this, but a lot of the info is outdated. In RPG games I hate feeling like I missed out on something cool.
If you got this game from the Humble Jumbo 2 bundle, you should have the “Complete Pack” which includes the Thaumaturge and Arcane Mechanic DLCs. These DLCs are 2 new character classes along with a few class specific quests. That means you can see a few areas in the game that you can’t get into unless you’re one of these 2 new classes. The Thaumaturge is a pure spell caster and is probably the most enjoyable class, but easily killed. The Arcane Mechanic is a ranged attacker who shoots slow moving grenades and can summon support units. The base class Hunter is a little bit of everything, but really best as a melee tank with some back up spells.
I’ve heard people say that the game is pretty short, but personally I’m happy with a 12 hour game, especially one in the $1 tier of a humble bundle. I'm actually glad it doesn't have an end game grind like Diablo, where you just play over and over looking for better gear after you've finished the main storyline. Van Helsing also has a hardcore mode for people who want that extra element of risk (death is permanent). I never have and probably never will create a hardcore character since I die all the time in games like this. Overall I give the game a thumbs up if you enjoy hack and slash dungeon crawlers. You’ll find the graphics comparable with Path of Exile, and the loot finding should keep you occupied for a while.