Beside the Torchlight franchise, Titan Quest and the free Path of Exile NeocoreGames' Van Helsing represents another alternative for those finding the latest Diablo entry a bit too casual. What's more is that while Van Helsing is shorter than aforementioned hack 'n' slash games it still offers a decent story and a lot of content. Due to the additional game modes (scenario and neverending story) it has a high replayability value, as well.
The game follows a quest of Van Helsing and his companion, the ghost Katharina, who try to get to Borgovia to stop a mad scientist. Along the way you encounter dozens of different enemies throughout numerous different environments. Some of these locales look stunningly beautiful: you traverse through a muddy forest fighting hideous monsters and evil spirits and also join the resistance in a town to fight the soldier-machines. These machines add the steampunk part of the game - with all the traps and contraptions you find they make the game even more diverse.
One of the things I liked about Van Helsing was its atmosphere. Sound effects and the score are excellent and I liked the sarcastic conversations between Helsing and Katharina. One-liners are common from them as well as from enemies and there are numerous references to other video games and films throughout the game. In order to find all of them it's worth hovering the cursor over all objects in every environment - Van Helsing might collect a quest item or just make a funny comment.
There are many sidemissions, of course, as it is common in this genre and there's even one that takes you throughout the game. You just need to carefully look everywhere and open all chests, containers, destroy all barrels and boxes as you might find the next piece of the puzzle. It's worth mentioning, though, that not all items are related to a quest, still, they will be part of the corresponding tab in your inventory.
Normally, Van Helsing wields two swords and two pistols. You can decide which way to go from there in terms of customisation. Beside these two tabs there is also one called Tricks (active spells) and Auras (passive skills). Every level-up grants you ability points (the good-old attributes we are talking about here), skill points and occasionally reputation points, but the latter is not related to quest but more to the annihilation of strong beasts. Your reputation can then yields you perks - the list is gradually increasing and you can pick more and more of them along the way.
Katharina, the ghost companion is a bit similar to the pet we have in Torchlight. She can do the shopping on behalf of us and can also pick up loot by category. Her behaviour is completely modifiable. Of course, she has many skills and also attributes - her skills either make her stronger or support Van Helsing in combat.
While there are no other companions in the game the abovementioned customisation I described for Van Helsing is the Hunter class only. With the added DLCs you can play as a Thaumaturge or Arcane Mechanic. I hear they are pretty fun and diverse, too, so this is all the more in favour of the longevity of this game.
Van Helsing is pretty cool game considering it is a relatively low-budget hack 'n' slash. It is filled with content and there's high replayability due to the 3 different classes, more difficulty levels, hardcore mode, online cooperative mode in the game. I look forward to playing with its sequel. In the meantime, if you are the fan of the genre Van Helsing should be in your library. Word of advice: buckle up as the game can be pretty challenging even on normal difficulty setting!