Hands-on preview: The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 3
I had never heard of ‘The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 3’. None of my friends had ever heard of it, but apparently it was the third title in a series of action-RPG games. A quick Google search informed me that the game was a Diablo clone. Strike one against it. The series had only received mediocre reviews. Strike two. And the game had an oddly prominent tower-defence mini-game. Strike three, and the final nail was hammered into the lid of the coffin. It might have been a result of this complete lack of expectations going into the game, but The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 3 surprised me. Inside it I found a rich world, bursting with humour and charm, a competent and hectic combat system, and just a hint more roleplaying then what I got from Diablo III.
The game started and I was dropped into the city of Borgova, a gothic-noire locale filled with anachronisms and weird science that felt like Nikola Tesla had wondered into a Hot Topic. If it wasn’t clear from the setting, the back and forth between the player charter, insert-name Van Helsing (son of famed monster hunter Abraham Van Helsing), and Lady Katarina (your ghostly companion) makes it very clear that this game wasn’t going for a serious tone. Humour is often tricky to handle in games, but The Incredible Adventures manages well by creating a sprawling and silly world around a comically straight faced lead. Even with my inexperience with the series, the fantastic voice acting and frenetic dialogue between the two leads instantly framed what I would come to expect from the world.
Speaking of the world, naturally I felt overwhelmed stepping into what was the last game of a trilogy. Fortunately, the chaotic mix of Victorian industrialism, super science and black magic that is splashed upon every map lends itself to this experience. I didn’t know what was going on or how everything worked, but I got the feeling that was exactly the point. While the monster designs get some points for creativity, the visual quality of the game is noticeably poorer as a whole than other contemporaries in the same genre. However, it gains those points back for managing not to overload itself when gallons of monsters are dumped on you.
It is difficult talking about gameplay in action-RPGs without making the obligatory deference to Diablo. I know because I’ve mentioned it twice already. The combat system is built on the bones of Diablo, but it makes some enjoyable tweaks. Most notably, the amount of monsters you fight in a single encounter is scaled way up. The abilities of the two classes currently available (Protector and Elementalist) are built around AOE in response. Hordes of enemies rush at you only to be immediately consumed by pillars of fire or cleaving blades. Each attack feels bombastic and all the more gratifying for the death toll that is left in their wake. Combat is also more frantic. Playing as an Elementalist, a single hole in my defence would allow enemies to pour in and easily overrun me. Even on normal difficulty, I found myself having to put more thought into my positioning and the destructible around me while fighting most enemies, less they quickly dispatch me. Attributes and skill trees for you and your companion also offer a deeper level of customisation.
Adventuring in the game is centred around a small hub world, populated by crafters and equipment vendors. Teleporting between it and you next quest location is easy so you never have to feel the annoyance of over-encumbered inventories. From this hub world you can recruit troops and send them on missions, though the benefit of this has yet to be implemented.
Playing The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 3 felt like stumbling across a diamond in the rough. I had every reason to dislike it going into the game, yet I was constantly won over by the curious world and the characters within it. I may not have noticed the game in the past, but I will be paying attention to it in the future.