We made a return to the land of Borgovia to sample the delights of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing once more, and boy has it changed a lot! Gone is the cute mangarized Van Helsing that we knew, and present is the far more Western depiction of the mysterious stranger, despite this most of the core elements have remained the same, but we were able to experience almost all of the first chapter of Van Helsing's adventures, want to know what we thought?
Let's set the scene, Van Helsing's journey begins when a letter from Borgovia arrives for his father, Van Helsing; too old for adventuring his son goes in his place, along with Katarina; a ghost bound to serve the Van Helsing family after she was saved by his father. As the two travel through the chasms of the Thunderhead mountains they find themselves at the entrance of the village of Markovna that's in a spot of trouble as their Mayor's gone missing, see where this is going?
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is an action RPG, much like the beloved Diablo, and the titular character young Abraham Van Helsing is your vessel of destruction for when the wilderness of Borgovia fights back, equipped with either his trusty sword or pistols he can wreak havoc close range or from a distance. Other than the limitation of using either a pistol or a sword, Van Helsing is pretty much a blank canvas with two skill trees of over 20 abilities, almost 50 powerups that are tied to those abilities, not to mention skill masteries, and auras and tricks on the side, get ready to be spoilt for choice!
Van Helsing is not the only cutomisable character for you to sculpt into your perfect image, so is your faithful companion Katarina, sure she'll crack a joke at your expense every-now-and-again, but you won't find a more helpful sidekick in any similar game. She's more than your average companion, and has her own character page, levels up, can collect items and can be fashioned into an extremely supportive role! Skills that you give her will allow her to take damage in your place, or even leech health from the enemies she attacks and channel it to you. That's not all, alongside her skills and abilities you can also modify her behaviour, so you can set her to always go for the weakest enemies, to pick up anything with a value of less than your specified amount, or even pop to the shops to pick up some potions for the two of you.
Set in a rich, deep gothic-noir-steampunk universe you can expect to encounter a variety of nasty beasties, whilst unfortunately we did not come face-to-face with any Igor's, Behemoths or Undead we slayed our fair share of harpies, satyr, werewolves, frog people and even slimy female individuals all named and based around illustrious Eastern European mythology like the Vrikolak, Vodyanoy and the Rusalka, it gives the game a true identity that you rarely feel with bland Americanised games, and something that was not quite so strong the last time we had played it.
It's not just the enemies that are bursting with atmosphere, the land of Borgovia is absolutely full of character, walking through the village of Markovna you can hone in on snippets of conversations, meet strange and interesting npcs and just soak in all the little intricacies that the developers have lovingly added into the game.
Atmospherics and character aside, what makes The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing so appealing is that whilst the main quest of the game is very absorbing, there is a wealth of side quests and exploration to reward those that want to uncover that last bit of fog on the map, and we aren't talking grinding missions where you must talk to some guy, go and kill a bunch of things and bring him back the stuff that is dropped, oh no, we're talking taking down mini-bosses, solving puzzles, locating runestones, convoying merchants and even reuniting a dead man with his body!
With a strong Eastern European identity, a plethora of skills and loot at your fingertips and more side quests than you can shake your hat at, the good news doesn't even stop there, because one component that remains in The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing since our very first look at it, is its dry wit. Conversations that bounce between Katarina and Van Helsing will produce the occasional giggle, and between two-headed talking cows, a big red button and the ability to shoot chickens, despite its serious demeanour, Van Helsing knows not to take itself too seriously!
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is scheduled for a release May 22nd for PC and Mac, you can pre-order the game now and receive access to the beta for $15.