The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing
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The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing

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  • rol
  • hack-n-slash
  • acción
  • fantasía
  • magia
  • steampunk





Great RPG and Action in The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing

There is no way that NeoCore games could hide the fact that Their product is an action-RPG, as they are called now, a hack-n-slash in the line of the ever memorable Diablo. It has modern visuals, offers very nice pyrotechnics and it becomes clear quickly that the developers have learned of the mistakes others made in the genre over the past decade. The game presents us with many of the great things we have seen along with some of their own in a package where the sum is certainly much more interesting than each part.

We are the son of none other than Abraham Van Helsing (as presented by Bram Stoker´s in his novel Dracula) the renowed monster-hunter and slayer. As the adventure starts we are following the steps of our father after we receive an urgent letter for help that was obviously meant for him. Another of our inheritances is the support and company of a ghost that has sworn to protect our family, Lady Katarina. The context is a XIX century Europe full of mythical and fantasy creatures, even a little of steampunk and a Mad Scientist or two. The later elements feel like a sort of homage to the movie dedicated to the character, the one in which Hugh Jackman is the protagonist.

If there is something worth highlighting is that the game qualifies as an extreme hack-n-slash. Dozens of creatures everywhere, different types of opponents, distinct kinds of attacks, abilities and strengths. There is no rule against going through them like the game genre describes, but a little bit of smarts put into the fighting make it more entertaining, effective and satisfying. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with going all Hollywood on them creatures.

Video of Lady Katarina from The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing

NeoCore Games product has a sort of kinship to the classic of Blizzard, there is no denying that, but it goes a step further by borrowing the most interesting and/or entertaining concepts/ideas from among what the genre has offered us over the initial part of the XXI Century. There is something from Divine Divinity, Dungeon Siege and Sacred, but without the little mistakes.

First thing that stands out is the visual presentation, impecable even on Medium quality (higher is better but it is also more resource intensive, especially of the GPU). The artistic style is excelent and in more than one occasion I found myself admiring the view and the scenery after having gotten rid of the unwanted monsters and creatures of the area. The levels in the alternative dimension Ink are worth pointing out, they have that surreal look that can so easily become memorable.

As I said Lady Katarina, is a ghost, but her role goes beyond that of companion or a context sensitive comic relief (she is not funny per se, but she does have a dark humor and her comments have a certain nack for timing). She can take the lead while our character provides support, or she can help us from a distance while our warrior faces the worst head-on. She can also take her more ethereal form and provide us with health and defense bonuses. Also, she gains experience and levels, we can decide how she evolves, she has an inventory, she can help pick up the loot and she can even do the shopping.

Van Helsing Junior is a monster-hunter/slayer par excellence and we have the choice of evolve him as we see fit, as our style of play requires or suggests. There is melee with swords and ranged combat with old fireguns. There are a lot of skills, spells and bonuses we can learn and specialize on. We also have Rage, Tricks and Auras to help us. All of this diversity keeps the ever present --and inevitable-- repetitiveness of doing quests and wiping out everything that moves fresh and entertaining --enough-- to stay engaging for one more battle, one more quest, one more hour, or until this mantra isn't healthy enough for us (like for when the time to wake up again is almost here).

The RPG side of things, the level gaining and related matters isn't complicated but nor does it feel overly --or unnecessarily-- simplified. Our character, and Lady Katarina, both have four basic attributes --body, dexterity, willpower, luck-- which determine the value of other characteristics such as health points, mana, maximum Rage, resistances --against physical attacks, poison and elemental attacks-- and Spellpower.

Skills are divided into Mystic Warrior (mainly melee), Occult Hunter (ranged) and Tricks and Auras. The first two have different branches that enable unique types of attacks, as well as combos and bonuses. Going over a certain threshold of specialization within one of these skill trees enable a set of additional benefits (increased something, higher percentage of something, better at something and so on). we need to learn Tricks and Auras from NPC teachers, some of these are pasive others need to be activated and we can only have two of each enabled at all times.

Our faithful companion, Lady Katarina, has her own skill tree in which we can find two specialization branches. One reinforces the strength of her attacks and some extras that are gained by our character. The other branch focuses on the more pasive and benefical side of her presence at all times. One very nice game feature is that her skill and attribute points, and those of our character, can be reset by going to the proper NPC and investing the required amount of gold to make it happen.

The essence of the hack-n-slash dynamics change very little. We are meant to hit hard everything that attacks us, we have life and mana potions, primary and secondary attacks, an inventory (Van Helsing's: hat, cloak, rings, talisman, melee weapon, ranged weapon, armor, gloves, belt, boots and trophy. Lady Katarina's: talisman, rings, armor, melee weapon, ranged weapon), and plenty of space for the ever important loot --not forgetting that our companion has her own backpack and we can increase ours with a Perk.

It wouldn't be a proper Action-RPG without the loot, and there are many Steam Achievements to prove it, picking everything left after the battle is part of the fun. When there is simply not a thing that we, or Katarina, can carry anymore we can send her on a shopping trip, she will sell everything she is carrying and can even buy some potions to bring back. Then again, we can improve some equipment through Essences (which we can recover later for another, better, item). We can even try our luck, and/or skill, by forging items through the combination of three of the same category (that is, all magical or all Epic).

NeoCore Games extends and retouches the tradicional gameplay through some nifty features. One of them is the possibility to assign to each --standard-- mouse button one attack or spell, which in combination with two attack modes means we have four attack types. Each attack can activate a combo --mixing three powers-- through the use of Rage. We can even switch between melee and ranged without any restrictions.

Even the best of us will, sooner or later, hit the ground. Luckily the game doesn't penalize dying or, in any case, deciding how much it hurts is left up to us. Every time we fall we can choose between the option of respawning right there, the closest checkpoint (only autosave here) or at the most recently visited town or safe place; the two first alternatives cost gold, the third one doesn't. Those like me, who would rather save the yellow metal, have to live with a little more walking, just that. When Katarina dies, she stays in her ghost form for a while until she is strong enough again, during this time none of the benefits of her presence are active.

Every action we take, the way we explore, how we attack, counts toward the apparition of a new Perk which we can pick once our Reputation level increases. For example, using lots of Rage enables Furious; if we require too many potions, Drinker; if we know how to best use the extras that Lady Katarina can provide, Wraith. What this does is make our character even more unique, more ours. We can even enable Second Chance that can help us avoid dying too often, as long as we aren't prone to falling too quickly.

At the end, the different attributes, how we decide to evolve our character, how we equip him, how we benefit from Katarina's support, plus what type of combat we use aggregate into a style of action that isn't lacking a touch of strategy. More so when we are surrounded and the number of enemies is large and their skills/attacks diverse --by the way, it is always better to run and think a little on how to face them, than just, well, face them.

The Great Adventures of Van Helsing is a hack-n-slash game but the proper, and smart, use of its many combat modes and the diverse way in which we can attack can be the diference between dying and having to come back often, seldom or not at all. Using Tricks and Auras properly is also critical in many cases, can be fun as well, like when using the Time Stopping aura.

It has been long since I found a hack-n-slash that would truly grab me, there is something in the Great Adventures of Van Helsing that did it. I can't think of a single feature that shines all by itself (maybe the graphics) but all of them together are certainly worth paying attention to. It is entertaining, deep enough and at the same time accesible, diverse and full of positive details that make the whole so much more alluring. Great in its own way, if not particularly innovative or original.


Teclado EZ-Reach 2030 por TypeMatrix.

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