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May 03, 2013

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing – Slaying the Preview Build


The story of Abraham Van Helsing is a fascinating one. He is the archenemy of Dracula, kills monsters for a living, and has many doctorals than we will ever hope to achieve. For a fictional character anyway. NeoCore Games, developers of Crusaders and King Arthur II takes a bold turn with Van Helsing and putting his son as the centerpiece to an isometric action RPG.

You’ll start by creating a character, and rather than picking archetypal characters like a warrior, mage, and a ranged person. You get to pick, Van Helsing. He is basically a pre-built character like a ranger and melee. Only, you can give him a new first name if you wish. There are four difficulties to choose from, with an optional check-box to tick if you want a hardcore character that will permanently die once killed.

There’s a ghastly partner that Van Helsing travels and converse with, Katarina. She basically fills the mage and healer roles. She’s a passive character where you assume no active control. It is unclear how she will fit in when multiplayer is active. She has three forms: one for towns, travelling in the fields, and in active-combat. It’s neat to see her dynamically changed based on her environment.

There is a skill tree for when your Van Helsing levels up, broken up into branches. The Mystic Warrior branch covers the swords and magical properties regarding them. The Occult Hunter branch deals with guns and magical spells. A third tab contains the Tricks and Auras. You can equip active and passive trinkets to be used. There seems like there will be a lot of opportunities to mix n’ match. One of the ones given early on allow you to drop a magical healing aura for a brief period of time with a considerable cooldown to boost your health should you run out of potions.

Your main ways of attacking will be to left-click to attack, holding will keep attacking. You can swap between your guns and melee attacks for certain circumstances. Each action has a hotkey that can be used to activate your trinkets and drink health potions. There seems to be no limit to aggro in this game as I was able to pull in over a dozen enemies at one time. I met my demise quite early, but this speaks to the nature of the cruelty of the game, regardless of difficulty. There needs to exercise caution when navigating as to not overwhelm yourself.

Quests are very exciting and supernatural, such as fighting a scarecrow with a murder of crows as his distraction to protect himself. Or coming across a wandering spirit, and tricking it being kind to you and offering loot. Perhaps another similar instance where you try to do good and show a lost soul what happened to him, only for him to be enraged and become a boss character that you must fight with no other options left to you.

The game looks beautiful and appropriate to the time and the European locations. There are lush forest environments, and grass fields that bend to you moving through them and sway in the wind. The fog of war effect works well given the dark and damp surroundings. There some beautiful and bright particle effects on magically-enhanced weapons.

A neat little touch is that all enemies who can be looted face down, and once they are looted, turn onto their back and are no longer selectable. Dialogue that occurs mid-game is also streamed to the left side where the multiplayer chat would exist, allowing you to see the discussion that took place. Interactions with NPCs do allow you some choice when talking with them, whether you are aggressive towards them or not.

PC System Requirements

Minimum System Requirements

  • CPU: Dual Core CPU 2.0 GHz
  • VGA: Nvidia 8800 GT, Intel HD4000 or AMD HD3850
  • RAM: 1 GB
  • OS: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8
  • Disc Space: 20 GB
  • DirectX: DirectX 9.0c
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
  • Additional: Initial installation requires one-time internet connection for Steam authentication.

Recommended System Requirements

  • CPU: Quad Core CPU 2.0 GHz
  • VGA: Nvidia 275 GTX or AMD HD5770
  • RAM: 1,5 GB
  • OS: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8
  • Disk Space: 20 GB
  • DirectX: DirectX 9.0c
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
  • Additional: Initial installation requires one-time internet connection for Steam authentication.

The Preview Build that I played was almost the full first chapter of the game. Upon the game’s release, it will have three chapters to fully explore. And while in number it seems short, but there are plenty of main quests, side quests, and random encounters to keep you busy for hours beyond what I played. I used a mouse and keyboard to play this as I would any other action RPG. But since this is being developed for XBLA as well, there will be Xbox controller support down the line. As I mentioned before, the Multiplayer option was not available during this build to test the co-op.

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is ambitious, interesting, and overall a fun start to a cool action RPG. All of the loot is appropriate to Van Helsing, and so are the creatures in the world you’ll have to slay.

Pre-Order to get access to the Beta: