[Warning: This post will be very text and image heavy.]
Every so often I like to boot up a game that I’ve never played before and do something like a Let’s Play with far fewer screenshots, and for once, I’m playing a game that’s pretty recent (just came out yesterday on Steam) so here are my first impressions of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, a hack-and-slash Diablo clone (loosely) inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I haven’t really played any Diablo clones since, well, Diablo, so this should be interesting.
Hit the jump to begin our incredible adventure!
Here is the main menu/character select screen:
Van Helsing’s default name is Abraham, but I changed it to Gabriel for not-so random reasons. The lady behind him is Lady Katarina, a ghost who was rescued by the Van Helsing (you play as his son, BTW) and bound to serve the Van Helsing family. She provides much needed assistance in combat, can pick up and carry items for you, and you can even set her to buy potions in town if you really don’t feel like visiting a shop.
You can’t customize the character a whole lot, just the colour of his cloak. I changed mine to blue.
There are also a bunch of different difficulty modes. I chose “Normal” but there’s also a Hardcore mode which has permadeath for those of you who would like a real challenge.
With that, let’s jump right into the meat of the game!
After a somewhat long-winded cutscene where Van Helsing explains who he is and who Lady Katarina is and some incident involving a kraken and pirates, we start the game on the road to Borgova (note: Borgovia is the name of the kingdom, Borgova is the capital city within that kingdom), but we’re not quite there yet.
Not too far along the path (move by left-clicking the ground), we encounter our first group of enemies: bandits, and they want to take Van Helsing’s hat. I politely tell them the hat is not for taking by killing them all using Van Helsing’s trusty pistols (left click on an enemy), but he also has a sword (R to switch between melee and ranged). You can also dual wield by placing the same skill in your right and left hands. (In the screenshot above, I have pistols in both hands.)
Hooray! Van Helsing gained a level! Looking at the character sheet, I see that he has four main stats: Body (Strength + Constitution), Dexterity (determines the overall effectiveness of ranged attacks), Willpower (for magical attacks) and Luck (which effects gold drops and and critical hits). I poured most of my points into Dexterity and learned the explosive shot power-up via the skill tree on the skills screen. Power-ups like explosive shot consume Rage (represented by the yellow frame around your HP and MP). You get Rage by killing enemies. You can also combine power-ups, so using explosive shot and tar shot together does splash damage as well as slows enemies down.
For some reason I didn’t take a shot of the character sheet, but it looks much like you’d expect if you’re at all familiar with ARPGs or even old school CRPGs.
Oh, and there are special skills called Tricks and Auras (which also use skill points). Auras are passive buffs, Tricks are special skills. You start the game with one Trick (a healing spell) and one Aura.
Arriving in the village of Markovna, we chat up the guard captain. Apparently, the mayor is the only person who can show us the way to Borgova, but he went into the forest to help a bunch of merchants with their cart and never returned.
It’s never that simple, is it? Oh well, off to the forest we go! (By the way, I also picked up a side quest, apparently the village alchemist has fallen under a Romany curse, so that means a side trip to the Romany camp.
I did a lot of this in Croakwood:
This game’s very favourite activity is throwing huge mobs at you, and if you run around like a chicken with your head cut off, you will quickly be mobbed and beaten to death.
In the middle of fighting werewolves, Lady Katarina notes that they seem to be staying away from a scarecrow:
Surely nothing untoward will happen if we touch the scarecr–
As it turns out, the scarecrow transports us to the Ink (a twisted version of the game world where you can encounter spirits and such. The monster in the purple bubble is too much for us at this time, so we’re forced to respawn in the village. (You can also spend gold to respawn instantly or at the nearest checkpoint.) To be honest, I find the respawn mechanic kind of annoying, and would have much preferred a more traditional save system, especially for boss encounters, but I guess that would have made the game too easy.
Deciding it would be best to try our luck at the Romany camp, we wander around the sizable map until I find it. The Romany prince agrees to remove the curse if we hunt down the monster Snowpelt and bring back it’s head. Van Helsing doesn’t sound too thrilled about it, but I decide that he’s, well, a monster slayer, and monster slayers slay monsters.
Snowpelt went down without a problem, and the Romany agreed to lift the curse. The Alchemist was very grateful and offered to teach Van Helsing some new Tricks. I wasn’t paying a lot of attention because right now the healing Trick is the most useful trick ever.
I finally decide we’re now strong enough to take on the werewolf, so we head back to the werewolves’ den, and, after a two part battle (once in the den, once in the Ink) we’re victorious. Apparently the werewolf alpha was only protecting his pack, and they took the mayor to protect him from some robot men. (Yeah, there are robots in this game.) Apparently they’ve been experimenting on werewolves in the swamp, the same swamp which happens to be on the way to Borgova.
Also, there seems to be a mine there somewhere. I hate mine levels.
This is where I initially stopped playing, and, in general, this is a fun game set in an interesting world (the entire bestiary seems composed of monsters from Russian/Bulgarian/thereabouts folklore). The game also has quite the sense of humour, and the music runs the gamut from tense to very, very relaxing. Overall, at 15 bucks, it’s a great way to spend a weekend. The game is short 10 – 15 hours is what I’ve been hearing, but the devs are going to be releasing free DLC content packs to tide us over until they make a second game, which will presumably be a similar price. The idea is to make a series of standalone games in this universe.
Random things I like about this game:
The fact that I can buy a sack (100) potions with just one click.
The animation when you flip over a corpse (sometimes they have items). I don’t know why I think this animation is so cool, it just is.
Anyways, if you’re a fan of games like Diablo and Diablo III left you cold, check this one out.