The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III

There once was a hunter, one who was not scared of the darkness. The hunter stood up to fearsome enemies, striking them with his mighty weapons. His bullet sparks shine through the mists of the void; searching, lurking, and being stealthy, Van Helsing hunts his prey.

NeocoreGames brings us their third installment to the famous RPG action adventure, with the commonly known Van Helsing, only this time you play as his son, Abraham, in company of the ghostly Borgovian princess, Lady Katerina.

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About the story

Borgovian civil war has ended, but the city is in ruins. Now you have a base of operations that is constantly being attacked by creatures. To avoid spoilers, Van Helsing is set on the hunt to the world’s most dangerous creature yet, following clues, speaking to one character leading to another, and discovering the truth about Lady Katerina’s past, all is part of this dark atmospheric plot.

General gameplay

In Van Helsing III, you play the regular point-or-hold-to-move to a specific place. Hordes of enemies ambush you, while you can simply counter attack with keybinded abilities set in your skill bar. In this genre, it is common to have basic attacks set to the left and right click buttons from your mouse, while assigning special spells or shots to the numpad. While potions are removed from the game as numbered consumables, you can still pop a health potion and mana flask as a special skill, one tap per cool down.

Before starting your campaign, you can choose between different classes; Bounty Hunter, Constructor, Umbralist, Phlogistoneer, Protector and Elementalist.

The speed of the game depends on how fast you defeat creatures, you will progressively get stronger and annihilate 20 enemies with 2 special spells, but sometimes kitting is the answer! Never underestimate your foes, as the damage output can get ridiculous at times, even on the lower difficulties of the game.

The in depth RPG progression system

Every level you acquire, you get points you can spend in your Character Sheet, distributed on Health, Dexterity, Willpower (for spells) and Luck, same goes for Lay Katerina. Next, we have the Skills menu; here you can see every spell and ability Van Helsing can do, each requiring a specific level to be unlocked. Each of these skills can be leveled up individually with extra point’s earned by reaching the next level, and to make things more in-depth, each Skill has at least 4 different PowerUps you can level with the points, making your skill much more stronger and have different procs’ against enemies or buffs for you. The next tab we have Auras, you can have up to 2 Auras at the same time, since these are kind of rare, they unlock after specific high level caps. Remember how I said that each skill has extra buffs? You can maximize their percentages by applying temporary Rage, the yellow meter between your Health and Mana, generated by killing enemies. But what’s that? You want to be even stronger? It so happens that you can also unlock Perks which are obtained randomly or when you reach a specific skill level, at certain Character levels and by reaching a specific reputation by doing quests and killing enemies, you can choose a permanent Perk which buffs you depending on what it offers.

For Lady Katerina, as I mentioned before, every level you can spend points on her general stats, but as for skills she has 3 different Skill Trees: Sentinel tree focuses on general defensive buffs and capabilities for Van Helsing, Corpus improves overall damage output for Katerina, and Specter gives passive buffs for Van Helsing as well as improved Ghostly spells. You can also set Katerina’s behavior, whether to fight melee for more aggressive damage on specific targets and to work as a “tank”, or set her to do range spells against more dangerous encounters, or to go on Ghost mode which gives Van Helsing general buffs but she can’t do any attacks.

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Items, gear and weapons

For most RPGs, it’s always a nice idea to just have random items with random stats. For both you and Lady Katerina, you can equip specific armor; each can be specific depending on the character. As for weapons, the variety between rifles and double pistols can become quite monotonous, but then again, weapon types depend on which character you chose for your Campaign, nevertheless it would have been more interesting if the weapon pool was wider. Katerina only uses one time of weapon which makes her really bland as someone who is with you all the game. Some loot, like candles, can be given to your Chimera to add specific % buffs. You can also obtain gems, mix them to create a powerful one, and use them for even more buffs. If you haven’t realized by now, the difference between a Van Helsing level 1 and a Van Helsing with all the previously mentioned (and even more) is simply ridiculous. Fortunately, enemy types scale accordingly to your level, unless you grind a lot.

The technical issues

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is an interesting franchise, seems like all 3 games were made the exact same way, only changing the surface. Are these games optimized properly for Steam, per say? Ever since Van Helsing 1, the game struggles to be booted from the platform, you would need to launch a specific .exe from the game’s folder to run it. After you successfully launch the game, it will say that it will not enable DLC or other features unless connected to Steam, how can one possibly be able to do so if the game won’t launch from Steam then? This has been a common issue with the game even after 3 titles. This is completely counter-productive and can say a lot of about the time invested into making a stable game. Devs usually talk with users on the Forums on possible solutions, but the bugs are still there. Sometimes patches are uploaded but they mostly only fix gameplay stats and percentage errors.

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The illustrations and art

The Van Helsing franchise is remarkable for their dark fantasy steampunk themes, they all correlate appropriately and work impressively balanced. It might be a common mix in gaming, but the touch in this Art style has a very unique sense to it. Only thing I would revise are that the UI menus and, well, basically the entire UI, while looking very well detailed and smartly shaded, it’s overly complex and sometimes competes with the game’s text which feels out of place. These illustrations feel very saturated, the whole environment of the game is already showing you the theme of the game, it’s not necessary to re-establish that with the UI, for this genre its preferred to have something visually simple for gameplay to be much more fluid. As for character designs, they are quite interesting at first, but when you start obtaining new loot you would expect the visual changes to be more dramatic, but usually you play with the same looking character the whole way through, maybe one or two visual changes, but that’s about it. Not to mention Lady Katerina is also the same the entire time except when she changes to Ghost mode or Attack mode. Nevertheless, I suppose the whole thing about this genre and its camera set so far justifies this.

Original soundtrack

The game has a very nicely mixed acoustic soundtrack, with subtle cues to relaxing New Era style singing, which contrasts with the dark thematic of the game. These types of choices make for a great combination, and show how dire the lore in the game is. Also, voice filters and special sound effects are well applied, which are key for this magical world.

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III, while not entirely making justice to its predecessors, its still a solid RPG dungeon crawler with a satisfying difficulty scaling and progression system.

4

In Short

  • + Amazing progression system
    + In-depth stats and skill upgrades
    + Fantastic dark fantasy steampunk art
    + Contrasting soundtrack with the narrative

  • - Technical issues to the level of the game's build
    - A few stats and percentage bugs
    - Many removed features that made the previous titles better

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