"All men are mad in some way or another, and inasmuch as you deal discreetly with your madmen, so deal with God's madmen too, the rest of the world."
Van Helsing is the quintessential vampire hunter, created by Bram Stoker in the 1897 novel Dracula and portrayed by everyone from Laurence Olivier and Anthony Hopkins to Hugh Jackman and Rutger Hauer. So it's no surprise that this action hero has already been the protagonist of a video game, namely Van Helsing for PlayStation 2 by Saffire. Let's just say it was
abysmal not received very well by critics. But maybe NeocoreGames can bring justice to his name, or at least his son's name, with their upcoming The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing.
One quick look at the screenshots for this action RPG, and you might think that it's a Diablo clone. While that isn't too far off, my experience with the hands-on demo for The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing shows that it's much more than that. The story follows the titular character as he journeys to the mysterious country of Borgovia, whose capital is Borgova (there is no "i" in Borgova?), which has recently been struck by waves of supernatural creatures that are not only quick to anger, but also afraid for their lives as it seems that some dangerous scientists have been performing dark experiments on them. Perhaps the vampires are not the problem this time around; perhaps they might be willing to help.
Of course, you'll need to tread through the eerie villages, cobblestone streets, and haunted forests in search for the truth. The environments and the creatures that litter them are inspired by Hungarian folklore, giving the game a historical bedrock in line with its gothic-noir aesthetic. Van Helsing will need to fend off hordes of feral beasts, hulking behemoths, undead fiends, and ghastly demons, leaving piles of bloody carcasses in his wake whether it's by dual pistols, broadsword, or lightning bolts from his hand.
With every level up, he can place plenty of points in both his attributes and in active and passive skills separated in three tabs, ultimately creating either a swordmaster or a war mage. I found Lightning Strike's area of effect damage affordable and extremely powerful for its mana price, a fact which immediately made the developer sitting next to me say that the developers are still "working on balance." (Point taken.)
On top of that is the Rage system, which fills a bar whenever Helsing kills enemies, and it works in an interesting manner. Every skill can be augmented with various Rage boosts, like dealing more damage or having reduced mana cost, that can be charged up to three times. In this way, Helsing can save his Rage meter against more difficult enemies and bosses, or just show off against some more lowly grunts. At the same time, it provides the player with a wealth of customizable options for his growth and overall battle strategies.
That said, Helsing doesn't face the seemingly overwhelming onslaught of enemies alone. Lady Katarina, a ghost bound to serve the Helsing family, joins the hero and does much more than provide moral support. Not only can she attack enemies, in melee or ranged or even in a powerful ghost form depending on how the player chooses to set her behavior, but she also has her own inventory and skills as well as sharp tongue. Like the pet from Torchlight, she can take unnecessary items back to town and purchase potions, not that she enjoys being Helsing's spectral servant. In fact, I'm sure if she ever were unbound that there might be a sequel.
Featuring both single-player and cooperative multiplayer up to four players, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing releases on 2013 for Xbox Live Arcade and Steam.