Time to put in the last nail.
Universal Pictures' atrocious Van Helsing movie left such a sour taste in my mouth that I was unable to… err… sink my teeth into anything related to Van Helsing for several years. Fortunately, Neocore Games' resurrected the franchise in a fun and exciting way with their ARPG titled The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. Now the third game has been unleashed, following the series' annualized form. It's a good thing that it's the final installment, though, because the series is starting to wear thin due to a lack of significant changes. As a result, this title seems more like an expansion than a true sequel.
Once again, players take on the role of Abraham Van Helsing as he explores the wondrous Steampunk-inspired realm of Borgovia while slaying cultists, bullying lowlifes, and cleansing the land of monsters. His ultimate goal is to stop his former ally, Prisoner 7, in the last installment from merging the real world with the deadly Ink world, as this would mean the end of Borgovia. Ironically, the very adventure that tasks Van Helsing with saving Borgovia also unveils the city's dark secrets. This makes him question if it's even worth saving.
One of my chief complaints about The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III is that it isn't possible to import characters from the previous game in the trilogy. Instead, all players are forced to start from scratch. This is a strange choice because fans of the series can take their characters from part one to part two, but not here in part three. I'm not sure why this decision was made, but it makes the full journey seem disjointed and unrewarding. On top of that, the level cap has been reduced from 60 to 30, which decreases everything from the length of the adventure to the number of skills that can be obtained.
Perhaps these decisions were made in order to introduce three new classes to the game, for a total of six. Most of my time was spent with the Phlogistoneer because I wanted to take the retro-futuristic steampunk vibe to the extreme. This unusual class travels around in a metallic robo-suit that's armed with a powerful flamethrower, deadly missiles, and mines. Needless to say, this class fights much differently than the standard hunter class, which is both good and bad. It's fun to slay fantasy monsters by peppering them with missile fire while burning them alive, but don't be surprised to find your fingers starting to hurt after holding down the flamethrower button for hours
As the Phlogistoneer, I was able to finish the game without dying over and over again by using basic strategy and taking advantage of the numerous weapon and armor customization options. However, using the Umbralist class makes the game entirely too easy and removes the challenge from boss fights.
This game's level design is adequate despite its linear nature. Sure, there are some places off the beaten path to explore, but the majority of every level steers players in one direction. This is offset by ever-changing backgrounds and scenic vistas that propel players to forge onward. It's just too bad that the steampunk vibe from the first few games has been diminished in the level design. It almost seems like more effort went into creating cool steampunk artwork to display during the long loading screens than injecting the game with a steampunk aesthetic. Why give me a quest to find lost airship pirates if you never show me the airship itself?
It's a good thing that there's still a plethora of loot to find as well as a multitude of ways to customize weapons, armor, and skills. Be prepared to spend a lot of time adding essences, enchanting, and even creating new gear by combining items. It can be overwhelming to figure all of this out at the beginning, so I spread it out over the first couple of hours. Eventually, players will get into a rhythm of finding new loot while questing and then returning to their lair to customize gear, sell junk, and buy new items.
Other things to do at the lair include sending patrols out on missions, taking part in tower defense-style missions, and sending the Chimera out on hunts. Sadly, the Chimera can no longer be summoned into battle and is now little more than a demon-killing watchdog that fetches items for its master. I'm also disappointed at how much the tower defense feature has been minimized.
Although the story mode is short, the ability to play it with up to three other players in co-op mode adds some replay value. In addition, Scenario mode lets players undertake short quests by themselves or with other players, and this mode lets players make it more difficult to increase loot quality. Further online fun can be had by participating in the 8v8 PvP arenas if players choose the overpowered Umbralist, but choosing any other class is a severe disadvantage.
Anyone who follows this series will still be entertained with The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III, but they'll ultimately be disappointed by the overly steamlined nature of this installment. On the other hand, newcomers won't know what they're missing… though maybe now they do.