Review: The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a trope-tastic, loothappy clickfest
Dungeon-crawling Diablo doppelgangers are a dime a dozen. Say that ten times fast. All joking aside, it's a statement that becomes truer with each day that passes. That's why The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing needed so badly to stand out, especially for an action RPG that's been crafted on an obviously limited budget. Instead, save for a few recognizable shining points here and there, it fades into obscurity, steampunk aesthetic and all.
Van Helsing is a textbook ARPG, complete with a textbook isometric view of the environment, red and blue health and mana orbs, and enemies that descend upon your character with the fervor of a million suns -- a ton of 'em, too. After you customize your Van Helsing to your choosing (from the limited aesthetic options) you'll set about your merry way, menus revealing a largely forgettable narrative with plenty of reasons to throw bizarre Lovecraftian plot devies at you.
The baddies follow in turn, with tentacles, deformed frogs, grizzly werewolves, and droves of soldiers out to get you. The hordes are as thick as dense fog in Silent Hill, with plenty of experience and loot to be had at every turn. It's familiar fare, a guilty pleasure of an ARPG mired in the trappings of convention. You'll go click-happy here and there all the way through the handful of maps, then come back again for more -- there's just so little substance to be found here you'll grow bored of the mindless clicking in the blink of an eye.
Your AI companion can be trusted to stick up for herself in combat, deal reasonable amounts of damage, and travel back and forth between town to seel off unwanted loot and other items you have no need for. Not only is she genuinely useful, but she's hilarious -- of course, her severed head has much to do with that. We won't get into the specifics of how, as a ghost, she's interacting with the living.
The real enemy at hand with Van Helsing is boredom, as previously mentioned. There's only one class to explore, and too many skills are so similar to the other that it doesn't feel like real progression where it should. Too often you feel as though the game is nearly forcing you into choosing one or two attacks to rely on for the remainder of the game, while everything else is simply included for show. Finicky tower defense, frustrating costs for revivals, and a few game-breaking gitches don't exactly help matters, either.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing has already been greenlit for a sequel, but the first attempt feels misguided -- why not patch the issues, toss in some varied quests, and attempt to fix what's broken first before running off to make something else from the ground up? With a little more time in the oven, it could have proven itself to be a worthy contender amidst the Torchlights out there -- perhaps the next marvelous misadventures of Van Helsing will clean up and improve things further -- steampunk Diablo clones can't go anywhere but up.