The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III Review
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III has some big shoes to fill, its own shoes, what with starting off calling itself “incredible” and all. If you haven’t figured it out yet, this is the third in a series, released conveniently after the third installation in the Diablo series, which was something of a bomb, filled with idiocy early on, and unfortunately did not lead to Blizzard’s demise. Did you know people are still playing that trash? It’s true. That brings us to this one. What looked on the surface like an awesome Diablo clone was simply just a Diablo clone to the extent that I’d rather play Diablo, and probably the first one, at that.
With the popularity of the Diablo franchise, clones were bound to appear. And sometimes they were rather good, such as Torchlight II, which went with a different visual approach, better drops, and allowed players to create their own games with modding. Unfortunately, such titles are far and few between, and most clones are there to capitalize on popularity, that’s how it usually goes.
Now, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing series has a number of things going for it. Coming from Hungarian developer NeoCoreGames, the series played on the popularity of Diablo while taking the vampire hunter image of Van Helsing as its main inspiration, loosely basing itself on the 1897 novel Dracula by Bram Stoker, and by that we mean very loosely because it seems they didn’t read it. Regardless, the idea is there, and with the popularity of vampires and the hunter image in media, a game done in Diablo style seems like a sure win, but is it? The first two games received average and slightly above average scores, respectively, so you’d think the third would blow it all away, right? Well, no. Let’s review.
Let’s be honest, though it takes many cues from the Diablo franchise, especially the third title, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III looks rather marvelous. Sure, it’s derivative as all hell, and in certain respects almost indistinguishable from Diablo III, but the clarity and crispness of the design cannot be denied, as well as the fluid movements of enemies and characters. Add to this environments that react to the player, excellent lighting, and an overall dark, steam punk appearance, and visually you’ve got something going on.
In terms of the sound, they’ve got that pretty much solid as well. The voice acting has been improved from previous games, the sound effects are definitely up to par for the most part, and the music is fitting. Generally incidental in how it works, but it sets a good mood through the majority of the settings I experienced. So, graphics and sound, good, excellent foundations upon which to build a great game, right?
That would be where you’re wrong. First off, can we just state how stupid this title is? Really. Why the focus on Van Helsing anyway? He wasn’t the active hunter the character is associated with today, if you want to claim the novel Dracula as your inspiration. In there, in fact, he’s a fragile old man who gets around only utilizing his intelligence, nothing more, so skip it. But, okay, so you started the first two games with that title, might as well keep it, we guess…
But that’s a superficial complaint. The main issue with The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III is, unfortunately, the gameplay, and it’s very easy to explain why with several points. First off, character importing, forget it. If you have strong builds from the previous game, not going to work here, the skill tree has been expanded. Second, the general play style has been altered slightly where each character has a single approach to combat, you can no longer swap from ranged to melee as you once could. This isn’t necessarily a breaker for the game, but more variety in play style would have been welcome, otherwise it’s simply, yes, another Diablo clone.
But we’re not done yet, oh no. Aside from its good looks and atmosphere via sound, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III has several critical play issues. That brings us to number three, shortness. Though I didn’t actually complete it, it’s short as hell, so short it almost feels rushed. Further, four, for certain classes it’s a breeze, for others a freaking nightmare from the first level, to the point of total irritation. Difficulty, yeah, I don’t mind it, but this level of difficulty for certain classes was maddening. And lastly, five, the death blow, the nail in the coffin (yep had to use that one), the glitches. Holy freak are you serious? The number of bugs, errors, glitches, whatever you want to call them, in this case, are laughably abundant. I encountered problems with freezing, crashing (and thus lack of progress with no auto-save), and if you scope other reviews out there you’ll find a slew more including, but not limited to, game breaking end glitches, broken achievements, and the like. Considering this is essentially a stripped down version of the first two games, those kind of things are simply unforgivable.
It’s really quite a shame. Though the Van Helsing character is essentially public domain, and maybe someone will do something just with it, this isn’t it. The variety of problems, in spite of how it looks and sounds, leads to a real bummer of an experience. What’s interesting is that, from the beginning, it looks quite dense, but the more you play the more it reveals its various faults (some of which I haven’t even touched on here) and superficiality. Considering the popularity of steampunk in modern gaming culture, in addition to vampires or vampire-themed games, failing that is perhaps the greatest joke of our era. Stay away, it’s really not worth it. And that level cap…are you serious? 30? That should stop most real gamers right there.