Title: The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: Final Cut
Platforms: PC (Windows, Linux)
Developer: Neocore Games
Publisher: Neocore Games
Release Date: Out Now
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The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: Final Cut combines all the previous Van Helsing into one relatively polished experience. It’s a fairly standard one as isometric ARPGs go- in that it’ll give your index finger a good work out as you face down screens full of monsters. Still, I like that kind of thing usually.
I’ll preface this review by acknowledging that in my review of Victor Vran- which was the first review I ever did for GGS- I compared that game to the Van Helsing series fairly favourably. That is to say, I preferred Victor Vran a lot more and mentioned that. Quite a bit.
So, first of all, I want to state that Final Cut smooths over a lot of the problems I had with the individual games. Final Cut is more balanced and consistent. It looks better and performs better. My problems with lag that coloured my experience with the second game have almost entirely gone. Neocore have picked the better parts from the preceding games to cobble together the combat and class system for this one.
Re-releases of anything so recent usually lead me to think that the publisher is looking to cash-in on a success. Considering that they made the games better and granted anyone who owns all three of the Van Helsing games the Final Cut without payment, I’m fairly pleased about this one. I’ve wanted to like the Van Helsing series for a while. Now I do.
In Final Cut, you can choose from a range of classes: Protector, Bounty Hunter, Elementalist, Umbralist, Phlogistoneer and Constructor. Each fall into recognizable types- the tank, ranger, mage, rogue, engineer and steampunk Iron Man. On a base level, they play fairly similarly. So, you press the left key to activate your main ability and the right key for your secondary. Their designs are fairly unique*.
Character attributes have been trimmed down to three. These attributes vary depending on your class. The first determines your health and defense. The centre determines your damage output and the last affects your mana pool as well as critical chance. They probably could have done with more attributes- considering how strategically unrelated maximum mana and critical chance are. Still- that’s a niggle if ever there was.
Your various skills and passive abilities have been organized into skill trees. Abilities are capped at ten points. Your various points can be re-distributed at your base, if you feel like your current build is letting you down. I like this move, as I tend to prefer to experiment rather than pre-plan. Moreover, having recalled almost nothing about the systems from the previous games, I found Final Cut easy enough to dive into. I imagine that having some consistency across combat systems makes playing Final Cut preferable to the separate adventures back to back. Besides, there’s also more of a sense of character progression if you stick with the same guy.
Gameplay wise I have a few gripes: harsh difficulty spikes, quest tracker doesn’t allow you to focus on a side-quest and be directed to it. The world and narrative building is comparatively dense to other ARPGs of its ilk- although not to RPGs more generally.
The writing and voice-acting will be the cherry on top for the vast majority of people, I’m sure. However, having lost my taste for referential humour and snappy dialogue between a Main Character and The Female Sidekick You’re Probably Supposed to Ship Him With- just through sheer exposure to the like, it didn’t do a whole lot for me.
This is not the fault of the game. This is the fault of me for watching too many sitcoms as a teenager.
The plot itself is overblown and absurd- but there’s a certain charm in that. You could probably make a drinking game out of the number of times the term ‘mad scientist’ is used. Or there’s an explosion. But don’t do that. For health reasons.
Van Helsing also incorporates some choice-lite elements. There are dialogue trees. You can make small decisions that have no ramifications on the story going forth. For instance, I remember deeply annoying my ghostly travelling companion, Katarina, and amusing myself in the process by insisting on giving money to beggars. This was a nice touch- you’re given room to express a version of Van Helsing- but it is just a touch.
As for the setting, Borgova is a festering country full of monsters and monstrous machines. The colour palette sticks to varying shades of greens, browns, dark blues and reds. Outside the city, the environments take on a dream-like quality in dingy meadows and misty marshes. Inside, gothic architecture and brutal metallic structures dominate the marks a bygone age of prosperity and the coming age of industry. The graphical fidelity is not good, the game looks older than it is. Still, whilst the game possesses few original ideas in terms of visual design, the overall mix of tropes makes for a distinct and memorable sense of place.
To me, this Final Cut is a great improvement relative to the preceding games. It does a lot of things quite well. The world is moderately compelling. As ARPGs go, it competently iterates on but doesn’t improve the Diablo-template. The story – if not compelling – is exciting in the moment. I would recommend if that kind of combination sounds good to you.
- If you liked the original games and own them- you can get this free and it’s a step up.
- Visuals- just aesthetically.
- World-building is satisfyingly bonkers.
- Not so much bad as… it won’t take you the 40 hours they say it should to play through the game. Most likely, it’ll take you more like half that on Normal.
- Tower defense sections. Maybe it’s a personal taste thing.
- Visuals- I hope you don’t care overly about things being in a high-definition.
- The title for the game is too long.
* The masks for the Elementalist are TERRIFYING.
Code provided by publisher/ PR.