The original Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing was released in 2013, and featured a heavily steampunked version of Abraham Van Helsing, one of the main characters of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The game, thankfully, had no relation to the horrible Van Helsing film, and was actually a really enjoyable experience to play. The excellent sequel was released last year, and now the story finally comes to a close in this third installment a year later. I grab my monster hunting gear and go see what tales Mr Van Helsing can tell me.
Van Helsing III (I am NOT going to type out the entire title of the game over and over!) is a Diablo-like RPG where you control both Van Helsing and his ghost companion, Katarina. The game concludes the story of the events in Borgovia, and gets running right where the last game sat down. If you have no idea who Prisoner 7 is, where Borgovia is, or even why Van Helsing is paired with a ghost…I’m afraid I can do little to help you within the confines of this review. It is likely that there are primers, though you’ll best be served by playing the first two games, since they’re a great deal of fun.
The experience of the first two games makes Van Helsing III a huge pity, because it feels a lot like a step backwards from Van Helsing II in many ways. For one thing, the level cap has been dropped from 60 in Van Helsing II to 30 in this game, and playing through the single-player campaign, I can see why–the game is well short, and will take less than 10 hours to complete. You can quite easily get very near that level cap by the end of the campaign. There’s some longevity in the multiplayer though, whether you play the co-op or PvP, but no captivating post-game experience like Van Helsing II’s endless mode. There was also a heck of a lot more to do in Van Helsing II than in this game, and the only really compelling reason to play this one is for the conclusion of the story. There is one nice, bright spark in this, though: the game has a total of 6 character classes for you to play as, and if you enjoy playing the story again and again, this is one way to draw some replayability out of it. Oh, and also don’t think that you’ll be able to import a saved character from Van Helsing II, because it looks very much like you can’t. Yes, I know Van Helsing II allowed you import Van Helsing I’s character. No I don’t know why this has changed.
On the other hand, there are some really brilliant parts to the game, mostly in the form of the game’s dialog. Abraham and Katarina’s characterizations are far better and deeper than before, and their bantering is often funny, even endearing. Battles are still fun, though, as is tinkering with the characters’ stats (Rage points, Woo!), but I still can’t fathom why so much of the game’s assets are just a big reuse of Van Helsing II. It just seems a disservice to fans of the first two games.
The game isn’t broken (occasional crash aside), but it seems like little more than an expansion pack to the prior game. I enjoyed seeing it to the end because of the game’s story, but unless you’ve been in it from the first game, I see very little here to recommend to newcomers. The game doesn’t go all out to get you up to speed, and while the tutorials and opening bits of the game do hold your hand a bit, you’re going to find the experience far less satisfying than someone who’s come from Van Helsing I and II.
Final Score: 6.5 Vampire Hunting Prawns out of 10
Platform: PC (Steam)