The Incredible Adventures of .....Van Helsing III
Somewhere along the line I missed the first two instalments of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing but that hasn't spoiled this game for me, it is a super action game directly in the mould of the original DIABLO game mixed with more than a modicum of role-playing and MMO'ing. The action is fast and frenetic with barely a moment to take a breath as monsters of all size, shape and denomination come at you from all sides using all manner of weaponry, physical, magical, close-up, ranged, breath weapons, direct fire, area effect gases, poisons, fire etc. The enemy has many ways to kill you and they will succeed, not often maybe, but they will. When you are killed the screen fades into a deep dark blood red and you are given a few options, after you have achieved a few levels, such as Pay an amount to resurrect where you are (if you take this option your ghost gets up and moves a short distance away from where you fell so that you don't appear straight back in the middle of a bruising), Pay an amount to resurrect back at the last checkpoint or Pay zero and resurrect at the Secret Lair.
Starting off you need to get your version of Van Helsing ready and prepared. You can choose to make him a Protector, which is basically a heavily armoured Fighter. Or a Bounty Hunter who is a ranged combat specialist who can call upon mechanical seekers to beat the brush and flush out the enemy. Then there is the Elementalist, a dedicated spellcaster with devastatingly powerful offensive spells but reacts poorly to getting hurt - as in dies easily. The other two character make-ups are the Phlogistoneer - a machine-suited master of the weird science who is excellent at both short and long range combat, can call in military style strikes and rocket barrages - very handy with a flame-thrower as well; and the Constructor - who can create and build mechanical creatures for defence or offence sort of like a World of Warcraft Shaman's Totems, but a lot more powerful. As a reviewer I should try out all of these and report back on them, but I created a Bounty Hunter complete with twin sixguns in holsters on a large leather rig and a cowboy hat, in fact I looked a little like Clint Eastwood's character from the early spaghetti westerns, and I got so into playing it that I really haven't given the other characters fair trial. I say that because if the other four character types are anywhere near as good and as much fun as the Bounty Hunter then this is going to be a game to play 5 times from start to finish.
As you would expect you are given options for the degree of challenge, starting with Casual - a player new to Borgovia who likes a balanced RPG style game with action, adventure, story and as many battles as you can handle. Normal, a good starting place if you have some experience of games like Diablo or have played one or both of the previous Van Helsing games. Hard - introduces a high item drop rate to the game as well as a high stat advancement rate for the character. Very good for experienced players. Heroic - High item drop rate, high character stat rate, for hardcore players. Finally there is Fearless which is brutally unforgiving almost to the point of being unfair. Then you get the other regular options of playing solo or multi-player. Name your character and you are ready to lock n load and rock n roll as they say.
I started with two Quests - Explore the Test Facility and The Imprisoned Vampire - and was then pleasantly surprised to start off with assistance in the form of a ghostly figure called Katarina, whom I soon found to be deadly in combat and with a reasonably fast healing rate. You can give certain items from your inventory to Katarina, but she has a smaller backpack and thus cannot carry as much as you. She can wear and use certain types of armour and equipment as well as various weapons and spells, in other words you can customise her very similarly to the way you can customise your own character, with a few exceptions. Katarina can attack using melee or ranged weapons and spells or you can have her give 10% extra defence to your character but for this to happen she has to give up her fighting capabilities; on the good side she cannot be attacked or targeted in this state.
Controls are fairly easy to master. You can use Keys to move or you can point, click and hold your mouse button down. The only problem I have with the mouse button being both a Combat and a Move button is that when you begin firing at the encroaching hordes you find you are also walking towards them inadvertently. You can take specific aim to do more damage by holding the button down for 3 seconds and then releasing it - this is also a skill you can learn so that the additional damage you do is truly worth the standing there and taking your hits. If you are dexterous with your mouse and keys you can often dodge the ranged fire aimed at you while continually firing yourself. This is particularly useful when there is a very large monster that has many minions assisting it. Whether you have a one-handed weapon, weapons in each hand or a two-handed weapon your firing is by the Left mouse button with your special spell power set off by the Right mouse button. If you are well versed in computer game combat you can soon get a good balanced combo of left and right button attacks which is usually devastating.
I have played VAN HELSING III for many hours and I am still having a blast. I am also regularly finding new things to do, see and action. For example going round the Secret Lair recently - I thought I'd been all round the place, I found a Chimera chained in a circle. It wasn't there to fight and I thought it was just a captured beast on display, but no, instead I was shown various regions and asked to choose an area where I could send it out hunting. such a neat touch. In fact there are a lot of small touches in the game that are similarly not a major part of the play but are good mini distractions from the virtually non-stop combat for a few moments. Another one is where you select Leaders from a displayed list, having first read their statistics and skills etc, and send them on quests and missions with men/units you have bought and trained from the same area the Leaders are in, so everything you need for this particular aspect of play is there on the screen in front of you. Mission/Quest times vary.
Also in the Secret Lair you will find your personal vault/ storage unit where you can offload any items you have collected that may need you to be of a certain skill or level before they are of any use to you. Travel to and from the Lair, and in fact around the various lands is by teleport and portal. Generally you will find a portal that will take you on to another area where your current quest may be resolved, but once there you will find other quests and possibly another teleport device. Portals only take you from one place to another like a door whereas teleports show you a list of where you can travel to, like floors in a lift, and as you progress through the game so the list gets longer.
I am very impressed with VAN HELSING III and indeed it is a very impressive game.