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When people hear the name Van Helsing they generally think of the great vampire slayer from Bram Stoker's Dracula novel but this game has nothing to do with that heroic figure and is all about the heroic characters that you, or you and your online gaming friends, create and play through what could be regarded as a classic computer fantasy game. This has similarities to the great, original, "Diablo" game but with a completely new batch of heroes and monsters, skills and spells. Graphically it is superior to the majority of fantasy adventure and action games available for today's PC and/or console markets. It is complete in detail, fast and formidable in action, and visually entertaining and mesmerising. 

The game is driven by a myriad of Quests and Missions and each time you play withy a different character class, the action is slightly different, though obviously the aim of each Quest and Mission remains solid. My favourite character class is the Elementalist, mainly because it is a mixture of fighter and spellcaster but also because it has a companion (like a World of Warcraft Warlock). Lady Katarina is a ghostly figure who cuts a mean swathe through your enemies like a WOW character's Pet, violently attacking and generally dispensing anyone or anything that threatens harm to you - of course this depends on the control command you have given it.

As you get a little more experienced your Elementalist also gains a duplicate or doppelganger spell that just by clicking the right mouse button (as in the button on the right as well as being the correct one) you send forth an exact copy of yourself straight into the midst of the advancing horde. Other than conjuring up this clone you have no control over it - it sees the enemy and rushes off to kill and die courageously while you stand back and bombard the oncoming enemies from a distance, all the while the Lady Katarina is also getting stuck in.

As you expect the enemy drop all manner of treaures, gold coins, weapons, equipment etc. Most of this can be used by you, just open the (I)nventory and swap the items from your pack to your character but others are only usable by Katarina, in which case you can send them to her or simply click on her portrait to open her inventory and character sheet, then you can give them to her, replacing the lesser equipment with the newer gear.  As you grow more experienced so you get points that you can build skills and auras and abilities with, sometimes boosting those you have already and other times gaining new ones - just like in tabletop role-playing and many other adventure games.

Each time you find a new location it appears on your map so that you can travel there in the future. Often there are teleport portals that you can discover and use as well. Towns and villages offer the usual fare - merchants for buying and selling, quest givers, etc etc. Combat is generally fast and fierce and gets faster and fiercer as your character gains experience levels. Unless you rush in without thinking or taking time to breathe, you should be able to keep your character alive, though dying isn't too bad as you can pay to be revived on the spot or wait and resurrect at the last save point (auto saving throughout the game). After you have been in combat just wait a moment or threee and your character (and their companions) will self heal, fully, though if you can't wait there are health potions available.

Traveling on the map means simply clicking on a named place (one where you have already visited or which has been magicked onto your map) and waiting until you arrive there. The names on the Borgovia map are as you would expect from a fantasy game, Werewolf Den, Croakwood, Gorgon Pass etc but there are some hidden gems amongst the roads, villages and other places of interest, one being the nicely named "Lugosi River".

This is a great game for fantasy role-players who want some "me time" at the computer when they aren't sitting around a table playing face to face. there is the option of making it multi-player should you wish to, but personally I prefer to role-play face to face and adventure computer game solo - this isn't an MMO and shouldn't be thought of as one even though it has multi-player options.

The major breakthrough in this type of game for me was the previously mentioned "Diablo" which I played and played and played; similarly Diablo II but not so much Diablo III which relied more on animated graphics than the old style adventure of its predecessors. This is just like going back to the original Diablo but with new purpose and a more buoyant spring in your step. The animation is not similar as Diablo III but is equally as good as any adventure game I have seen, possibly not quite as dynamic as World of Warcraft but then it isn't as expensive to play or as large as an MMO overall.

I would happily recommend this to anyone with a PC who likes to meet and kill all manner of enchanted and exotic beasts but with the ability to pause the action when necessary - loo breaks, dinner-time, need to go shopping etc all of which MMO's don't allow for unless you play solo, and MMOs are generally set up and designed to be played in groups. Virtually everything is mouse driven which also makes for ease of play and enjoyment plus it leaves you with a free hand to hold your coffee cup. 

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a superb trip to the world of arcade style action. My advice is to go for it.







© Chris Baylis 2011-2021