This is not your father's Van Helsing, as you well know, if you have played any of the previous games in this series. No, this weird science / steampunk version of the renowned monster hunter is the son of the Van Helsing of lore. It seems the old Van Helsing banished a great evil back in his time, and now that evil has found a way to escape and turn back the clock, changing Borgova back to its previous, monstrous state. It's up to you - as Van Helsing - to fight your way through the massive hordes of evil monsters to put things right.
The graphics appear to be better in The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III than they were in II, but I recall that II was mighty nice looking, as well. The dark, gritty environment carries a steampunk or gothic horror theme quite well, with an excellent use of textures, lighting and particle effects. And, if the graphics are good, then the music is excellent, setting the dark and foreboding mood for the monstrous environments in which you'll find yourself.
The banter between Van Helsing and Lady Katarina is well voiced and fun to listen to, but some of the other voices can be a bit over the top or sound a bit wooden, in some cases. However, this merely adds to the tongue-in-cheek nature, with some characters making references to other licenses, such as Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, among others. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III is just what it sets out to be - fun.
You get to help decide exactly who Van Helsing is by choosing from six different Character Classes, each with their own unique style and with certain items that are usable only by their class.
You'll start by choosing from the six available character classes: Protector, Phlogistoneer, Elementalist, Umbralist, Bounty Hunter or Constructor. Protector is a melee-specialist, Elementalist is a mage, Umbralist is your roguish type, Bounty Hunter is a marksman and Constructor is the embodiment of steampunk, creating various mechanical automatons to assist you in your destruction. Well, the Phlogistoneer is about as iconically steampunk as the Constructor, I guess, but instead of creating mechanical minions to assist him as he does most of his damage from afar, the Phlogistoneer has a weird science "mecha" suit that he uses to bring the battle to the baddies, up-close-and-personal style.
Regardless of the class you select, you will also be accompanied by the witty, fetching and deadly Lady Katarina, a ghost your father bound to serve your family. Those who follow the series will be pleased to discover that she will actually reveal the mysterious story of her past.
This is a full-fledged RPG; as you progress through the game, you - and Lady Katarina - will both level up. You will get to spend points upgrading skills (attacks, affects and defenses), attributes, Auras (status effects that have a range of effect) and other tweakable aspects. Lady Katarina, herself, has an exhaustive skill tree that has three tabs of its own. And then there are the items. Items can be upgraded, enchanted, salvaged, have essences invested in them... you can tweak these sooo much, if you like.
Movement is accomplished by clicking where you want Van Helsing to go, but since he stays in the center of the screen, you can click and hold in the direction you want him to go and he will keep trying to get to the cursor. This, at least, prevents you from having to continuously click just to get around.
As you explore Borgova and the Ink, you will encounter quest givers here and there with sidequests. Whether you choose to talk to them is usually up to you. Once you do, however, you have to choose to take on the quest or not (you're busy on the main quest, right?). However, unlike other RPGs I've played, if you decline the quest, you won't be able to accept it later.
In addition to the Story Mode, there is Scenario Mode, which allows you to challenge yourself a bit in specific areas from the game. There will be specific goals to meet, which can be catching specific thieving characters before they can make their escape (while all the other baddies still want to kill you), or killing some really large number of enemies in a really small amount of time... that sort of thing. These scenarios can be played in Multiplayer Mode, as well, and having up to four players dealing destruction can make the killing spree goal a bit more doable.
I'm more a Campaign Mode kinda guy, but the Multiplayer game was pretty fun, as well. We managed to get a full house (four players) running around in the havoc and we had a great time blowing massive amounts of monsters up. When playing multiplayer, you can collect treasure chest keys and, once back in the Secret Lair, you can use these to open treasure chests up in the Trophy Room. We had a veritable shower of gold and items; we seriously wondered if the chests were ever going to stop throwing out items. As for splitting things up, don't worry about it; Multiplayer is set up so that each player gets their own copy of the goodies that get spit out. Not only does this stop anonymity between players over sniped treasure, but when I came into a game later than others, I was able to "track" them by following the trail of loot that was there for me. How sweet is that?!
Also, in my review of the previous game, I noted that finding a multiplayer game without specifically getting your friends to join you was difficult to do, as there didn't seem to be anyone to play with. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III doesn't seem to suffer from this problem; I was able to jump right into multiplayer games without much of a wait at all. I did note that the game allows you to "go online" from the Pause Menu when playing the Story Mode, but I've never had other players show up when doing that. If you want to play with others, select Multiplayer Mode from the Main Menu.
There are five different difficulty levels: Casual, Normal, Hard, Heroic and Fearless. Casual is just that; I played through the entire game on this difficulty and never found the challenges to be overwhelming except in a few places when I was rushing things a bit and got too many enemies in play at the same time. Did I die? Sure, here or there, but not too frequently to just pay the high gold price to resurrect right where I left off. Normal is a little harder, but still very reasonable. If you're not familiar with the game or this genre or you just don't want to have to worry about getting too stressed out, Casual is okay, but most players will probably be ready for Normal.
Hard is a bit more challenging, and this gets you into the level where you might want to put a bit more thinking into things, pulling only a few monsters into a fight at a time, keeping your distance, playing defensively and leveling up and/or switching to better gear as soon as these become available. Hard and above really give you a reason to "be all that you can be."
I found that Heroic is very taxing and led me to make my Bounty Hunter's motto, "Run Away!" I had to keep five or so steps ahead of my pursuers and take pot shots at them while on the run. This is where the shift from strategic attacks to strategic retreat occurs.
Fearless takes it up another notch, and everything gets deadlier, yet again. If you find yourself in need of a challenge, this should take care of that. If not, you can select the "Hardcore" option, which gives you one... single... life. That's right - if you play the game with this option turned on, one death and that's all she wrote. If you're looking for a little more weight to your consequences and a little more emotional investment in your character, you might want to try out the Hardcore option. Oh, and you can select this when creating a character, regardless of difficulty, so you could make a character with one life at the Casual difficulty, if you like. Why not challenge a friend to see how far you can each make it with Hardcore turned on? If anything will teach you to manage your health better, this is it.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III is a sequel - specifically, the third and last game in a trilogy. While the game does pick up where the last one left off and brings the story to a close, there are some ways in which III, as a sequel, falls short of the things achieved in II... in ways that don't really make sense.
In the second game, you were able to import your saved game from the original game and keep your same character and continue the story. This time around, there is no support for importing your character, so you have to start with a new "Van Helsing" and play through the story from square one. Also, the second game supported characters up to level 60, with Scenario Mode not being available until you reached level 57, which even with a topped-out level 30 imported character, required you to work through 27 levels to gain access. This game only goes up to level 30 and requires you to get to level 27 before Scenario Mode is made available. I guess this was done to prevent the huge disparity of long-time fans coming in as level 60 and noobs coming in with level 1 characters, but it feels like the import feature should have been there.
If you haven't played the previous games in the series, you're missing out and, while you can enjoy this game on its own, it would be best to scoop up the previous games and play through the whole series. Especially if you can catch them discounted during a Steam Sale.
Windows XP/Vista/7/8, Dual Core CPU 2.0 GHz Processor, 1 GB RAM, Nvidia 8800 GT, Intel HD4000 or AMD HD3850 or better Graphics Card, DirectX Version 9.0c, Broadband Internet connection, 20 GB available HD space, DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card