The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: Final Cut is more than a mere hybrid of the three individual games, and rather becomes a cohesive title that does a decent job of standing up to other ARPGs (action role playing games) like Diablo. You’ll be in loot heaven as you traverse through a steampunk world from the basis of Dracula and even get a decent tale along the way. Where the three individual games suffered you now get a balanced single experience, which marries the good and the bad, and ends up being a better title for it. My consensus of these games have always been that they are good, but not great, and the Final Cut takes a massive step in trying to address all of the issues had with the individual titles.
I don’t want to dwell too long in the changes of this game, but if you’ve played it before or have a discussion with those that played the originals, you’ll notice major differences. Since the game is now just a single entity, you get the choice of six classes from the onset instead of Van Helsing’s single hunter class to start the game. This also means you won’t have to worry about disjointed spec when you get to the next title, a problem those migrating from between the games suffered. Leveling now goes up to an overall 100 instead of the max level 30, then to 60, then back to 30 game the trilogy played. Co-op has been greatly improved and works as a seamless drop-in drop-out experience, provided you have a buddy that can join you online (although randoms were usually quite kind and communicative). These changes may seem like no big deal, but almost every competitor today has features like a single leveling system for your build, classes, and versatile co-op that immediately hurt Van Helsing‘s ability to intrigue those players to try it out. With these changes in place the play field gets leveled quite a bit.
For those that don’t have the original to compare to, I love the world and dynamic that Van Helsing: Final Cut creates. You play as Van Helsing’s son, picking up your father’s occupation, and you have a not-quite-alive companion by the name of Katarina. The fictional land of Borgovia grabs a backdrop from the gothic era Bram Stoker’s novel describes, but developer Neocore Games loves to litter plenty of steampunk concepts in. Ultimately you will be fighting a mad scientist and his forces (not a spoiler, in the game’s description) so it does make sense in the overarching story. I also like the banter between Van Helsing and Katarina as you go, which feels akin to a brother and sister relationship rather than the romantic or working relationships we usually see. I found it refreshing to play a game that has a distinct style and story because most ARPGs fall back on “this is the land and the plot is to stop the big evil” whereas Van Helsing’s plot has more minutia. Granted, the land of Borgovia is not that varied of a location outside of the opening 10 hours of the game, but it’s a dungeon crawler so you would expect to spend long stints in underground dwellings.
Much like Diablo II and Torchlight, your build is everything. With six classes, a bunch of class-dependent skills, Katarina’s own large library of skills, and a consistent flow of loot, the process of making and mastering your build is daunting. I have had discussions online where people focus too much on min/maxing the build instead of simply grabbing a path to their play style and sticking with it. In previous versions of the game you could only level 30 times and abilities changed between the games, but in Final Cut you can level 100 times regardless and all of your skill trees can be viewed from the onset. I simply took the perks that spoke to my biggest weaknesses and issues, focused on making the most of all of them, and I got through the game without any concerns over my build. On that same note, you’ll wear some 7-10 pieces of armor, multiple weapons at once, and multiple attacks with each, another intimidating focus. Much like my abilities, I focused on making the most of my weapons and armor – keeping the old item until the new one is properly broken in and useful – and didn’t have too many issues. By the time I got to the point you can watch in the quick look, it was all relatively seamless, but admittedly time consuming. Perhaps I was a bit reductive with my decision making, but I found this to be a great way to focus less on numbers and more on the action, which was my favorite part of the game.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: Final Cut has ways to play: keyboard/mouse and controller. Both of these were given a great amount of thought because depending on which you play with, not only are prompts changed on the screen, but the entire HUD layout and even navigation will change. This is useful with a guy like me that loves to play PC games but almost always with a controller. After giving a few hours to both styles, the versatility is great and either type of player should have little problems. It’s important to note that the basis for which this title borrows is a more traditional ARPG, which means that the random action will be intense and you may find areas difficult. If you have a clumsy build or don’t make the most of the game’s systems, you’ll find yourself dead quite quick. Navigating the terrain, getting out of the way of weapons or enemies, properly using the timed heal function, and knowing when to use what attack on what enemy will be critical to success. Much like your build, it will seem like a complex control scheme and you may feel overwhelmed, but practice for a couple of hours in the beginning and you shouldn’t struggle too much later in the game when you need it.
The ARPG has come a long way, but with the popularity of titles like Borderlands and even Diablo III I fear that the genre has also lost focus on the importance of loot value and difficulty. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: Final Cut insist that you not only treat this game more like a regular title (ie: you’re scared to die) but also that you focus on a consistent and dynamic build. You can let this be as much or as little work as you want to be, but if you just want to click a mouse button over and over to watch for different colored items, this won’t be the game for you. Instead, those that want to stay focused in the moment of combat and build up a skilled warrior from the ground floor, you can’t help but feel Diablo II creeping in. Couple that with a great goth steampunk base and clever storytelling and there was an awful lot to enjoy in the tens of hours I spent with The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: Final Cut. With six classes and tons of skills you will have no problem jumping back in and replaying this title over and over, but it’s hard to argue that even on your first go the encounters and setting get repetitive. If you’re fine with that, like I am, and you can tackle the over complicated build and control system then there’s no reason to not jump in head first. If you are newer to the ARPG, don’t like a challenge, or just want another Diablo III to play with a loved one, this may be a bit too hardcore for you liking.
Final Score: 4 out of 5
A review copy was provided by the publisher. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing: Final Cut is available for $44.99 on Steam (PC/Mac) or free to download to any user owning the three individual titles. A version of the original game is coming to Xbox One this December, although there is no word yet on whether or not this version is coming to consoles. Depending on play style, side quests, and loot mechanics, campaign length can vary drastically, but you can expect somewhere in the vicinity of 40 hours minimum.