Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing Extended Ed. (PS4)

Before I get into the updated options of the extended edition of 'The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing' let me redirect you for a moment to my previous Xbox One review of the same base game. You can click the link here (Van Helsing) to get a good idea as to what I thought of the original console release before hearing me rant again about some of the same issues ...

Van Helsing (as I'm gonna call it) is a game that borrows heavily from Blizzard's Diablo series. It features character gear setups that are not too dissimilar from said gaming world as well as a rarity system that takes in account Blizzard's color coded item and enemy rankings, among other things. There's that, and the overall look of the game which in itself is reminiscent of Diablo on so many levels. When it comes to this particular game though you'll find that it does have it's own mythology, and story that is admirably accented by nonstop voice-over talent that was no doubt costly for the developer to add in. We get to see the son of the infamous monster slayer Abraham Van Helsing do his thing as he follows in his father's footsteps alongside his ghostly female companion, Katarina. It's an adventure filled to the brim with humor, sarcasm, and challenging quests involving the burdened people of Borgova (Borgovia?), and those who would meddle with science and the supernatural.

The extended edition of this quirky dialogue enriched Diablo-like Van Helsing adventure, as it were, is a direct all inclusive port of the PC and Xbox One versions of the same game. Yes, I said "port". It lacks any fixes, and is pretty much a carbon copy of the previous PC, and console versions all the way down to the frame rate stuttering. As far as being "all inclusive" goes I simply mean that the additional DLC of the first game is included at no additional charge. You get the base singleplayer adventure from before which follows closely the exploits of the original Van Helsing's son, and his ghostly companion Katarina as well as the multiplayer tag-along-mode for an online co-op experience, should you feel the need to drag a friend along on the journey. Along with that is the character class DLC (Thaumaturge & Arcane Mechanic), and two new modes of play that extend up the originally offered four difficulty settings (Easy - Hellion) and two campaign types (Normal & Hardcore). Everything from the gameplay to the in-game mechanics, and even the campaign content stays fairly much the same. Those pesky problems I mentioned in my link, they are still there as well. The lack of a guide explaining what you should level up first still hinders early progress as does the abusive hive minded enemy AI which, for lack of a better word, makes for a proper fustercluck. It's a game experience that could have been great, but fell short due to over-complication.

What's new to the base game, as I mentioned in the paragraph above, is two new character classes and two new modes of play. When it comes to character options you can play as a 'Hunter' which focuses on ranged and melee attacks, a Thaumaturge which is basically an elemental spell caster, or an Arcane Mechanic which uses bots and scientific weaponry to deal with the enemy. In each case you can change the name of the character via the character creation menu, and can select which difficulty they play on as well as what campaign type they will be. The latter option involving a character that can be revived for a price (normal), and one (hardcore) which will experience perma-death upon death.

As far as the modes go you will find two that are unlocked as you reach certain requirements in the base game. There's a mode called 'Scenario' in which your level 27 or higher character can fight against level 30 enemies for epic gear drops as well as a mode known as, 'Neverending Story' which allows you to continue the base campaign with a leveled up character after having beaten the original story mode. In the 'Neverending Story' enemies will continue to grow in strength while you remain the same having to rely purely on skill. Both extra modes offer something in the way of extended play, and will keep you invested if you can figure out a character build that will help you avoid the inevitable death by mobs that happen all too frequently.

The Verdict ...

Despite being an extended edition with added content that was formerly paid for DLC I'm finding myself once again frustrated with the game. The menu system which takes in account several character aspects related to both Van Helsing, and Katarina is overly complicated. It should have been structured in a simpler branching manner where certain things were unlocked in a certain order. This would have streamlined the process of getting your character fit, and ready for the battles ahead. Even if the developer only did this for some needed base skills, and stat upgrades at the start it would have been a much less aggravating learning experience deeper into the game. Aside from that the abusive AI that flusterclucks you often should not be that way, especially with a mechanics upgrade system that can be managed poorly for the current enemy threats. The gameplay, and story advancement should have been paced in a mutually complimentary way.

For those reasons alone I find it terribly difficult to even consider recommending this game. It had potential, and wasn't a total washout, but it could have been much better than it was. At this point I would have thought NeocoreGames would have read the reviews, and fixed the problems instead of simply porting over past experiences. Sadly, they let me down once again. If you cannot learn from your mistakes, and improve upon them then move on to something you can do. Hopefully they can sort it out at some point in some other game. NeocoreGames as a studio still has potential. They simply need a different creative direction in regards to such mechanics choices. Here's to hoping they impress us in the future!

Recommendation: Pass on it

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