The monsters are coming! Kill them all!!
Developers NeocoreGames are certainly no strangers to delving into the adventures of the iconic monster hunter Van Helsing, with two games already under their belts on Xbox One. But now they’re casting their titular character aside to focus on a tower defense and RPG hybrid game, still set in the main man’s crazy world. Considering the generally mixed response to the other games, how will World of Van Helsing: Deathtrap fare? Will the lack of a lead character be detrimental to its success?
Deathtrap was supposed to be released a couple of years ago, and for whatever reasons it didn’t. I’d forgotten about it, until the announcement came that its launch would feature as part of the Games With Gold scheme. This seemed like a good idea, especially to someone as apprehensive towards tower defense games as me. That free period is now over, but don’t let that put you off; at least let me tell you all about it before making your mind up.
I won’t sugar coat it, the story of Deathtrap isn’t exactly memorable, nor does it particularly enhance proceedings. Basically, you are charged with defending the passageway between the dark world of Ink and the ordinary one, ensuring none of the horrors make it past your labyrinth-like strongholds. That’s all you need to know as any other lore is text-based and goes into small detail about the background of the location you’re about to defend. You’ll be glad to know, Deathtrap easily gets by without a decent narrative.
So, there’s a main campaign featuring 13 different maps to test your skills upon, each of which will throw wave after wave of monsters at you – all of whom are desperate to reach the portal to the normal world. Depending on the difficulty chosen, you can earn one, two, or three stars for successfully keeping the creatures at bay in these mysterious forts. You’ll be allowed a set amount of monsters that can breach the defences before you fail; because after all, what harm could a few hellish beings cause? Fear not though, I am a worthy protector.
There are certain points on the battlefield where traps can be built, and I was pleasantly surprised at the variation and ingenuity of them. For the mere cost of in-game Essence, the likes of spiky traps, fire pits, summoned beastly allies, gun turrets and even rotating slicing machinery can all be constructed as aids; some of which will need to be unlocked via progression. These traps are upgradable using skill points, with options such as increasing damage output or simply lessening the cost of purchase – Essence doesn’t grow on trees, in fact it comes from killing monsters, so be sure to make them all perish!
Traps are great, but these alone won’t help you to survive and this is where the real action comes in. No longer do you just tinker with the well-placed traps like in other tower defense games, now you can actually throw yourself into the mix, in the form of a Sorceress, a Marksman, or a Mercenary. Deciding which one to choose depends on your combative natures; if you want to get up close and personal, then the tank-like Mercenary is the best choice, whereas picking off the enemies from distance is more suited, quite naturally, to the Marksman. For me, it has to be the mystical Sorceress who wins the day. Although she struggles in close combat, she dominates from range with lightning strikes and is able to manipulate areas with slow-down, causing mass damage to many at once.
The control of another component of the action, unlike other games of this nature, is what ultimately won me over – there’s only so much of a thrill that can be gained from watching machines and contraptions do all the deadly destruction. There’s only so much of a thrill that can be gained from watching machines and contraptions do all the deadly destruction. The traps in Deathtrap almost have to be used as a preventative method to hold back the hordes and so when it gets frantic with an enemy or two about to reach the portal, there’s a real adrenaline rush from freezing them to death with an ice blast at the last second. Strategic planning comes into play also as the ability cool-down weighs on your mind; debating whether to use your best one regularly, hoping it’s ready to use again when a beasty boss comes from the depths of hell is a constant worry.
Much like the traps, characters level up and have skill points to distribute into improving their abilities and the wealth of choices is impressive. Should the lightning strike need lengthening to zap more enemies or the summoned serpent need its damage boosting, it’s all possible. The amount of abilities to unlock offers a decent array of choice, and Deathtrap will allow you to stipulate which button to assign six of them to.
The only aspect that lets a character down is in the customisation; this is despite the option to loot items to wear such as armour, weapons, amulets etc. Sadly, after many hours of play, I’m yet to find or craft – yeah there’s a simple crafting station too – any worthwhile items. To be frank, aside from minimal buffs, they all seem the same to me during skirmishes, from the starting rank to 20 and beyond.
Fortunately, a lot more effort has been put into the vast amount of different enemies – so many I’ve lost count – which try to keep wave after wave fresh and dynamic. There’s an entire encyclopaedia to study, outlining the strengths and weakness of the undead, the mechanical, and the mystical. Glacier Golems are really tough to overcome as they take a whole load less damage than other creatures, however, a quick gander can lead to figuring out they can’t handle the piercing traps very well. It’s not a necessity to do your homework, but it helps prepare for when the going gets tough.
What’s there to do after working through the main campaign though? Well, you could head online to do it all again in co-op, which I can assure you is thoroughly good fun second time round with a friend or three. That’s not so much the case with a random player, who can refuse the actual start of a map, rendering the host’s powers useless though – that’s if anyone even joins. For some reason, there doesn’t seem to be many roaming the online realm, thus versus mode is unpopular too. Versus mode basically has one player taking control of any of the creatures on the battlefield, whilst the other player rides the storm to keep the opponent at bay.
As for solo play, that’s where the longevity is at the moment, mainly due to the opening up of new maps beyond the initial 13 which play as scenario type levels. The campaign maps can be used for these scenarios too, and the choice is yours as to how many game-changers you want to turn on, giving you the chance to earn larger amounts of experience and being gifted better loot in the process. Other than that, the endless mode just makes you face waves for as long as you can hold out with further difficulty levels unlocked for the main campaign
Although World of Van Helsing: Deathtrap looks very drab and appears to be just another tower defense game with a gimmick, playing it will cast these negative thoughts away because the enjoyment factor and depth to the whole thing cannot be ignored and really should be praised. Slight aiming problems aside, the controls are easy to learn and abilities are always on display with their corresponding buttons which alleviates having to memorise them. The vast amount of different traps, monsters, abilities and map layouts keep the excitement flowing for hours and hours, with plenty to do long after completing the campaign for the first time. Online isn’t too popular, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great, so be sure to grab a few mates and get stuck in.
To sweeten the deal, NeocoreGames have already been providing free updates with fixes and new features for your gaming pleasures. This is a Deathtrap you should fall into; it’s not the greatest game ever made, but it’s certainly a good one and will offer value for your cash.