Young Abraham Van Helsing and Lady Katarina are back in action. After playing the original game, my expectations where sky-high. Being released only a year after its forerunner and being The Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing a tough act to follow, doubts beset me. Would The Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing II be a marked improvement over its predecessor or would it only be a clone of the original game? Like Van Helsing would do, I put on my wide-brimmed hat, grabbed my weapons and set on a journey to discover the truth.
The Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing II
The Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing 2 is an action-RPG like his progenitor before him. Naturally, it remains on the same roll call as games like Torchlight or Titan Quest, Diablo II, and (of course!) its prequel . It was developed and published by Neocore Games, a Hungarian game developer which has also developed the King Arthur series, The King’s Crusade and a game called Deathtrap.
On arrival, the game gives players the chance to import the character from the previous Van Helsing game, start another character at Level 30 or to create one from scratch in Level 1. The story picks up right where the first game’s ending left it. After defeating Professor Fulmigati and his mechanized minion, the Doomsday Automaton, Young Van Helsing returns to the township of Borgovia to find it under heavy siege. After an ignominious defeat, Van Helsing and his allies are forced to retreat to an underground lair. Joined by troops and Generals, Van Helsing will be tasked with mounting a full scale assault to retake the capital of Borgovia with the help of a mysterious stranger known to the world only as “Prisoner Seven”. Is he an enemy or a friend? Does he have ulterior motives? A new adventure, far more dangerous and exciting than the previous one begins.
The first item you’ll notice is the variety of the new skills. Just a quick look at the skill tree gives a showcase to the enormous selection of possible character builds. The previous title presented the Hunter class with the main game, offering players The Arcane Mechanic, and the Thaumaturge classes via paid downloadable content. Van Helsing II offers up these classes with the main game, but these classes are just the tip of the iceberg. There are now over 200 active skills (rising from merely 40) as well as all of the modifiers that you can attach to the main powers. These can create a huge variety of classes that NeocoreGames is to be commended for, making every gameplay altogether different. Those powers really come in handy, as there are far more powerful enemies to vanquish this occasion.
In terms of combat, Van Helsing II is an archetypal action-RPG. If you have played one recently, you have the exact idea of what you are getting into. Van Helsing II expands on the standard formula by giving the player a overabundance of skills that they can mix and match in any way they can possibly think of. Point and click combat works pretty straightforward on the first levels, though you’ll likely find that sticking with just a few skills gives you a better chance at survival than random low level powers at the later stages. The five pre-built veteran character classes are already pretty well rounded against the dangers ahead, so newcomers to the genre may wish to start there until they understand the extended scope of the new skills environment.
A plain, yet precise thing to declare about Van Helsing II is that it has more from about anything that made Van Helsing into a great game. More enemy types, more character classes, more humor, more weapons, more skills, more storyline, more anything! Even the Tower defense minigame was expanded greatly, though it remains an totally optional segment of the game. Lady Katarina also got an upgrade, giving players better autonomy to control her actions and a better approach to equipment comparison. The addition of a secret lair, rune-crafting, and easter eggs everywhere shows just how much Neocore Games chose to pack into this sequel. At only $15 full-price (a quarter of a typical AAA release price of $60), cheaper than most games even at a discount price it has a hell lot of content!
The Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing was already beautiful, but NeocoreGames worked a lot with the game’s engine to add visual features that were absent from the original game. The most obvious visual adjustment has to be the addition of dynamic weather, but a quick comparison of the forest areas (for example) in Van Helsing I and Van Helsing II shows just how much extra level of detail they decided to put into the environments. The grim and dark villages and forests, along with the mixture of science and technology alongside a dash of the potential of steampunk design gives the developer a lot of room to generate appealing visual content, and they did an excellent job. We can now explore levels vertically, and that lets us experience Borgovia in new ways. Even when Van Helsing finds himself revisiting areas that were originally seen in the first game, they are ravaged by the civil war, and that gives them an original sensation.
There are some visual issues, some clipping occurs and some textures behave erratically (sometimes disappearing altogether). Similarly, the multiplayer client has stability issues, putting off players from taking advantage of the new co-op or player vs. player multiplayer modes. I also experienced some screen tearing during more scenes charged with explosions and a lot of characters. The frame-rate was always stable, but there are a few minor bugs in the engine, clearly.
The voice acting was great during The Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing and it is also great during this sequel. They managed to get the same voice actors from the first game that provide their voices to Van Helsing and Lady Katarina. The dialogues are sharper and wittier, and much of the game’s plot is delivered through narration by Van Helsing himself. Van Helsing also likes to argue a lot with Katarina. Sometimes about trivial matters, sometimes about their new ally Prisoner Seven, and every now and then dropping some pop culture-inspired jokes. There is also some fourth-wall breaking by Katarina, which is totally hilarious. Paraphrasing my previous review: The voice acting is great, with the perfect mixture of seriousness and funny – this time such mixture is even more perfect than the time before.
I had a really pleasurable time playing The Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing II and I’ll probably enjoy some more to keep experimenting with the character classes and the skills. While technical issues were bothersome, the well-crafted writing and voice work kept me going. In Van Helsing II, every gameplay is a new experience and that gives this game a replay value absent in many modern titles. Van Helsing and Lady Katarina are back – with a vengeance – so don’t stand in their way and help them achieve their goal! I am utterly expecting the final title of the Van Helsing Trilogy releasing shortly.