If you’re a PC gamer looking for a hack-and-slash, click-to-death action RPG, your options are quite plenty. Despite the controversy surrounding it, Diablo III and its recent expansion are enjoyed by many. Looking for something cheaper and less DRM-y? Torchlight II can be had for 20 bones (less in a Steam sale) and it gives fantastic bang for the buck. Fancy a free-to-pay option without having to invest anything at all? Surprisingly, Path of Exile fits the bill rather nicely.
So why would anyone with these options be interested in the sequel to The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing? Much less, a property that has anything to do with Van Helsing?
It does its best to impress with its fun, if ultimately cheese-inducing, characters, while having some solid gameplay mechanics and dungeons to back it up.
As it turns out, Hungarian developer Neocore Games has crafted a fairly competent addition to the genre. While it doesn’t dramatically shake the foundations we’ve come to know and expect, it does its best to impress with its fun, if ultimately cheese-inducing, characters, while having some solid gameplay mechanics and dungeons to back it up.
The story of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II is a direct continuation of the first title; leaving its namesake protagonist, and his ghostly (and tremendously wordy) partner Lady Katarina, saved by a masked entity known as Prisoner Seven. Who happens to swear on his best Dr. Claw voice impersonation that he’s totally not evil… really! Van Helsing must now unite with what’s left of the resistance forces to fend off some other politically driven big wig general – something about steampunk science and European folk tales thrown in the middle – and you never even get to TALK to this guy. No sinister monologues or hero taunting to match the snarky banter of Van and Katarina? Talk about anti-climatic.
Aside from getting to pick from three classes at the start, you can also import your previous character or a pre-defined one with a much higher level.
Van Helsing II’s overall narrative is solely driven by the numerous conversations had between its main characters and the occasional NPC. This is not just conveyed through dialogue scenes where you’re given some bit of control in the choices you make towards your battles, but also while battles themselves take place. At times, it’s charming to hear Helsing and Katarina giving commentary in respects to the local scenery, or bringing up some out-of-nowhere pop culture reference, but whenever you’re in the thick of fights, it’s fairly bothersome and borderline inaudible to the sounds of slaying beasties.
Aside from getting to pick from three classes at the start, you also have the option of importing your previous character or a pre-defined one with a much higher level. Van Helsing II provides ample stats and toggles to fidget with, with a large skill tree for yourself and your companion, Lady Katarina. Allocating skill points is a simple enough process, and you’ll always look forward to it, but leveling up isn’t the only way to grow in strength. By increasing your hunter reputation, you’ll acquire points to spend on perk unlocks that can earn you more skill points for you and your companion.
It may not have the biggest of production values, but Van Helsing II provides some good art direction to complement its harrowing locations and creatures.
Of particular note is the Rage system, which works as another sort of magic bar for you to consume, only instead, Rage is mostly spent as a way to activate skill modifiers, which you then enable by unlocking newer skills. Rage points are given when defeating enemies, but they don’t auto-regenerate. It’s a subtle but interesting addition, and helps provide some variation to your on-going resource management.
And speaking of management! You’ll have some side diversions to partake in while operating out of your home base. You can assign specific Borgovian troops to missions, mostly comprised of a text description and nothing more, and reap the benefits, assuming things go according to plan. It’s not particularly memorable, save for the hearty sound bites your resistance troops will deliver upon selecting them.
It may not have the biggest of production values, but Van Helsing II provides some good art direction to complement its harrowing locations and creatures. Fighting doesn’t only feel satisfying, but looks as much, thanks to the various spell effects and bloody gibs flying about. Scenery plays a big part, as you’ll have plenty of space to wander around and soak in. Traversing terrain never really feels restrictive, whereas exploration genuinely feels rewarding.
Along with PvP and four-player co-op, there are plenty of side-quests, activities and difficulty settings to keep you engaged past the main campaign.
During the journey, however, there were times my game would hang when things got visually cramped. Thanks to the myriad of checkpoints, this never really became a huge problem, but will certainly frustrate those who don’t expect it. Load times were something of a problem initially, but were slowly reduced via post-patch support. Still, in a vast sea of point-and-click action RPGs out there, it’s fantastic to have one like this with Steam Play cross support.
Despite its rather uninspiring and typical approach to sounding off whatever antagonist was established in the main story, it’s clear the end game is where fans will want to invest their time. Along with PvP and four-player co-op, there are plenty of side-quests, activities and difficulty settings to keep you engaged past the main campaign’s 14-hour-plus duration. Whether you can shake the feeling of déjà vu from other similarly themed titles largely depends on how much you value The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II’s unapologetic eccentricity and lip-service to gothic architecture.