One of the fun things about reviewing video games is that occasionally you’ll get to try out games that you’d otherwise probably never play. For me, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II is one of those games. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II is an Action RPG sequel to, you guessed it, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing and was released on May 22nd, 2014. What made Van Helsing II an even more unlikely play for me was the fact that it was originally going to be reviewed by another writer. Due to a scheduling mishap, I’m playing the role of backup reviewer today as we look at whether or not this sequel is able to meet or exceed the quality of the original.
As ARPG games go, the Diablo series is the king of the genre. Every few years though, challengers to that title step up to the plate in an attempt to dethrone Blizzard’s popular series. The original Van Helsing won praise from players despite some complaints about various issues. For this second time up at bat, Neocore Games is hoping to right all of their previous wrongs with The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II.
As a player with no prior experience with the series, I was thankful that Van Helsing II gives new players a brief but in-depth overview of what exactly happened in the first game. Players already familiar with the story will likely find the recap to be short enough to not be overly annoying. Pretty quickly we’re thrust right into the action as we’re once again tasked with saving the city of Borgovia. Accompanied by your companion, Lady Katarina, Van Helsing seemingly has his work cut out for himself again.
One aspect of the original game that is greatly improved this time around is the player classes. Instead of the single available class, Van Helsing II allows players to choose from 3 classes, 2 of which were later available as DLC for the first game. The classic Hunter, Thaumaturge, and Arcane Mechanic create a unique set of classes that players can fully customize to their hearts content. Players of the original game may import their previous character into the sequel, which is always nice if happen to have a character you’ve grown particularly fond to. You may also choose to begin the game as a level 30 veteran character with many of your key skills already squared away. Naturally, players may also opt for the classic starting at level 1 path that allows you to choose from one of the 3 classes and start off fresh.
In addition to the robust character creation, Van Helsing II also features 5 levels of various difficulty as well as a Hardcore mode for those of us who like it a bit risky. The point in all of this is that Van Helsing II features a huge amount of diversity in both its characters and difficulty. Players will really appreciate the revised systems in the second game. The runecrafting and rage systems round out a diverse feature set that really allows players to tinker with their character to a tremendous degree. Regardless of your playstyle, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll find something to love about the way one of the classes performs. Neocore Games have really raised the bar both on themselves and their competition with the options available to players in Van Helsing II.
Combat feels intuitive and enjoyable. Players should enjoy the beautifully done visual effects from the various player skills, there’s over 200 of them by the way. The surrounding world in Van Helsing II is among the best I’ve seen in an ARPG to date. I found the different areas in the game to be immersive and expansive, yet mysterious and dark at the same time. The world feels alive in a really fun way that’s rarely achieved in ARPGs, much more so than the endless caves and tiny walkways that Diablo III is able to accomplish.
One element that is likely to stick out to most players is the comedic dialogue between Van Helsing and Lady Katarina. Despite being firmly set in a steampunk 19th-century universe, Van Helsing II manages to mix in a large amount of witty pop-culture references. Sometimes you’ll encounter a subtle joke, other times you’ll be “Saving Private Bryan”. Regardless of how in-your-face the writers choose to deliver the joke, the clever yet anachronistic dialogue never actually took away from the game. I found myself enjoying the light-heartedness of the game in a way that I’d never be able to with something like Diablo and its insanely serious nature.
Making its return is an expanded Tower Defense mini-game that gives players an insanely fun optional scenario that is sure to be a hit with players across the board. A mix of strategy and micromanagement gameplay elements help to shake up the ARPG landscape in some pretty major ways. If countless hours of linear questing have made you wary of committing to another ARPG any time soon, Van Helsing II may just be a game that you’ll want to look into. In a lot of ways the game is an anti-Diablo with it’s wealth of customization, skills, tongue-in-cheek dialogue, and optional quests. Check it out if you like to party.