Following up on their surprising (and impressive) isometric, dungeon-crawling, RPG, Neocore games has recently released The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II, a game that takes many cues from the original, while injecting a few new twists to try and make it feel like a new title. With new characters, new set pieces, and new gameplay elements, the game should feel like a genuine sequel. The overall gameplay and the reused scenery is what acts as a hurdle though, and will have you second-guessing whether you’re enjoying yourself or not.
The game starts off slower than I’d like, with Van Helsing and his ghostly companion Katarina reintroducing themselves to the player with the playful, sarcastic banter that entertained throughout the first title. You’re not locked into one class this time, either. Instead of playing as a Hunter, you’re also introduced to the Thaumaturge, a magic-wielding badass, and the Arcane Mechanic, a sort of steampunk greasemonkey who is adept with gadgets.
Being a Van Helsing, the plot essentially writes itself: kill monsters and unnatural things. Of course, for most of us that’s enough, but others need some semblance of a story. And that’s why we see General Harker, the military strategist who’s hell-bent on destroying Borgova, your homeland. It’s up to you to lead the resistance against the General and his army in order to stop the siege on the city.
The biggest disappointment was seeing the resistances home base. It’s the same assets from the first game. The layout is the same. Merchants and other NPCs are standing in the same place, your teleporter hasn’t moved, it’s essentially the same assets used over to save time, and that cheapens the experience.
There are some additions though, like your new chimera who, in my game, was dubbed “Fluffy”. You’re also introduced to three new NPCs who act as the resistance army’s captains. Each of these newcomers, including Fluffy, can be sent off to complete missions. While the Captains each earn experience to level up, Fluffy is the only one who will actually bring items back to your hideout. The Captains seem like a great addition at first, but by the end of the game you realize that they really offer no additional gameplay value and didn’t seem to open up any sidequests for you to complete.
Being an isometric RPG, comparisons inevitably come back to the king of the genre, Diablo. With The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II however, you’ll find a more linear experience. The worlds certainly look magnificent and truly embrace steampunk over high fantasy, but the levels themselves seem narrower and more tunnel-like.
Combat was quite a chore as well, even on normal or hard difficulties. For players who expect to stand toe-to-toe with enemies, you’ll want a back-up plan for ranged combat. That’s because enemies can end you in just a couple of seconds. That’s due to the absolute torrent of bad guys who want you dead at every corner. I understand that you’re battling an army, but the amount of enemies was simply excessive.
Unlike most games, I think The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II starts slow and then picks up decent steam (pardon the pun) during the middle of the game. The ending, particularly the boss fight, was a nightmare that seemed intent on having players run around more than actually fight, and while that was consistent throughout the game, the final battle was particularly bothersome.
Still, if you’re a fan of the first or you’ve developed a knack for games like this, you’ll enjoy playing with your friends online and taking advantage of the mindless combat. If you’re looking for deep story though, you might want to look elsewhere.
Overall score: 6.5 out of 10