The original Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing came out of nowhere last year and feature an original setting and a highly-polished gameplay experience. Developer Neocore Games recently invited journalists to its offices in Budapest, Hungary to play a beta version of upcoming The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II. The game's website proudly proclaims that The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II will "not just be a collection of a dozen new maps and monsters, but a true sequel," which from my five hours with the beta I have to agree with that statement. I was initially worried of the game's close release proximity to the original just last year, but I'm happy to report that with the various new features it can easily be defined as a true sequel.
Familiar, Yet New
The most significant change from the original game is the ability to select from multiple classes at the game's beginning. While the original Hunter class still relies on his trusty set of sword and shield, the magic-based Thaumaturge utilizes a range of powerful spells in addition to staffs and other magic-infused weapons and the Arcane Mechanic employs the use of various steampunk devices of assault and support. I experimented with both the Hunter and Thaumaturge classes. Returning from the original game is the sheer number of active and passive skills that ensure each player can customize characters to their preferred play style.
My Thaumaturge build used long-range magic spells that employed great deals of area damage, while also having a staff just in case enemies got closer. After playing through the five hour beta section with the Thaumaturge class I wanted to jump right back to the beginning and try out the Arcane Mechanic as well, which I see as a testament to the final game in regards to extended replay value.
The sequel's narrative continues immediately after the events of the previous game returning Van Helsing back into the fight to save the world of Borgovia from even more monsters, mechanical contraptions, and now a corrupt military general. Also returning is Van Helsing's trusty companion Lady Katarina along with the new and mysterious Prisoner Seven, which for the duration of the beta served as a quest guide of where to go next in the narrative. While the relationship between Van Helsing and Lady Katarina is still as humorous as it was in the original game, the test subject Prisoner Seven adds a nice balance to the narrative between moments of humor and drama. Another refreshing aspect of the game's narrative was the addition of more player choices in certain situations to decide the final outcomes. While the choices might not be as far reaching as say the Mass Effect series, it was still a welcome feature to be able to select Van Helsing's decision upon a particular quest's outcome, even if it ended in the morally-wrong choice.
Home Sweet Home
In contrast from the previous game, Van Helsing from the game's beginning gains access once again to his Hunter's Lair that serves as a continual city hub with various quest givers, merchants, and crafting forges. As well, the Hunter's Lair now serves as the resistance's base of operations which enables the player to manage their officers and troops, send them on various missions, and improve their equipment for future battles. I was able to find a couple new resistance members during my playthrough that ultimately provided additional side quest to complete. The original tower defense mode is also advertised to return with extended and improved features, but it wasn't included in our beta version of the game. Another new element to the Hunter's Lair is the addition of a Hall of Trophies that expands upon the game's trophy system, which previously were only showcased on the player's character. With the sequel, trophies collected for the hall add global modifiers to the game that can affect Van Helsing, Lady Katarina, and even monsters. The Hall of Trophies also unfortunately wasn't on display in the beta version, but I look forward to collecting and displaying items in the final game.
The environments in the original game were a strong factor in the game's success as not only were they highly-detailed and beautiful to slay monsters in, they were also diverse and unique in comparison with other action role-playing games. The world of Borgovia is expanded in the sequel with areas ranging from snowy mountain paths to additional locations in the capital city of Borgova. Level areas also contain just as many side quests as before, possibly even more in certain areas, which ensure players will have plenty of objectives to complete. Loot enthusiasts will be happier to hear that the variety of items dropped from enemies is even more diverse and not completely dependent on the player's current class, which encourages creating multiple characters in each of the various classes.
While the game's visuals aren't a far departure from the original Van Helsing, the overall presentation has undergone major improvements in nearly every area. The user interface in particular has been completely redesigned to offer better access to the additional skills. Both the visuals and sound weren't completely polished yet in the beta version we played, yet I particularly enjoyed the new environments and the wonderful voice acting of Van Helsing and Lady Katarina. My only reservation at this point is that with all of the improvements and added features, the gameplay in certain areas still felt a bit too similar. Hopefully with the game's later sections the level environments are more diverse and expand outside the original locations.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II brought back many of my great memories from the original game, while still feeling as the developers described a "true sequel." I'm especially excited to continue the ever-exciting journey of Van Helsing and Lady Katarina. What impressed me the most was the developer's commitment to selling the game for the same price as the original, but with even more content and a more polished gameplay experience. It was evident from walking through the offices at Neocore Games and speaking with the various staff members that The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II is a labor of love and ultimately they want to deliver a product that includes all of the original game's best elements, yet expands the series in new and exciting paths.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II will be available on May 22 for Windows PC.
Travel and accommodations were provided by Neocore Games.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
I've been writing for Gaming Nexus since 2011 and focus primarily on PC games and hardware. I'm a strong advocate of independent developers and am always seeking the next genre-breaking and unique game release. My favorite game genres are strategy, role-playing, and massively multiplayer online, or any games that feature open worlds and survival elements. View Profile