The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II
Hot on the heels of last years’ cult PC hit, Hungarian development team Neocore Games have quickly followed up The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing with this straight-up sequel. Those who played the first game will know the score and, handily, can get a leg up with this instalment; stats from the previous game can be uploaded here to get things moving along quickly. Newbies will need to follow the standard in-game tutorial malarkey but fortunately Van Helsing caters nicely enough to both parties.
Played out as an isometric RPG hack ‘n’ slash, Van Helsing’s main obstacle is in balancing out its genre tropes to a satisfying effect. On the RPG side there’s certainly plenty to do, with a raft of potential upgrades thrust at the player from the get-go. There’s further appeal from doling out power-ups to your ghostly companion, Lady Katarina, ensuring the game’s core audience are unlikely to go hungry when feasting on all those stats.
Sadly the combat side of play feels a little staid by comparison. Van Helsing and his companion can certainly hack and slash up there with the best of them, but the perpetually bustling battlegrounds can feel too claustrophobic whilst the actual contact of combat doesn’t feel like it carries much weight or, beyond the constant flash of fading health points, like it is doing much damage. This may be more a critique of the genre rather than the game itself but Van Helsing feels particularly guilty of treating combat like an afterthought.
RPG enthusiasts will likely approach this flaw as a means to an end in order to get to the deeper play but for everyone else it can make this aspect of play feel a little too light. However, there are some nice touches elsewhere, such as defence tower-style side-missions and optional fetch-quests using computer AI. By their nature they aren’t entirely essential to moving gameplay forward but they certainly add a nice touch. Aesthetically, Van Helsing is pleasing enough and the generous use of voice acting treads a fine balance between being portentous and somewhat tongue-in-cheek.
All in, Van Helsing II will likely please its core audience as much as its predecessor. There are oodles of branching power trees and character classes to customise and the ties with the first game will make purchasing this a no-brainer for those already accustomed to Neocore’s wares. Those with less of an RPG bent will be unlikely to gain much joy from the combat, which is a pity as The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II proves a very polished, deep and enjoyable experience beyond those limitations.