June 30, 2014 by Ryan Ward
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II is the second helping of action RPG fun brought to us by NeoCore. This time around we are treated to a larger, more complete experience with improved character classes and game mechanics to keep even the most critical gamers occupied. Van Helsing II offers a great experience for both newcomers to the genre and seasoned veterans.
The ending of the original Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing left players with a cliffhanger about what this new installment would have in store for our hero. Well, just as one uber-villain is defeated, so soon a new one will rise to take his place. Enter General Harker, a consistent threat throughout the game as his army is pushing closer and closer to finding your hidden lair. Whenever he gets too close it is time for Van Helsing to take a break from the normal story to deploy traps and defend his home turf. However, if you don’t feel like making the trip home you can always deploy some of your trusted pals in the Borgovan Resistance to push back the advances for you.
Another new addition to this installment are timed missions that can be completed by a roster of special agents. You select who you feel is most well-suited for the mission and send them off. Successful missions award loot and experience points. While this is only a small time-sink of a mini-game, it lends itself to the game’s storyline of a resistance rising up against a powerful foe.
The original Van Helsing was frequently critiqued as having too similar of map layouts that lead to a boring experience by the third or fourth location. This time around NeoCore has upped the variety with a nice smattering of wilderness, villages, underground layers, war-torn fronts, and steampunk cityscapes.
The biggest improvement from the original is the addition of improved character classes. While the Thaumaturge and Arcane Mechanic showed up in DLC for the first game, they are included and more complex in this sequel. There are all-new abilities available for characters from level 30 – 60 that allow much deeper and more complex character crafting and customization.
Van Helsing II does a lot right, but it also misses the mark on a few key ARPG necessities. Enemy attacks feel shallow and do not convey the damage being done to your character in a meaningful way. It isn’t uncommon to be beaten to death without any idea that you are in a dangerous situation. Keeping your eye on your health bar is a necessity and takes away from the focus on gameplay. Also, the game’s stats system is shallower than other contemporary ARPG games. While this might be a good thing for newcomers to the genre, it alienates a lot of the core market who love to number crunch and min/max their characters.
NeoCore has also brought back co-op and PvP, neither of which work great. We had a lot of issues trying to join other random players’ games through the matchmaking system, and there were never any PvP games to join. If you have a friend to play with, then jumping in and out of their games works for the most part, but don’t expect to have a great multiplayer experience if you’re coming to the party alone and trying to join up with others.
Overall, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II is an improvement over the original in all respects; however, it does still carry some disadvantages versus other titles in the category. For its price and amount of content it still delivers a better than average ARPG experience with a decent amount of replayability and lots of monster-smashing fun. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II gets 3.5 out of 5 stars (Very Good).