The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II Reviews

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    Please note I play a lot of these games on my 'review' tag, and often before achievements are live. As with all of my reviews, the verdict below is based purely on my personal time with the game. My reviews are not influenced by general opinions, they do not draw reference to other people’s experiences (unless I’m reviewing couch co-op play), nor are they based on any one particular element; rather they are an account of my own experiences, and as a result are entirely subjective – as they should be! I try to be as spoiler-free as possible, but in the interest of providing an honest account, some reveals may be necessary. Enjoy smile

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    Back in the days when analogue controllers were first becoming widely available for consoles, primarily with the advent of the Dual Shock pad for the PS1, I remember thinking precise controls for top down games would work really well. Surprisingly, over the years, not many ARPGS made the leap to consoles. We had Diablo on the PS1, but since then it’s been rather sporadic. We never got Diablo II, or the original Sacred, or the superb (and ripe for ‘consoling’) Titan Quest. We never even got the low-budget games, such as Silverfall. Sacred 2 made the leap, and I’m grateful for that, having put over 250 hours into the Xbox 360 version, as did the superb Torchlight. Then came a handful of rather hit and miss download only titles; an average bunch at best.

    Over in PC land, a trilogy of games about a famous monster hunter began making the rounds, and garnered some attention via word of mouth and Steam Sales. After quite a while, the first part of that trilogy – The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing – was ported to consoles. And here, at long last, we have the second part of the trilogy, aptly suffixed ‘II’. So, how does it fare?

    It all seemed so simple: defeat the mad scientist, free the land and ride into the sunset, but sometimes the fall of a villain only opens the way to more sinister foes. So the incredible adventures continue, and Van Helsing, the famous monster-hunter returns to save the day again with the help of his charming companion, Lady Katarina. The gothic metropolis of weird science is on the brink of destruction as chaos rules the streets and a new enemy plots revenge. It’s time to enter the dark side of Borgovia and the forbidden wilderness, but beware: you are not the only one behind a mask… So says the games press release, at any rate.

    By and large, it’s the exact same game as the first one. Of course the locations are different and the story continues on, but the gameplay, graphics, sound and physics remain unchanged. A game which looks so average running on the Xbox One shouldn’t stutter and stall, and when playing the original it was one of the first things which ground my gears: The badly optimised Unity engine running in a jarring, stop-start fashion. You would think the developers would have taken the time between releases to polish this for a console release, but no, it’s exactly the same here.

    There are some great diversions to the hack n slash formula to be found in the sequel however. There’s a tower defence game of sorts, with enemies invading in waves. You have the opportunity to defend your Lair and other strategic locations with deployable traps and several upgradable functions to ward off evil, presented as optional side quests.

    Thankfully, the gameplay is nice, tight and responsive, and having the option to import your character from part I means you can develop your slightly convoluted mix of skills, perks, companion skills and stats even further. This remains as confusing as ever, though, with skills having passive and active modifiers which can be leveled up to provide additional effects in battle, which are preloaded with the right thumbstick and then unleashed via a hit on LB. Once you get this technique down, it can prove deeply tactical and provide an edge in battle, but it’s explained very poorly in-game.

    Unfortunately, this tends to be a running theme with the series. There’s a lot of really cool stuff and genuinely unique ideas running through it, but the obtusely explained tutorials are very little help. For the first few hours, you’ll find yourself bumbling through the game having no idea what you’re doing aside from switching between basic ranged and melee attacks.

    This is a huge shame, as beneath the stuttering game engine and rubbish tutorials, there’s a game ripe with invention, fantastic features and a massively flexible character builder. The way you can rearrange skills to suit your own play style is unmatched, even by the juggernaut that is Diablo III. With perseverance, you’ll have a moment of clarity where it suddenly clicks, and you realise everything you’re trying to do is working as it should. It’s a Eureka moment, and it changes the game completely – you are no longer the sheep, you are the shepherd, and your skills are your flock, obeying your every command and doing exactly what you want them to. The real issue is, many people won’t persevere until that point, as the confusion will lead to frustration which in turn will lead to uninstalling the game.

    For those of us who do stick with it, there are a lot of really cool ideas which break up the ARPG kill ‘n’ loot grind. You have a companion with you, with her own set of skills, for the entire game. You can edit her default behaviour in a surprisingly deep way, changing her AI routines so she is more of a healer, or a defensive guardian. If you like you can make her your aggressive sheepdog, charging into battle to take down the strongest foes first.

    There’s multiplayer here to, for those who get occasionally lonely: You and your friends can test your skills against each other via the PVP mode, or join forces and complete the story in the co-operative campaign for up to four players.

    All-in-all, what we have here is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s a game where the developer’s ideas outshine their ability to explain them to the player. A game where the budget doesn’t match the ambition. A game with hidden depths and amazing tactical options which remain obscurely hidden behind an almost impenetrable wall. It’s no good having a game which does so much so well, only to keep it hidden beneath layers of obfuscation. With a little more time spent teaching the player how it all works, this could have been an awesome experience.
    Showing only comment.
    Shadow 00 FoxBuuuuuut.... what about the achievements?
    Posted by Shadow 00 Fox On 12 Dec 16 at 08:17
  • dudecrazy108dudecrazy108376,679
    02 Dec 2016
    3 7 5
    The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II is a game that consoles really need but sadly doesn't accomplish all that it has the potential to.

    The game picks up directly right after the first game ends and calling this one a sequel is a stretch with this one feeling like DLC or just a longer section to the first game. If you have a character from the first game level 30 or higher you can import them otherwise you can choose from several classes to play as such as your standard more warrior type class, a mage class, and a mage that is more technical and gadget prone. Game play is okay and quickly turns into just creating room between you and enemies trying to kill them while healing yourself. It's standard here and while not being great is decent enough to pass by.

    From the start though the game almost instantly kills itself. The beginning section of the game is overly long and tedious to the point where it becomes boring. Having to drag through the opening section sucked almost all fun and excitement from the game. Outside of that the game is the standard Diablo type loot RPG you've come to expect. You constantly are in the grind to level up and defeat increasingly tougher enemies and gain better loot to progress forward. All that brings it to a downfall that the first game had as well is that the game as a large difficulty spike and continues to increase that. You'll soon find that you are swarmed by enemies much stronger than you are and that they attack at a faster pace and with more damage then you have time to heal so prepare to die a lot.

    You will level up at a fair pace though but using your points to level up can be overwhelming because of large skill trees and subsections to each skill. Since you can level up ranged and melee which are both separate sections as well because of no real tutorial given on it using your points becomes a gamble in hoping that it works with your play style. That difficulty spike I mentioned before hurts your progression because especially when unlocking a new skill to use it from the start feels severely under powered making you no longer want to use it.

    Just like the first game as well the in game menu is incredibly over complicated. Going from screen to screen can be confusing trying to find a specific page and pages that should be all together are spread apart. Your inventory page more so the inventory wheel as well is something that on PC with a mouse would be much easier as trying to move to specific sections on the wheel can be something that takes several tries.

    Visually the game doesn't have much to boast for itself. The backgrounds and environments are bland and dark leaving the game looking dated. Worst to boot is that during hectic moments the frame rate slows down and sometimes lags. The soundtrack is your standard fare for this so nothing special there. We do have some of the worst most cringe worthy dialog here though but thankfully you can skip past that all.

    Overall Van Helsing II could of been a lot better if maybe updated for more modern consoles and given a fuller feeling. Instead we get a mediocre hack and slash RPG that has a few too many huge problems that prevents it from being anything great.

    Score : 5/10

    Digital Review Code Provided By NeoCore Games