The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II
, which will be referred to as Van Helsing II
from now on because of the length of the title, is an Action-RPG that follows on directly from the conclusion of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing
. Whereas we had to wait three years for NeocoreGames to port the original game to the Xbox One, we've only had to wait an extra seven months for the sequel, but has it come too soon?
After vanquishing the great threat that is facing the city of Borgovia, Van Helsing finds that defeating one big problem has left the door open for another, an evil bad guy, to take control. General Harker, the city's military genius, has returned from exile and has gathered together the disorganized militia. He has begun to build an army of weird man-machines to cleanse the city. Out of a sense of duty, Helsing dons his hat once more to protect the people, kill some monsters, and provide assistance to whoever he can. His adventure continues again in true ARPG fashion, slaying monsters, rescuing prisoners, earning experience and collecting lots of loot.
With Van Helsing II
launching within a year of its predecessor, it's hard not to compare the two. By doing so, it's plain to see that this isn't a true sequel but more of a continuation, especially as you can also import your level 30 characters from the first game. Everything from the gameplay, graphics, and sound, to the abilities that are available to the player, are all the same. Moving the right stick in the desired direction still allows players to spend Rage on power-ups for their skills, and switching between melee and ranged combat is still done by clicking the left stick. Many of the enemies that show up will be recognisable from the first game, as are quite a few of the assets and locations. Of course, it isn't completely recycled and there are plenty of new enemies to slay, locations to visit, and items to loot.
Your ghostly companion, Lady Katarina, is still by your side and can assist in combat, retrieve dropped loot and be sent back to town to sell items and return with any required provisions. The biggest problem with Katarina in the first game was that her usefulness in combat diminished as the enemies grew stronger, and that is something else that this sequel shares with its predecessor. Once again, I found that taking her out of combat completely by using her non-combat form, which also provides our hero with a defensive bonus, was the best tactic. While her combat usefulness is questionable, the back and forth between her and our monster-hunting hero is still just as entertaining as they drop in pop-culture references left, right and centre.
The lair defence side-missions, introduced towards the end of the first game, also make a return. Whereas they seemed to be tacked on when they appeared very late into the first game, they are available in this title as optional side quests from very early on. They aren't overly complex and won't require a lot of thinking in order to complete them, but they do provide a pleasant distraction from the standard dungeon crawling and monster slaying.
Not everything in Van Helsing II
is the same, though. Unlike its predecessor, Van Helsing II
gives players access to the Arcane Mechanic and Thaumaturge classes at no extra cost; this has likely been done so that players who paid for the extra classes in the original game can import their characters into the sequel without needing to pay for them again. They don't greatly change the gameplay, but it does give people an opportunity to try out these new classes without needing to spend any more of their hard-earned cash.
A few new features have also been added. Returning to the lair gives players the opportunity to send members of the Resistance out on various missions. Each of these missions are presented as a small section of text that explains what skills will be needed in order to successfully complete them. Players then choose which of their captains is best suited to lead this mission and sends them off. After a certain amount of in-game time, the player can check back to see how the operation went, with each successful assignment rewarding the player with additional items and gold. Part of the way through the story, the player also has the opportunity to capture their very own Chimera. Upon returning to the lair, players can send their new pet out on hunts. Similar to the resistance missions, once a certain amount of in-game time has passed then the Chimera returns home with items and gold. The hunts aren't just a way of getting extra money without needing to do the work yourself, as successfully completing one of these missions also grants the Chimera experience that makes it more resilient and stronger. As your new pet can be summoned to fight by the player's side, using these hunts to quickly increase its abilities helps to give it an edge in combat.
There are also a few new modes outside of the main story too, namely a multiplayer PVP mode, which gives players the chance to take their monster-hunter online and test their might against other players. The other addition comes in the form of scenarios, a variety of stand-alone missions that reuse locations from the main game and provide extra challenges and rewards for more experienced, high level, characters.
Unfortunately, the creatures of the night aren't the only nightmares that are facing Van Helsing. Many of the issues that plagued the first instalment of the series continue to burden his latest adventure. Once again there are noticeable frame rate issues, especially in areas with a lot of enemies or intense visual effects. Attempting to play the game in co-op doesn't fair much better either with an increase in the frequency of frame rate drops. During my many attempts to actually play with a friend, I experienced just as many crashes. Re-occurring issues that have been inherited from its big brother aren't the only problems; by introducing new systems, new problems have also arisen. Accessing the resistance mission menu while visiting the lair, for example, is often met with the game freezing, crashing or exiting without any prior warning. Crashes outside of the lair are certainly less likely to occur but they're not out of the question, so it is quite lucky that the game does auto-save on a regular basis.
Van Helsing II
's achievements are a bit of a mixed bag, with a large portion of them being unlocked for the usual main storyline quest completions and by finding a few hidden items throughout the story. The rest are a bit more time consuming. There are four achievements for raising each of your Body, Dexterity, Willpower and Luck stats to 300, as well an another for raising all four to 300 across any number of characters. With all three classes now available to all players, there is an achievement for getting each class to level 60, meaning that at least three playthroughs will be needed. Finally, there are a selection of achievements that are linked to the game's extra scenarios, such as completing 20 single player scenarios, or completing a scenario without wearing armour or without using any Power-ups. There is plenty to keep players busy for quite a long time, but whether or not the average person will have the patience to unlock them all while battling the poorly optimised game is another thing entirely.
SummaryThe Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II
builds upon the original foundation, but it is still an average Action-RPG that features the usual genre tropes. Unfortunately, there is very little to set it apart from its predecessor, let alone the rest of the ARPG crowd. It could easily have benefitted from some extra polish, there are some very noticeable frame rate issues, attempting to play the game in co-op often leads to the game crashing, and the introduction of some new systems has brought new problems along with them. Fans of the genre might be able to enjoy Van Helsing's latest adventure through the city of Borgovia and its surrounding areas, but only if they have the patience to wade through its many problems.
- Plenty of enemies to slay and loot to collect
- New modes keep the action going
- Noticeable frame rate issues
- Frequent crashes in co-op and the Resistance menu
The reviewer spent around 15 hours slaying thousands of creatures, collecting and selling tons of useless items and training his Chimera to go for the throat. He earned 15 of its 50 achievements. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.