The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 2 ReviewPC
key review info
- Game: The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 2
- Platform: PC
- Gamepad support: No
- Reviewed on:
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The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 2 has just come out, and many of you are no doubt wondering whether Hungarian developer Neocore Games was able to once again nail the cocktail of atmospheric narrative and explosive action that made last year's game so popular or whether it was just a lucky break.
One of the best things about the first installment in the series was that it was full of Easter eggs and pop culture references, as well as of self-deprecating humor that addressed the tropes of the genre, along with some of the more ridiculous content inside the game, making many users overlook some of its mechanical problems and the many bugs the game shipped with.
One thing is clear right off the bat: The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 2 is every bit as full of charm as its predecessor, but aside from coming with a hefty dose of humor and personality, the sequel also delivers a wealth of new content to explore, in the same action-packed manner that action role-playing games have presented since the first Diablo title.
From distrusting The Department of Facts and Honest Speculation's statements to following the leads of the mysterious Prisoner Seven, all the while blasting through countless aberrations and fiends with two brand new classes and their immense skill trees, the entire game is a blast.
The action is set in the fictional land of Borgovia, a mystical land where magic meets technology and our protagonist, the fabled monster hunter Van Helsing, makes use of various implements of steampunk origin to drive back evil.
After the kingdom was liberated from the first game's antagonist, a mad scientist, other villains jumped at what they saw as a unique opportunity to grab the reins of Borgovia and, as such, the adventures continue, expanded in every imaginable way.
While the writing won't win a Pulitzer anytime soon, it will certainly make you smile and feel the world becoming alive in front of your eyes, from the inane ramblings of some of the characters to the plain silliness of certain events, everything wrapped up in savory commentary from Lady Katarina, your incorporeal companion.
This time around though, things are a bit more organized, as the decent men of the land rallied under the banner of the Borgovian Resistance, lending their strength to the fight.
Taking charge of the Borgovian Resistance allows you to send the brave soldiers on various missions, led by fearless commanders who will prove instrumental in the missions' success. Each commander has his own strengths and weaknesses and you have to take into account what kind of approach would work best when making the decision to send one of them into battle.
In addition to this, during your adventures, you will come across various relics that will bestow bonuses on your commanders when equipped, increasing their expertise in a certain area or reducing the amount of time necessary for completing missions. Why would you complete missions, you ask? Why, for more money and powerful items, of course, in addition to driving the forces of evil out of the steampunk metropolis.
All the strategic decisions are taken in your Lair, which is now expanded to also accommodate refugees and, as such, comes with some neat new features, in addition to the tower defense-type mini-game that you had to partake in when your hide-out was under attack.
In the Hall of Trophies, you can choose to equip a few of the many rare trinkets you will collect from the demons you slay, each one offering an interesting choice of both positive and negative effects, such as greatly increased chance of finding magical items at the cost of each and every enemy gaining a considerable boost in hit points, and many other such interesting trade-offs.
Crafting has gotten so complex that it's bordering on ridiculous. In addition to crafting an item from up to three other pieces of armor, accessories, or weaponry, in order to bestow some of their enchantments and maybe an extra one on a brand new item, you can also imbue your gear with essences and runes, and the possibilities and potential are mind-boggling.
Essences work pretty much like socketed gems do in other such titles, each item having a certain essence value determining the number and potency of essences that can be imbued. Of course, essences can be merged with each other in order to boost their stats, which will also drive up the essence value requirement for their use.
The new runecrafting system allows you to disenchant items in order to gather valuable rune fragments, and the complexity of the system seems to be the embodiment of possibility. You can forge your own items by providing a certain type of armor or weapon as a template and then fill it with the appropriate runes, which will bestow your chosen enchantments in addition to the item's basic properties.
Of course, you also have the regular, plain old ordinary enchantment mechanic to use on your items. The NPC is kind enough to allow you to re-roll the values on your existing enchantments and even replace them, but the most interesting facet of this is that you can alter the appearance of your best items and have them look like your favorite ones, as well as offering them proper heroic names, which really adds a ton of flavor to the game once you get a set of decent gear on.
Closing the character building options, you will also find some epic consumables as you go around slaying evil around Borgovia, which will grant you small but permanent bonuses to various stats such as dodge or defense, but they can only be used once per character.
Your companion adds a lot to the entire experience, and just like in the first game, Lady Katarina does not let down. She's full of personality and the back and forth banter between you and her will often put a smile on your face.
In addition to this, she also has three separate skill trees for you to spend points in in order to make her a redoubtable warrior or a potent support character that bolsters your defensive and offensive potential and gives you health and mana with every strike.
At any point of the game you can reset your or your companion's skills, but it won't come cheap, and the more points you want to shift to something else the more costly the entire operation will become, which is great, because it allows you to try different strategies and new skills for a more varied experience.
And speaking of variety, Neocore have outdone themselves in this sequel. While the original adventures of Van Helsing were indeed incredible, they were also a bit monotonous in the sense that you didn't have too many options while leveling your character, some of the skills being a clearly superior choice to the others.
This time around, the devs have greatly expanded the skill trees, and they have even added two completely new classes – a proper mage that specializes exclusively in elemental attacks and effects and an engineer that tackles the perils of Borgovia with the aid of his many mechanical contraptions, be they traps or automatons.
Killing baddies nets you experience points, which allow you to level up your character, but it also awards you reputation points, and at certain thresholds you can gain a new perk from a list of aptly titled abilities, ranging from increased hit points, damage, or resistance for your ghastly companion or for yourself, and even expand your inventory with an additional page.
The huge arsenal of skills is complemented, just as in the first installment, by a wide array of perks, tricks, auras, and passives, allowing you to gain access to heals or temporary invulnerability and other such skills that that your class might not naturally be inclined to possess, permitting you to both diversify your approach in combat and to patch up various areas your gear might be lacking in.
The result of this wealth of choice and content is that you can always switch your loadout at higher levels, trying out new builds based on new skills, allowing you to enjoy the game more and avoid burnout.
One of the disappointing things about The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is the fact that it hasn't improved a whole lot in the graphics department. It looks pretty good and has some very nice effects, but the overall feeling is that it lacks the polish seen in some other modern games.
What it may lack in polish, though, it clearly makes up for in creativity, delivering a slew of weird creatures for you to fight, from the usual fantasy cast of trolls and giant rabid werewolves to the massive mechanical abominations you would expect in a heavily steampunk stylized game.
That exciting variety, coupled with the game's impressive soundtrack and the witty banter and musings of your companion makes playing the game a truly enjoyable experience, beyond the challenging and rewarding mechanics.
- Very deep character customization
- Atmospheric gothic/steampunk setting
- Very humorous
- Truly fun to play
- Expands the ARPG genre
- Visuals feel a bit dated
- A few glitches here and there
- Lacks polish
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 2 may not be as polished as other heavy-hitters in the genre when it comes to production value and the streamlining of its systems, but it has a lot of soul and it's not afraid to show it.
In addition to this, Neocore Games was brave enough to experiment with new mechanics and to expand the genre, even adding features that might seem redundant, just for the sake of allowing you to mix and match a ton of options in order to get the perfect balance that fits your particular play style the best.
I liked the first game a great deal, and the second one managed to surprise me, delivering more of the same enjoyable and amusing kind of writing, a much deeper and engaging combat experience, and a level of complexity that seems baffling at first.
Looking at all those new abilities, way down on the skill tree, feels like a combination between the excitement of Christmas and the thrilling vertigo of standing on a mountain peak and staring at the world beneath you.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 2 managed to capture all that was good about its predecessor and somehow make it even better, while also expanding everything and adding a ton of new interesting content and mechanics. Oh, and it also has multiplayer.