Should we (Van Hel)sing this game's praises?
I never played the first The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing game, but I heard it was an adept action RPG that brought something new to the genre by curiously placing one of its modes within the format of a tower defense game. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II, or at least the hour-long preview level I played of it, certainly fits that description, and it was to my surprise that it worked quite bloody well.
The game, developed by NeoCoreGames, places you in the shoes of Abraham Van Helsing, or “Big V” as he’s known to his friends (that may or may not be true), and in the closed beta build of the game I was tasked with killing a wide variety of nasties in order to defend the Factory District, the setting of the level. My tentative first footsteps into the game had me rolling my eyes, as the voice-over work in the game leaves a lot to be desired. My companion, Katrina, boasted an exaggerated, thick Russian accent that even Bond villains would balk at, and the NPCs littered throughout the game slaughter the English accent in Dick Van Dyke-esque fashion.
However, beneath the campy voice-over work and the equally tripe dialogue (there was an “arrow to the knee” joke made by one of the NPCs and a mission in which I was tasked with saving “Private Bryan”), I had a lot of fun with the short time I spent with TIAoVHII (if developers want prettier acronyms, they’ll have to shorten the length of the names of their damn games). There’s currently an abundance of action RPGs on the market, but from early impressions Van Helsing II looks to offer something new for the Diablo fans out there.
Van Helsing II offers six playable classes—Blade, Gunslinger, Spellkeeper, Adeptus, Bombardier and Contraptionist—with each one granting the player the advantages/disadvantages and spells/melee attacks you’d expect from the genre. In the preview build, I played as both the Blade and Spellkeeper class, with the latter being a personal preference on account of the array of ridiculous elemental attacks the class can dish out. The game also offers players of the original Van Helsing game to import their characters over, which is a very nice touch.
The level that I played saw me sticking to three types of quests: the first was to take out the waves of enemies that were attacking the Factory District; the second was to rescue my fallen comrades who had become overwhelmed by said enemies; and the third was to escort wounded soldiers and weaponry from one side of the District to the other. The game placed me in the shoes of a level 31 character, so many weapons and abilities were already at my disposal, and each one made me feel suitably powerful.
The enemies I faced were of the massive and monstrous variety, and taking down a few of the big, ogre-like beasts with a few magic attacks and watching them explode into a pile of guts felt endlessly rewarding. I often found myself becoming quickly overwhelmed by enemies, though, and I died more frequently than I had expected. Seeing as though I was playing a preview build of the game and didn’t have much use for coins in the long run, I used an unhealthy sum of them so that I could spawn right back at the spot where I had died. Another option was to spawn back at the last checkpoint, which will likely be the more fiscally responsible option when it comes to the full game.
The visuals of Van Helsing II aren’t as impressive, but they do a good job of successfully placing me in its gothic, steampunk world. The combat looks slick, too, though playing as a class that has magic abilities is a lot more aesthetically pleasing than the melee class, who I found would often get lost amongst the hordes upon hordes of enemies, with only the floating hit points above their heads serving as an indication that my guy was actually in the middle of them, desperately clawing his way out.
The final cinematic of the level depicted a huge, mechanical spider leading an onslaught of new enemies, though I didn’t actually get to face it before my comrades informed me that we were retreating, and the level ended. If that is the kind of colossal enemy that players will be fighting in the final build, though, then consider me excited.
Walking away from the preview of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II, I find myself reasonably excited for this game that would’ve completely slipped under my radar otherwise. If you’re a fan of action RPGs, then keep a close on this one: It might just surprise you. It will launch on April 17 for $15 on PC and Mac via Steam.