The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing franchise has been releasing regularly on PCs since 2013, but has only just started to reach the PlayStation 4. The first in the series came to the console on the 1st March of this year and was met with a mixed reception. Now, just several months later, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II has graced Sony's system.
Player’s pick up where the first game left off, with developer NeocoreGames giving you the option to import over your pre-existing character from the first game if you have a save file present. If you didn’t play the original, or just want to start fresh, you’re given the option to ,choose from three class types. You have the hunter - which was the only class in the first game - as well as thaumaturge and arcane mechanic class types. These new classes focus more heavily on high tech weaponry and spellcasting, which provides far more choice when it comes to combat.
Before starting the game, you also have five difficulty options to choose from. Each option is given a thorough and clear explanation, which is an extremely welcome addition. This is so well presented that literally anybody who picks up the release will be able to read the descriptions and accurately select which setting will be perfect for their playthrough.
The title describes itself as an action RPG and the first five minutes of gameplay perfectly demonstrate why. Unfortunately, you’re presented with so many different upgrade systems and skill trees right off the bat that it becomes quite overwhelming. You not only have to wrap your head around these for your own character, but you also have to worry about upgrading Lady Katarina, your ghostly companion. Having everything dumped on you so quickly means it’s tough to properly grasp everything, and it’s only once you’re a few hours in that you’ll fully understand what’s going on. To make things more difficult, the UI design is also very clunky, and makes learning everything that much harder.
While you eventually get a handle on the RPG systems, the basic and dull combat, which is the crux of the game, never improves. Despite a wide variety of different strikes, weapons, and spells at your disposal, combat rarely becomes anything more than repeatedly tapping the same attack button until your enemies have been vanquished. One of Van Helsing's big selling points is the sheer amount of enemies it sends at you, but this doesn't do anything to shake up the gameplay. Mostly, it just means you spend even longer mashing the same button, or in some cases where particularly tough foes swarm you, it means you'll be dying on occasion. There's absolutely no penalty for death and you're able to re-spawn exactly where you died, so it's merely a minor annoyance and doesn't have any impact how you tackle enemy swarms.
NeocoreGames also emphasises the story before you jump into the adventure, but in reality, it's not nearly as important as it's made out to be. The story is quite frankly nonsensical at times, and mostly exists to give your character a basic reason to go out on the various missions.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II improves over the original in some ways, but fails in many others. There are a number of great quality of life improvements here and two new classes are very welcome. Unfortunately, the meat of the game is the combat, and it's just not very interesting. It becomes a chore to trudge through enemies and there's not even the pull of an intriguing or interesting story to keep you motivated.