Review

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 2 Review

  • Game release: May 22, 2014
  • Reviewed:
  • PC

Gothic clicks and tricks.

Like its predecessor, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II bills itself as a "gothic-noir adventure." While there are too many pop culture references and too much comedic relief for the "noir" part of that label to stick, the general tone is one of grim expressionism, bolstered by some finely constructed action sequences. In fact, beyond its ham-fisted exposition and painfully slow start, there's little to hold the experience back from being one of the better action role-playing games in quite some time.

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II is absolutely massive and packed with secrets and details that are easy to miss the first time around. You wouldn't know that from the first few hours of play, though. Van Helsing is remarkable in that it has one of the most annoyingly intrusive introductions in recent memory, yet explains almost none of the subtlety this game has to offer. Van Helsing II opens in medias res, but what seems like a potentially exciting start comes off as cluttered and ultimately confusing. The game picks up right after the conclusion of the last game, and you play as the son of the infamous vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing. After felling the mad scientist that had terrorized the fictitious, industrial-era city of Borgova, you take over a resistance movement against the corrupt government. Your initial motivations aren't made clear, and the entire opening sequence is dominated by cutscenes that have weirdly nauseating cameras that wobble around while the main characters discuss detailed military strategy.

The areas you explore in Van Helsing are rich and imaginative. This comes from the outskirts of a crystal workshop guarded by an army of chimeras.

It's all a bit overwhelming, which is particularly unfortunate given how great the game becomes. A few hours in, you have access to your secret lair, a subterranean hideout that serves as your base of operations for the rest of your adventure. From there, you can marshal troops, craft new equipment, and generally help guide the resistance movement. Again, why exactly the movement is necessary is never made clear. You never see the real effects of the allegedly corrupt government, and there's no reason to empathize with the populace. That said, all of these pieces come together remarkably well, combining the straight action RPG trappings of the first Van Helsing with added gameplay modes.

From here, Van Helsing II is loosely organized into a few discrete chapters. For each one, you have a primary objective that supports the resistance movement's plan to take the city of Borgova. These are tied directly to the game's gothic horror inspirations and help build up the intensely supernatural world. Without a gripping narrative to serve as the foundation for this adventure, the creatures and environments are left to carry the experience. Thankfully, the art direction is just as substantial as before, and is largely supported by these quests to unlock power held by long-dead beings. The main quests provide plenty of excuses to venture into the wilderness outside the city and play in a variety of striking locales. Each of these places is also home to a variety of Easter eggs, which help each environment feel dense and populated. Upon the conclusion of each chapter, you're shown a few stats detailing your time spent, the percentage of the secrets you managed to unearth, and how well you did overall. Once you've seen the "chapter complete" screen, however, the preceding areas are lost to you for the rest of the game, encouraging you to be thorough in your search.

There's a pretty nifty mode for launching side missions and raising armies for the resistance movement you lead. Different personality traits for your captains can have different effects on your chances based on the specific types of missions you send them on.

You don't have to deal with the big things immediately if you don't want to, though. Like before, there are plenty of supplementary quests for those looking for a break from the core game. The tower-defense minigame makes a return, with robust tools for managing waves and waves of baddies. You can also hire soldiers, upgrade their equipment, and build up a small army to run consistent raids for you. They can bring back valuable items and tons of extra cash, which you can reinvest in your war effort, or yourself. Various non-player characters also offer additional one-off quests that help further build out this surprisingly rich world, and yield some great loot for you and your companions. Finally, you also have some shops and crafting tools to help you get the best gear and tools for combat versus the weird, surreal, and undead monsters that roam the wilds outside of Borgova. That's great, because as you might expect from Van Helsing's action RPG scaffolding, combat is what this game does best.

Combat has improved dramatically since the last entry in the series, and that's primarily because of two small but vital changes. The first is that the two classes originally released as downloadable content for the first game are now packed in. From the beginning, you have three distinct archetypes, each with a dramatically different play style. The default hunter class is a melee-ranged fusion that harks back to Bram Stoker's original descriptions of the literary vampire hunter. The other two are a bit odd thematically because they represent two of the main types of enemies that you fight against: unholy magic users and engineers warped by "weird science." Even so, they add a lot of variety and are distinct enough to warrant spending at least a little time with each.

Nice Monty Python reference.

For my main run, I used an arcane mechanic. The class focuses on deploying robots, mines, turrets, grenades, and other corrupted machinery to dominate the battlefield. That's actually where I felt the second change to combat most: two additional skill slots. In the first Van Helsing, you played as a hunter that balanced ranged and close-combat weaponry using six main abilities. There was a clean duality to it that's retained for those who choose to take up being a hunter once again. I, however, found it much more exciting to constantly manage mines and robotic spiders to assist me in combat. I didn't invest much into boosting my health or defense, instead focusing on maximizing my attack-power-by-proxy. It added a bit of tension as well, knowing that if my machines started to fall, I'd need to rapidly get them back into action or face death. The extra skill slots made managing the chaos of battle more challenging but also more rewarding without teetering into the unnecessarily convoluted.

Van Helsing is coarsely granular. Some of its pieces don't work as well as they should, but much of that falls by the wayside when you're in the thick of things. It is stellar in spite of a few big missteps and the fact that, with the exception of the world itself, none of the experience feels cohesive. Between combat segments, Van Helsing and his ghostly companion, Lady Katarina, exchange snarky quips about pop culture and casual digs at one another. It's nice for characterization, but it's also anachronistic and fails to fit into the rest of the game. That's fine, though, because Van Helsing never takes itself too seriously. It's all part of the ride.

The Good
Excellent world-building
After the introduction, it really opens up
Dense environments that give you plenty to do
Quick, rewarding combat
The Bad
Agonizingly slow start
Awkward, cluttered narrative
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Dan Starkey hunted vampires, demons, and undead abominations with his trusty arcane grenade launcher. After being bored for the first couple of hours, he quickly warmed up to the gothic fantasy adventure.

Discussion

60 comments
hess400
hess400

So you could play this...or you could play Torchlight 2.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

The game is just pure fun and yet another Diablo clone that beats Diablo 3.


You just have so much control over your gear it's astounding.  With enough gold you can fiddle with the individual enchantment values on your gear, drop the bonuses you don't like and replace them with better ones, and slap together whatever combination of gems that you want.


Or not, you can just throw on the next drop that has better dps, and start the tinkering all over again.


You can reclaim skill points that you want moved, reallocate pretty much anything you want.


You have complete control over your character's customization.  And you can equip even more abilities now.


Game is better than the first one in every way, and an absolute blast to play.  And it's $15.

samantha_m
samantha_m

I got the game through steam. I was really looking forward to it, the beginning is slow but i dont mind that. The side quests are ok. I got my companions in  the lair to complete them. The environment is good. But the game feels short. I ended the game after 14 hours of playing. The first game took me more then 30 hours to complete.

The crafting system is of no more value to the game. I did not understand it and did not need it either.

The ending did surprise me but it was still underwhelming. 

So yeah i guess part 3 is coming, hopefully they do a better job at that one.


After you complete the game you can change you're settings to continue on, but i lost interest after i completed it ones.

Townfool
Townfool

This is the same score as Watch Dogs, which is a vastly more complex and interesting game.  Unbelievable!

rasputin177
rasputin177

Why was my comment defending the score and review erased? No swearing. The only thing I can think of that makes any sort of sense is that he thought having a comment like that would make it seem like more people were complaining than actually were? The post was meant to be in regards to the last few weeks of reviews not just this one. If no swears I don't really like deleting feedback to try and guide perception.

santinegrete
santinegrete

Does anyone knows if playing the first one is essential? I've been curious about this game.

McGuirex3
McGuirex3

I just wish the pc's were juuuuust a little bigger for this and the 1st game!


Happy gaming all!

fgjnfgh
fgjnfgh

would love this on ps4

zoeyleft
zoeyleft

but how big is the game? like 10-15 hours or 20-25? Im talking about a thourough first playthrough

pyosisified
pyosisified

Looks superior to Blizzards dumbed down mess, Diablo 3

berserker66666
berserker66666

Yet another 8spot review. Doesn't matter really since I don't see a huge deal between an 8 and an 8.5 since both scores translate to "Great".

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@Cloud_imperium 

Besides, you are conveniently ignoring the fact that high-profile PC games which caught the eye of GameSpot's staffers had video reviews, such as Path of Exile.

billzihang
billzihang

"Agonizingly slow start" I suspect this translates as "I'm annoyed and got bored because there wasn't an explosion in the first 2 minutes,"


Gamespot's standard have fallen through the floor lately, in every respect (not directing that at this revoew specifically, just the magazine in general)

Hurvl
Hurvl

The Incredible Predictability of Gamespot Giving a Game an 8, a hidden level included with this game, lol.

leikeylosh
leikeylosh

It's time for Gamespot Drinking Game! You take a shot everytime Gamespot gives an 8! Oh boy, not one internaut will be left standing!


Seriously, though, Gamespot... Bring back full decimals score. This 8 thing is getting annoying.

jhonMalcovich
jhonMalcovich

I wish I bought it over Watch_dogs. It would have saved me 45 bucks.

Saidrex
Saidrex

I just read introduction of review, so where's the rest of review?

jeager_titan
jeager_titan

Eight master race. 9 is the peasant race.

WereCatf
WereCatf

@samantha_m 30 hours for the first one? I spent 17 hours and I even did every single sidequest and explored every single place fully.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@Townfool But Van Helsing is a better EXECUTED game.  Shame all those extra months of delay for Watch Dogs didn't translate into a better game.

SingletreeAve
SingletreeAve

@Townfool Watch Dogs has minimal complexity compared to Van Helsing 2 and it's incredibly deep skill trees and character leveling.  Watch Dogs has a much larger more open world, but not necessarily more interesting.  That is subjective.

Wintereich
Wintereich

@Townfool How dare a completely different game, in a completely different genre, get the same score!

Gomtor
Gomtor

@tomservo51 Please do.  I would pay even more for this.  Better than a lot of AAA games.

DanCStarkey
DanCStarkey

@rasputin177 I'm not sure, but I can't delete comments. I'm not an admin, so I certainly had nothing to do with it.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@santinegrete Playing the first one is highly suggested - you can transfer your character from the first game to the second if you want.

DanCStarkey
DanCStarkey

@billzihang I actually don't tend to like explosions in my games. I prefer procedural works where the mechanics are used as metaphor. 


I'd home that the text of this review clarifies why I felt the way I did, but if it didn't I apologize.

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@leikeylosh Gamespot destroyed their scoring system.  A 7 is a bad score, and games cannot get higher than a 9.  That's why everything gets an 8 when it really deserved somewhere between a 7.5 and an 8.5.


How did anyone think it was a good idea to only use whole numbers when the only numbers a game that's worth playing can get is a 7, 8, or 9?


They shot themselves in the foot, and their continued defense of this flawed system is pathetic.

Freedomination
Freedomination

@leikeylosh well.. everytime they give a good game a 7 there is mass suicides in the comment section, if they give a game 9 they're accused of corruption. Can't please everyone

Hurvl
Hurvl

@leikeylosh With the frequency of Gamespot reviewing games, I think people would have sobered up before a new 8 review comes along, but I agree that they're r8ing games quite often.

DanCStarkey
DanCStarkey

@Thanatos2k @Townfool That's the key I think. This isn't $60. Compared to what's it's goals and purposes are, IAVH 2 pulls off what it's trying to do remarkably well. That's the point. I'm not going to complain about a sports simulator for having a weak plot, for example. I try to make judgements partially based on what the game seems to be attempting and partially based on my own experience.

DanCStarkey
DanCStarkey

@antpm @leikeylosh When people can clearly explain the difference between a 55 and 56, then I'll get behind a larger scale. Otherwise, it seems gratuitous at best.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@C0v3rtUnis0l @leikeylosh I bet this annoyance is making him gain w8 and causing him to come L8 for work, but perhaps that is not the r8ting's fault, but simply f8.

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II More Info

  • Released
    • PC
    The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II is a gothic-noir steampunk action-RPG for PC influenced by Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
    7.7
    Average User RatingOut of 23 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II
    Developed by:
    NeocoreGames
    Published by:
    NeocoreGames
    Genres:
    Role-Playing, Action