When The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing released last year, I felt it a breath of fresh air for the hack n' slash genre.
It shy'd away from the dreary, overtly oppressive mood that has, for the most part, been representative of the genre since Diablo, for all intents and purposes, made it for what it is today.
It instead comfortably set itself between the dreariness that you would normally see in a Diablo, and the cartoonish nature of, say, Torchlight and did so in the way that it presented the world and its characters. The game is led by Van Helsing, the deadpan monster hunter and son to the hero of legend by the same name. Accompanied by his companion, a sarcastic family friend and ghost, whose love for luxuries is seconded only to her own curiosity itself; often times presented in a questionable fascination with red buttons. The game most definitely had a charm to it. It was genuinely humorous, though it didn't wear its humor on its sleeve; allowing for the plot and characters themselves to take center stage and be the driving force for the player. It just knew to crack a joke from time to time and when to do so.
While the gameplay itself was rather standard and the different classes, outside of allowing access to different equipment sets and weapons, more or less felt the same to play, there was quite a bit of depth to be found under the hood. The skills and buffs on offer did a lot in allowing the player to switch up how they chose to play their characters and in handling certain combat scenarios. I quickly found myself drawn to the game, which can't really be said for me and all that many similar titles. It was largely thanks to this system and how it allowed me to make a more and more distinct character the further I got into the game that kept me moving forward until I saw the end. That isn't to say that other games don't offer similar systems; but there aren't that many I've played that have handled it quite this well.
In short, I found the game to be a blast. It played well, boasted great visuals and a strong steampunk-meets-medieval art direction, and offered a good sense of humor and solid writing. The game had a lot going for it and was only really brought down by its technical issues that, while mostly addressed in the months following the game's release, are still somewhat present even today.
With the announcement of the sequel, which we should be seeing about this time next month, I am hopeful and waiting to see if the overall quality of the game will match that of the original while, hopefully, releasing in a better state than the original. I am even more interested, however, in seeing the changes that they made this time around. I hear talks of a larger roster of character classes, skills and power-ups, the introduction of runecrafting; adding yet another level of depth to character development, the inclusion of 'Chimeras' – pets – to the game, and even dynamic weather. Not to mention it's being billed as a significantly larger game in general.
If they can work on better differentiating the different classes and how they play while, again, avoiding the technical issues that marred the experience the original was early on, they may just have a winner on their hands over that at Neocore. If not, and this proves to just be more of the same, well, at least in my opinion, I still feel safe in saying they have a winner on their hands.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II is currently available for pre-order over on Steam or directly on Neocore's site (offering special goodies); which will grant you access to the closed beta that is taking place at the moment.
Expect to see a fantastic review of the sequel from us here at Duuro after the games drops Apil 17th.