by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Van Helsing – the action hero
Abraham Van Helsing. The name has become a legend and the legend has changed the man. Originally featuring in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula in 1897, he was described as a strongly-built, decisive Dutch professor of arcane knowledge. He was no vampire hunter until he became one as the novel progressed. Film adaptations have depicted him in various ways, but the name really came to be connected with an action hero and a monster and vampire hunter with Hugh Jackman’s role as Gabriel Van Helsing in Van Helsing (2004). Some of us regret the fact that Van Helsing thus stepped into the territory of the famous monster hunter, Solomon Kane. In fact, Hugh Jackman’s portrayal is more reminiscent of Solomon Kane down to the hat – and this same similarity has continued in the world of games.
Hungarian indie developer Neocore Games seem to have picked up the character as portrayed by Hugh Jackman and turned him into a one-man army going against monsters and demons. Accompanied by a ghos, this incarnation of Van Helsing – or rather a son of the original – had his first outing in The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing in 2013. Dosed with weird technology and lots of humour, it became an instant classic and featured as "RPG of the year" 2013 right here at Hooked Gamers. No wonder then that Neocore Games immediately began working on the sequel that is coming out next month.
Straight into action
The closed beta sends us straight into action to defend a city against invading hordes of monsters. Through various missions, you have to give orders to soldiers at various choke points and find reinforcements for undermanned positions before monsters assault the defenses. All this while you are also fighting against hordes of monsters as you look for ways to block their advance.
Van Helsing is again accompanied by Lady Katarina – a ghost extraordinaire – whose main occupation aside from offering support in fights is to have humorous interactions with Van Helsing, commenting on the events taking place around them and the suicidal missions that Van Helsing agrees to perform. Although the closed beta is a very short sample of the game, it shows the same kind of humour and references to other cultural products, such as movies, as the first game did. In one mission, for example, you are sent on a rescue mission for Private Bryan. However, rather than being the last son of a multi-son family, the reason Private Bryan is important enough to save from behind the lines is a lot more... Well, I’ll let you find out for yourself!
More, more more!
As a sequel, it is clear that The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II has to outdo the original in various ways. Some of the more important improvements include a complex storyline instead of a linear one, eight times more weapon models, five times more player skills, and just more monsters, side quests, power-ups, items and easter eggs than you could ever imagine.
My only worry about reading the list of improvements is that the possible upgrades to your weapons and armour will be even more confusing than they were in the first game – even in that one I was confused more than once and never really figured out what I should be paying attention to the most to make sure that an upgrade really was an upgrade. In the closed beta, the game allows you to compare items much in the same way as in the original and it shows which values will drop and which ones will rise if you equip a new item. But with several categories and types of bonuses, it is difficult to stay on track on which ones of them are important and which ones are not.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II seems to offer much the same quality as the original and will certainly please those who liked the first outing. The graphics and effects are great, the action is there and – what’s most important – the game still doesn’t take itself too seriously and the humorous chats between Van Helsing and Lady Katarina will keep you going through many a battle.