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The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II

Score: 95%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Steam
Developer: Neocore Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 (1 - 4 Online Co-op / 2 - 8 Online PVP)
Genre: Action/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:

This is not your father's Van Helsing. This Van Helsing, as I understand, is the son of the Van Helsing you're most likely familiar with, but is just as much a monster hunter. This Van Helsing, however, has an interesting travel companion; a ghost by the name of Lady Katarina. She's a noblewoman who is a bit pretentious and a bit of a debutante, but she's also quite vicious when she needs to be, so it's nice to have her covering your back. Ghosts are often depicted as being forever stuck in some state, unable to move on. Evidently, Lady Katarina is stuck in a state where the top of her dress is just a little bit lower than she'd prefer, as she frequently adjusts it in her idle animation.

The world of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II is a bit dark and foreboding, but filled with "weird science" - advanced technology borne of a combination of science and occult research. Basically, think "steampunk" with magic thrown in for good measure.

The main theme is actually fairly simplistic, but at the same time, haunting and lulling; I find myself whistling or humming the tune from time to time until I realize I'm doing it - then I just want to play the game some more.


The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II is, for the most part, a linear narrative-driven Action RPG. It's not completely linear, in that you can revisit places or leave some things undone and return to finish them up, but the main areas and missions get unlocked in a linear fashion. While this can be limiting, in Van Helsing II, it merely helps to provide direction and keep the story moving along, which is a good thing, since the story unfolds as you go along.

The main thrust of the game is killing monsters and an onslaught of enemies as they seek to crush your resistance movement and oppress the people of Borgovia. Attacking your enemies is as easy as clicking on them; if you're out of range, Van Helsing will move into range and then attack; otherwise, he'll just attack. Some weapons, such as the flamethrower, require that you hold down the button to fire a continuous stream of flames at the enemy. Using your various attacks will use up mana, but it replenishes quickly and I can't remember my flamethrower ever running out of the stuff.

You're not just shooting and flaming, however, as you've got Lady Katarina to command and, as you level up, you can slip a few other nice little tricks up your sleeve, such as automated turrets and spider-like automatons to help you dispatch your enemies with haste. You can make Lady Katarina "wolf out," causing her to split into three vicious angry spirits, rather than her usually more charming self, as well. Fights involve mixing in some of these tricks and Lady Katarina's attacks with your standard weapon attacks... the more challenging fights will require that you use these tools more strategically, so learn how they work and familiarize yourself with their cool-downs.

In addition to the normal gameplay, there are missions that are (or can be) handled by special Captains who answer to you. For these missions, you can read the mission briefing, then get input from each of your Captains. Then you weigh the strengths and weaknesses of each Captain and determine to which one you wish to assign the mission. Once you've done that, it's all in the waiting; when the mission is over, you can check the results to collect your winnings (or cry over your defeat). Either way, at the completion of each mission, you will have an opportunity to level up that Captain a little bit by spending the experience that they gained in the mission to increase their stats. In addition, the Captains can carry a relic, which has magical properties that can do things such as temporarily increase one of their stats or reduce the time it takes to complete the mission, for example. You discover these relics as you play through the game, so keep an eye out for them and use them strategically when they will help with the current mission.

The reason I said that some of the missions can be handled by the Captains is because some missions offer the choice of assigning them to the Captains or handling them personally. What you choose will determine who gets the experience from completing the mission and could determine whether the mission is successful or not. Mull it over; the choice is yours to make.

Another type of mission that occurs in the game involves preventing an attacking enemy force from making it through your defenses to the entrance to the secret lair. This is a tower defense type of game, where you can create and upgrade traps of various types and then fight alongside them to lay waste to the attacking forces. I found these to be especially fun and, again, a great place to try out different strategies and to create traps that work well in conjunction with each other.

There are multiplayer gameplay modes available in The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II, although I didn't test them very extensively. I've played over a hundred hours in the game, mainly in the standard Campaign modes and would happily play a hundred more, even without the multiplayer gameplay. However, for those of you who are interested in multiplayer gameplay primarily, I will say that the couple of times that I tried to find a game, I just sat in the lobby waiting. If you have friends with the game, you can easily start up your own game and play with them, as there is a Hosting option, but I never had any luck with the Matchmaking option. However, while you're playing the game in a Campaign Mode, you can hit Escape to go to the Options screen and click on the (Go Online) button and you will be able to simply bump into others who happen to be on the same level you're playing. Think of this as a very sparsely populated MMO mode. It was kinda cool to run into another player, but there wasn't a crowd of them, so it didn't take away from the feeling that I was the main character in the story, if you will.

Additionally, there is a Scenario Mode, but in order to even access that, your character must be level 57, so if you have a lot of interest in Scenario Mode gameplay, you'd do better to start with either an imported character or a new Veteran character, so you only have to go an additional 27 levels to access this mode.


There are five difficulty levels to pick from: Casual, Normal, Hard, Heroic and Fearless. Casual is dialed back fairly low, but it allows for progression without frustration and is good for those unfamiliar with the genre and, at Veteran Mode, you may still get overwhelmed at times. Note, however, that as the difficulty scales up, so does the loot. If you find yourself desiring more (or less) of a challenge at any time, you can pause the game and change the difficulty settings on-the-fly.

Additionally, there is a Hardcore option, which if checked, gives your character one life; you die and it's all over. That's a bit severe, but if you're into that, so be it.

In addition to the five difficulty levels, there are two types of characters you can start with, Normal or Veteran. Veteran characters can either be created from scratch or imported from the previous game, if you've played The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. Further, if you use a Normal character and you finish the game, you can upgrade that character to a Veteran character and play the game over again.

Game Mechanics:

While the game offers a few types of gameplay, all of which are fairly straightforward, where The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II really shines is with its levels of customization. Van Helsing II is truly a Tweaker's playground, with a deep and rich leveling system for your character and your companion and a variety of ways that one can tweak and min/max items and armor to build your character just the way you want him, be it an overpowering tank or a nimble, roguish character and whether he be a marksman, a swordsman or a spell-slinger.

In addition to leveling your character and your companion and, to some degree, your Captains, you can also level your Chimera (yes, you can gain a pet Chimera if you play your cards right). Further, your "Automatons" that you can "summon" can be improved, making them last longer, increasing their durability and so forth.

Items can be improved through various different systems in The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II, not just using different systems for different items, but using all of the different systems to modify the same item, if you like. All items can have at least one enhancement applied to them. These enhancements cost gold to apply and are randomly selected; if you don't like the enhancement that gets applied, you can remove the enhancement and apply a new one (paying the cost again). Certain items can support "Essences," a different type of enhancement whereby you apply the Essence of your choice to an item, as long as the item has enough free Essence points and you actually have the desired Essence. Essences can be collected as drops or can, occasionally, be found for sale. Okay, now remember the Enhancements I mentioned before I started on Essences? Right. Well, one of the Enhancements that can be randomly applied is Essence capacity. So, you can have an item enhanced, granting it Essence Capacity, then go to the Essence merchant and apply Essences to it. Additionally, you can use the Forge merchant to combine items to gain a new item with a variant set of enhancements. I, personally, don't like the Forging system much, since there is a lot of randomness involved. The system uses something similar to a genetic process, with the target item receiving half of its abilities from each of its "parent" items, randomly selected, with a few random abilities thrown in, as well.

Once you have a high level character and you've rescued the Rune merchant from one of the missions so that he shows up in your secret lair, you can also use the Rune system to break down items into Rune fragments. These Rune fragments can be combined to form Runes, which, in turn, can be used to create new items with both random and specifically indicated enhancements. This system is the most labor intensive and requires that you do a lot of collecting in order to stock up on Runes and Rune fragments, but it gives you the greatest amount of control over the abilities and epic-ness of your items - including its Essence capacity. Of course, once you've created an item with the Rune system, you can then take it and get an Enhancement applied which could be added Essence capacity, as well, then apply some additional Essences as you see fit.

If you like tongue-in-cheeky pop-culture references, love to tweak your character (a lot), and you're looking for an Action RPG to delve into, I highly recommend The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II. Heck, click the option to play online and we might just bump into each other.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:

OS: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Processor: Dual Core CPU 2.0 GHz, Memory: 1 GB RAM, Graphics: Nvidia 8800 GT, Intel HD4000 or AMD HD3850, DirectX: Version 9.0c, Network: Broadband Internet connection, Hard Drive: 20 GB available space, Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card

Test System:

[Alienware Aurora] Intel Core i7-3820 CPU @ 3.60GHz, 16 GB dual-channel DDR3, Alienware Mainboard, Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit, Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 (4GB), Dual Monitors (Gateway HD2201 21" HDMI / Sony SDM-HS73), 500 GB Solid State Primary Hard Drive, 1000 GB Secondary Hard Drive, Logitech G600 MMO Gaming Mouse, Logitech G710+ Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, Logitech Z313 2.1-CH PC multimedia speaker system, A30 Gaming Headset, Cable Modem
[HP 110-210] Windows 8.1 64, AMD Quad-Core A4-5000 APU with Radeon HD 8330 Graphics (1.5 GHz, 2 MB cache), 4 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 (1 x 4 GB), AMD Radeon HD 8330 Graphics, 500 GB 7200 rpm SATA, SuperMulti DVD burner, Logitech Call of Duty MW3 G105, SkullCandy SLYR Headset, Fiber Internet Connection

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