The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II was a fun game and featured an interesting mythos of two worlds - the one we know and a dark realm, where monsters come from, known as "the Ink." Deathtrap takes place in that same realm, but features other monster-hunters as they fight to keep the monsters at bay by preventing them from reaching gates that let them escape the Ink and enter the real world.
The environments share elements from The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, with some set pieces calling back to specific areas in the game. (For example, I love the boulders with faces... Nice callback.) At the same time, the specific areas present in Deathtrap are a region where there are islands floating in the Ink, which is a new area for this game, I believe.
For those unfamiliar with The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II, this is a gritty, mysterious world, filled with monsters, magic and mechanical automatons. Think very "Steampunk" and "Goth." You get the polished brass textures, electrical towers that would have made Tesla proud, undead, mechanical enemies, and lots of nice-looking magical particle effects.
The audio was nicely done in Deathtrap, from the haunting music that sets the tone and builds the tension when needed, to nicely done voice acting as your character starts a new wave and taunts the enemies or tries to strengthen her resolve, or just the sound effects of the traps as they attack your oncoming enemies or spell effects as they are triggered.
I am a little disappointed that you can't change the camera angle, but you can zoom in or out a reasonable amount and the map/radar at the top left zooms too, allowing you to keep an eye on things that are going on outside of what you can actually see onscreen. See something you need to take care across the map? Make use of the teleporters, learn the teleport spell or well, you better get running.
There were different types of gameplay present in The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II. One was a mini-game, of sorts, that had the player setting traps and fighting off monstrous enemies to prevent them from breaching your lair, for example. These only occurred rarely, but they were fun. Neocore took this gameplay and made it into its own game: Deathtrap. Unlike Van Helsing II, Deathtrap doesn't feature a progressing story, but is more strategy, made of a lot of these tower defense-type puzzles. The traps are much more developed here, with fifteen different types of traps, all of which can be upgraded in different ways, to suit your gameplay and specific usage. For example, you can place a Frost Pillar next to an Icicle Field, upgrade both to slow down enemies more and upgrade the Icicle Field to impart vulnerability to cold to its victims, making the Frost Pillar more effective. In turn, the Frost Pillar will slow down the enemy, making it take longer to exit the Icicle Field, allowing the Icicle field to do more of its damage-over-time. You'll want to carefully consider what upgrades you want to spend points to unlock and which upgrades you want to use on individual traps when playing a level.
You'll start by creating a character, choosing from three different Classes: Mercenary, Sorceress, and Marksman, and choosing a character name. From there, as you slay monsters, complete levels and gain skill levels, you will unlock class abilities and new trap types, and spend points on upgrading traps and unlocking enhancements that can be purchased during levels. You'll also gain weapons and gear dropped by enemies or as level-end rewards. These can be sold and replacements purchased from the merchant, or they can be salvaged for material to forge new ones, using the crafting system. As you progress, you can create your own gear with this crafting system and, eventually, even upgrade your crafted gear to make it even more powerful.
Deathtrap - Official Launch Trailer
While most Tower Defense games I've played tend to be limited to the areas that form the paths that enemies can travel, Deathtrap allows players to wander off of these areas and explore a bit around the outside edges of the map (or in pockets in the middle of the normal play area), where they can find additional enemies and treasures. These additional enemies are often the focus of additional challenges that can garner some additional rewards for a skillful and effective player. There are other challenges, as well, dealing with limiting your usage of certain types of traps or upgrades.
In Single Player gameplay, you can take a nice breather between waves. Look around the field. Plan. Build your traps. Upgrade them. Weigh your options. Take a break and go get dinner. Whatever. No pressure - no rush. But don't get to comfortable with that cushy break if you plan to play Cooperative Multiplayer, as you'll have scant seconds between the ending of one wave and the beginning of the next. Instead of having a "build phase" before a wave, the wave just starts coming and you'll have to build as you go. Cooperative multiplayer can be lots of fun, but this urgency gives it a different feel.
Deathtrap also features a Versus Multiplayer Mode, where you can play against another player. The way it's handled here is one player plays as the Defender, which is essentially the same as the other modes in Deathtrap, while the opposing player plays as the Attackers, with the ability to "possess" enemy units and directly control them, perhaps keeping them back until another monster has triggered a trap or meandering away from the path to circumvent a specific trap. This makes for an interesting dynamic.
In practice, I found that it was easier to find a match to play Cooperative Multiplayer than to play Versus. You can also play against friends who own the game, however, and if you're bringing your own party, then the matchmaking isn't an issue.
When you start playing Deathtrap, there is only one level available. Each time you beat a level with at least one star, you unlock the next level. However, a single star win is, quite frankly, a bit weak... and, while it does unlock the next level, it doesn't get you all of the experience and bonuses that you could get from the level. To get all you can out of the level, you'll want to get a three-star win. To do so, you'll need to prevent any enemies from making it to through the gate... and you'll have to not lose any lives, either.
On the level's detail screen, you can see what rewards you will get for getting a three-star win. Additionally, there are three difficulty settings for the levels: Casual, Normal and Hard. To get the maximum rewards from the level, you'll have to get a three-star win on Hard. However, if you just want to unlock the next level, getting a single-star win on Casual will take care of that for you. When you complete all of the levels with at least one star, you will unlock an additional Challenge Tier. Each level has four Challenge Tiers. You have to complete all of the levels on each Challenge Tier before the next Challenge Tier unlocks. Further, while you can run through all of the levels on Tier 1 on Casual Difficulty, Tier 2 doesn't have a Casual setting, so you're going to have to work for it to unlock Tiers 3 and 4. When you consider all four Tiers, you've got 52 levels to play. In addition to these 52 levels, there are five Scenario-only Challenge levels that become available once you've beaten the last level in Tier 1.
Finally, in addition to the 57 levels listed above, there is a level editor and a mechanism for sharing levels via Steam. This means that there is the potential for an unlimited number of levels, but you'll have to use trial and error with the user-submitted levels to see what sort of difficulty they hold.
In Deathtrap, Neocore takes a fun mini-game from Van Helsing II and beefs it up to a very fun game in its own right. Tweakers and strategists will enjoy the leveling features and the different boosts that can affect various aspects of the game, from spell recovery rate to resistance to different types of damage and the ways that the different traps can play off of each other to be mutually beneficial.
The addition of a level editor is a nice touch. When I was playing Deathtrap for my preview of the game, I was disappointed at the lack of depth in environment configuration that was to be found in the level editor. Since the game has been released, however, there are some additions, including a couple of different level "types" (a clockwork-esque one and a electro-tower one) along with selectable time-of-day/weather options. The currently available options are still limited, but the presence of these few gives me hope that they will add some of the others from the normal levels to the editor, as well. I also hope they add the ability to have multiple heights in custom maps. The original maps in the game occasionally feature areas at different heights and stairways to get between these levels, which would be a nice addition to the editor.
There are games you go back to, and there are games you just don't want to stop playing. I find myself wanting to jump in just to check and see if I want to purchase whatever the special deal in the shop is, to try one more time to get a perfect three-star win on that level that's been giving me problems, to focus on using a certain type of trap to unlock a new trap in the Traps list or to play just a few more games to get to that next level. It's easy to pause, if something comes up, but it's really hard to put down.
Watch for my upcoming levels on Steam (GameVortexGeck0 - see link below).