More adventures ahead
One of the most surprising gaming experiences for me last year came from a small Hungarian developer named NeocoreGames. I had given up on isometric dungeon crawlers after the disappointment of Diablo III. Until I played The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing and realized that when done right, this genre could be truly unique and entertaining. Now the team at Neocore is back with The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II and the adventure promises to be bigger and better than the already impressive original.
As with any good sequel, Neocore has promised to keep the feel of the original, but are adding more things to make it even better, and the list of enhancements is quite impressive. Neocore is doubling the level cap from 30 to 60, adding two more skills and increasing the power ups for from six to 24. This is aimed at allowing the player to make a character unique to their own play style and encouraging people to make multiple run-throughs of the game to experience it in a different way. Your ever-present partner Katarina is also getting an upgrade with more skills and power-ups of her own.
There are also three character classes, with two sub-classes; you can play as a hunter, thaumaturge or mechanic and each of those classes has both a ranged and melee subclass. If you want to be a brutal, melee spellcaster and punch with magic, go for it; or maybe the ranged hunter with its rifle is more your style. As with many things in Van Helsing II, the choice is yours and each class has a unique look and feel.
Outside of the character enhancements the item system is also being given an upgrade. There are now over a thousand items including 250+ unique weapon models. This is a huge increase over the 30 from the original and promises to keep the player hunting every corner of the huge environments for the best loot. There are also 50 unique item sets with a variety of bonuses for collecting every piece.
One of the more unique aspects of the first Van Helsing was an interesting tower defense mini game that was woven into the gameplay. There was only one level and eight types of traps, but it was an unexpected and well-executed departure from the standard gameplay. This feature is making a return in the sequel and will be even more prominent with twice as many traps and seven different levels.
The environments are also being given a dynamic upgrade. Levels will feature weather as well as destructible elements to help keep the experiences varied across playthroughs. For example, in the very first level of the game you are given the option to destroy a bridge as a way to stop evil forces from streaming into the city. Of course the option has a downside, but this the type of non-linear gameplay that Van Helsing II is bringing to the table.
Throw in a complex story, three multiplayer modes, runecrafting, trophies and more of the easter eggs and humor that made the original so entertaining and you can see how Van Helsing II is shaping up to be the super-sized sequel a fan can love. Bigger is not always better, but in this case it seems like Neocore is focused on preserving what made the first game great and just giving you more of it.