‘Van Helsing II’ – Closed Beta Impressions

These days, the gaming industry is in no shortage of ARPGs (action role-playing games). Ever since Blizzard had brought us the first installment in the Diablo series, this particular genre has been on a constant rise. That said, if an entry in the ARPG department doesn’t bring something new to the table, the general thought is that it’s simply “just another Diablo clone.

Well, as it was the case with the first one, I’m glad to say that – while The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II isn’t a reinvention of the genre – it is quite fun on its own. I’ve recently experienced its closed Beta, so below you’ll find some of my thoughts.

First of all, the closed Beta focuses on a small portion of the game, namely the siege of General Harker on the Factory District of the Borgova town. Naturally, your objectives are to defend it by repelling waves of enemies, giving orders to your soldiers, and even making some decisions here and there.

When giving orders – even though there usually are three to four dialog options – whatever your choice, nothing will actually happen. You can tell the soldiers to call for additional troops, reinforce a particular position, or even give a morale speech, but the only thing happening is an objective box being checked. You can even choose not to undertake some side-quests, which – again – will not influence the plot in any way. It’s certainly a commendable effort, but we need our choices to bare actual real consequences. Maybe the full game will offer us more.

One of Van Helsing‘s focus-points is its humour, and it seems like the series is ready to once again uplift some of that tension, by referencing characters like Private Ryan (only this time it’s “Saving Private Bryan”), or Harry Potter, or even famous quotes like Gandalf being “never late, nor early.” It shows a lot of passion to creating a more unique ARPG. That said, the voice-acting can sometimes fall flat.

When compared to the prequel, the first major noticeable step is the introduction of multiple classes. Besides being able to import your Van Helsing from the first game, the sequel offers you three pre-made classes to tackle (six, if players dare to touch the Veteran mode). Van Helsing II gives you the usual melee-focused class (The Blade), the ranged one, the mage (The Spellkeeper), and another one focused solely on mechanical units (The Contraptionist). There are two other classes to choose, but those are more or less variations of the ranged and mage classes.

The Spellkeeper class is very powerful, but at the cost of also being very weak, when compared to the melee-type class. He’s able to cast spells which last longer than the usual fireball or lightning bolt. For example, this mage has the ability to summon a laser beam, which automatically seeks enemies to burn, or a lightning cloud that will strike everyone in its range. The Contraptionist uses flamethrowers, and can deploy different types of mechanical turrets, spiders, and also mines. Every class feels different in its own way, which is absolutely great. There’s also an option to customise your character the way you want, though it’s not available in the Beta.

Another step-up is the introduction of new skills and perks, both to Van Helsing, and to his ghostly companion – Lady Katarina. Also, the new Glory options further enhance your fighting abilities.

The soundtrack, the new types of enemies, and the general feel of a city under siege makes Van Helsing II much more exhilarating and fast-paced than its prequel. From enemy reinforcements dropping out of the sky, to cannons firing at you from undisclosed positions, it seems like Van Helsing II is also much more dynamic.

All in all, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II doesn’t seem to be a major step from the first one, but it sure looks like it’s going to be a case of “bigger and better.” The closed Beta left me wanting more, so I’m looking forward to providing you with a full review.

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II is set to be released on April 17th, on the PC and Mac. For all your latest ghostly tales, keep it locked to AA.