The question is quite simple, did you enjoy The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing? Because there is no greater question about your love for Action RPGs or certain kind of games, TIAoVH2 is a direct sequel in story and actual game engine to the first game, for better or worse. I completed it in a few days, so it wasn’t bad by any stretch, but the problems I’ve found in the first game were still there - sometimes even amplified in some way.
During character creation, you can choose from three classes. Hunter is the traditional gun-and-sword hero from the first game and the two other classes - thaumaturge and arcane mechanic - are from the expansions the first game had. I wish they were new classes. To make matters worse, they all have the same skills as they did in the first game. Cleave, lighting shot, dropping grenades and shooting magic missiles… The issues I have with the skill system are still there, I don’t like point-based skill systems, they either force you to place points in skills you don’t care about, hoard your points, or pay to have them reset. To make things worse, there are new skills, yes, but they’re after the batch of original ones, so you have to slog through known content before you get the cool stuff like whirlwind or turning into a werewolf. Auras are still here - passive skills - as are your tricks - other active skills that I rarely used.
I had to restart the game three times. At first, I went with hunter and tried to balance swords and guns, but found that my skill points were spread too thin between the truckload of passives you could have. Then I went with thaumaturge, but died endlessly, then I tried arcane mechanic, but firing very slow grenades that explode after a few seconds with a fairly long cooldown between shots isn’t the most snappy way to start a videogame character, how bout a machine gun? so I restarted a new hunter, put all my stat points - they’re back, and they’re the same - into body to beef up my hit points and defenses, put all my points into sword skills, and went to town. Even by doing so, I died constantly, enemies have too many special attacks, meteors that one-shot you no matter what, beams of electricity, etc. etc. of course, death is trivial, you can just pay to get rid of it, potions are plenty, there’s that one healing skill and one perk allowed me to revive each three minutes if I died, so it wasn’t a big deal.
The tower defense minigame is still there, but I’d prefer to use this other system where you sent NPCs to do quests for you. They all have different stats and you send them, alongside soldiers that fight with you, to complete various miscellaneous quests such as defending your lair and gathering relics. It’s a neat little system - and I’m not a fan of the tower defense game in TIAoVH - but they should give you a way to know when the timers are up - because all of these little missions are on real time timers and you can’t send people if you don’t have soldiers available. You get items and experience from doing these things and there’s a little bit of strategy - mostly in choosing the right guy for the job.
As for the core game itself, I was a bit disappointed by the story, it ends on a cliffhanger that basically says “Hey hope you play The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 3!!!” and it was very anticlimactic. I feel like there are less places to visit in this game than there were in the first one, same thing for the number of quests and NPCs you interacted with. That being said, there still are plenty of secrets to find, some more obscure than others - like one involving powering-up an item to find out the steps to a very obscure quest, I liked that one. If I had an issue here it maybe was that quest hubs were not well defined, so finding these quests you’ve missed is not as obvious as it should be.
After a while, you find a chimera pet that you can summon to fight for you or send into hunting missions, I feel like they wasted an opportunity for some nice mechanics here. Sending your chimera to a mission is just a button press and then you wait for it to come back with loot, gold and experience, which is boring. You can summon it to fight for a few minutes, but it doesn’t feel very powerful or very special. Make it so you can evolve your chimera into various monsters, make it very powerful but on a bigger cooldown, make the hunting trips controllable - you play the chimera - or just make it a permanent pet that you can feed and care for. And you already have your ghost lady friend, so you might not need ANOTHER pet, so why is the chimera there in the first place?
The game is full of jokes, I’m not going to spoil them all here for you, but let’s say that some work and some don’t. I remember the first Van Helsing game to have a peculiar sense of humour that this one reproduces quite well, it might be quite identical to the type of puns and wordplay of it’s predecessor, but that’s still tantamount to how close the two games are.
The perk system comes back with almost all the perks of the first game, and some more. Perks are passive bonuses you unlock by doing certain things - like drinking potions, having a high Body stat, using lightning attacks a lot - and you get them by killing champion enemies. I felt that I had too many perk points and not enough interesting perks at one time and then it switched radically with a bunch of cool perks and almost no points to get them. There’s also a ‘Glory’ system that you can dump points into after getting max level - to get additional stat points, a bit like paragon levels in diablo 3 - but I never could put any points into it because it grew so slowly. The bonuses are small - like 1% to HP or 1% to damage - so it shouldn’t take forever to get them, and I gave up after a while
The battle system is still very satisfying, you still fight against huge hordes of enemies and big champions with tons of devastating passive and active abilities. The boss fights themselves are a bit underwhelming - flipping switches and killing normal enemies to damage bosses aren’t very fun - but it’s still pretty satisfying to start spinning into a pack of monsters and killing everything around. There are some weird spots here and there were there is a non stop stream of enemies coming your way and you could grind pretty fast there, but the level progression is quick enough - you can get to max level in about 25 hours.
The end game is quite weird, you fight in missions that you can make more or less difficult for yourself by adding modifiers and this gives you treasures and gold. I’m not too sure what you can spend these on since you’re already max level, but it’s nice to see endless content in the end of the game. Some of the missions are to kill a number of enemies in a certain time, others are about finding clues or opening chests, but there probably are others. Also, a bit like Bastion, they’ve added a trophy system where you can give bonuses to your character at the cost of also boosting your enemies.
I think the systems and mechanics they’ve added to this sequel are nice, but I kinda also wish that they changed stuff in the old ones too. That’s my main issue with this game, it’s great, but it also could have been an expansion for the first one. They didn’t change stuff enough to warrant it being an entirely new game, some franchises do this better than others and I must admit that too much change could also ruin a perfectly good experience. Although it begs the question about the experience being good if you have it multiple times in a too close interval. This game isn’t perfect - there are even a few bugs, mispelled words, missing tooltips here and there, the list goes on. But it’s a solid action RPG and I had a very fun time.