A few weeks ago I had a fantastic opportunity to meet the entire team at Neocore Games as they get ready to release the second installment to ‘The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing’ series. Released to rave reviews, the first game received accolades abound and also garnered comparisons to other successful games such as Torchlight and Diablo. While those are truly compliments the team at Neocore knew they had more to offer than just a Diablo clone Action RPG and now, just under a month from their release date, they’re preparing to show you how much more.
If you had the chance to meet the team as I did and chat with them all one thing will surely stand out in your mind. If any of the people I met happen to read this they’ll definitely get a laugh out of what I’m going to say next. What will stand out in your mind is that this is a small studio made up of a lot of friends who give everything they’ve got to their project. When you encounter smaller studios they seem to have the one thing that the larger more profit focused studios don’t… HEART. There’s no shortage of it here as I was met with friendly faces and an outpouring of hospitality. Bottom line, these are people who I want to see succeed and the hard work they do deserves it. They care about making games worth playing.
Luckily for them my words really aren’t needed to get people hyped because people are already excited for Van Helsing II. They’re excited because the game is going to be so much better than the first and the first one was stellar. When the original game did so well it took the team at Neocore Games a little bit by surprise regardless of the fact that they knew what they had was special. Given the opportunity to make a sequel they set out more passionate than ever before to give players a great gaming experience.
During my visit I was able to sit down and play the first chapter of the game. Shortly before my arrival they had bumped up the release date, just over a month, to add some polish and in my mind that’s ok. When you want to get something done right release dates should never be set in stone. The old adage of “We’ll release it when it’s done” is far too underutilized in the industry these days but Neocore wants to get it right the first time.
Jumping into gameplay I was afforded a level 30 Abraham so I could experience bringing over my existing character from the first game. Starting off with ample strength and lots of tricks up my sleeve I dove into this new Borgova and promptly got my ass served to me on a silver platter. When playing Diablo I can usually barrel in like my ass is on fire and come out on top. I noticed within short order that if I wanted to succeed here that I would need to be much more tactical in my approach lest I be seeing the respawn point more often than I’d like.
Obviously the wonderful steampunk setting is back along with your snarky (and mostly amusing) sidekick… err sideghost, Katarina. Players of the first game will likely feel right at home. In my first series of missions I was set out to attempt to defeat General Harker who was trying to take over a factory district that the resistance fighters had held down. Through a series of player triggered waves I could choose to take on some tasks while directing other Generals within the resistance to tackle others for me. Battles of course were intense as enemies are strong and plentiful. On the few chances I had to upgrade abilities it was apparent that this time around you have a lot of tools at your disposal. Let’s not forget the new Thaumaturge and Arcane Magician classes, which I never tried unfortunately. When speaking with one of my peers at the event who had played as the Thaumaturge he seemed to be of the mindset that if you played through with magic you might have an easier time… I’m still determined to stick with Hunter because I’m stubborn that way.
After the factory district I was given a glimpse into Van Helsing’s Lair where I could buy and sell items, craft and more. I met my team of Generals and Captains who I’ll be able to send off on other missions for me as well as got to play a mini-game within the game – a tower defense style romp – where I attempted to defeat waves of monsters before they reached a certain area. Tower defense has never been my favourite style of game but I still managed to have fun with it.
Something that I truly appreciated, and this is carried over from the first game might I add, is the incredibly funny writing which never takes itself too seriously. We’re playing a monster hunter game so how serious can it be really? Whether it’s the banter between Abraham and Katarina or the snarky ghost’s new insult-sponge The Mysterious Stranger it’s always good for a laugh. Not only that you’ll find fun references on side missions like ‘Saving Private Bryan’ and hear soldiers exclaim that they received an arrow to the knee. I heard Harry Potter references, Tolkien refrains and much more. My favourite most likely being a big ‘screw you’ to Twilight and its sparkly vampires. While some people (especially us overly picky reviewers) might find using a Skyrim joke passé I’d argue that any drop of humour is a good one and in the name of not reviewing a title with a stick up my ass that means bring on the cheesy jokes please!
One of my more memorable moments of the trip was being able to sit down with the writer of ‘The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II’ Viktor Juhász and talk about where he gets his inspiration from. Perhaps it was the fact that we are very close in age so I know most of the material he’s pulling from but everything I noticed put a smile on his face. According to Viktor, “Being able to use pop culture references is like a treat for gamers to find. Not every person will get every reference but when they do you just hope it puts a smile on their face and brings some levity to a situation in the game which could possibly be very dire. I like the idea of bringing some lightness to the dark in a way. Games are supposed to be fun and this is a good way for me to feel like I’m injecting that extra bit of humour in there.”
All in all the game has never looked better with an incredible level of attention to detail in nearly every department from sound to graphics to gameplay to the writing. There’s a lot for gamers to be excited about. Still though, to keep things in perspective, this is only one part of a much bigger whole so whether or not this level of quality stands the test of a full playthrough is yet to be seen. I’m hopeful of course because what I’ve seen so far is of such a high quality.
So now there’s only two things you need to do! First and foremost is to support developers like Neocore and get your pre-order (with all sorts of extra special goodies) on! Check out the video below for more information in that department. Secondly is to leave a comment in the comment section below and follow us on the Twitters (@GameCanadian) for a chance to win 1 of 9 Steam codes to the first Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing game! We’ll be selecting all winners on May 11th so they have almost 2 weeks to play before the release of the sequel on May 22nd.