By Marisa Alexander / October 2nd, 2017
|Title||The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II|
|Release Date||May 22, 2014|
|Platform||PC, Xbox One, PS4|
October is fast approaching, so I suppose it’s very fitting to delve into some gothic atmosphere. While first released on Steam, NeocoreGames’ The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing series has only recently made its mark on PS4. As such, it’s a prime time to delve into the recent version of the sequel. Since there was already a review for the game, this will be primarily an inspection of its technical aspects. To warm up however, it is best to recap the overall premise and gameplay.
The story follows the adventures of the son of Van Helsing, and his companion Katarina. After defeating Fulmigati, the main antagonist in the first game, a new villain named Harker rises up. Working with the Resistance in Borgovia, young Van Helsing must bring down Harker to stabilize the region further. However, in order to do so, he must follow the guidance provided by Prisoner Seven. A previous prisoner of Fulmigati itself, he provides insight to what truly is happening in Borgovia. However, his motives are clouded in mystery.
The gameplay itself follows the standard approach of isometric ARPGs. It follows closely to the formula Diablo popularized: randomized stats for every piece of gear dropped, hordes of enemies, and relatively basic dungeon crawling. As you level up, you gain stat points and skill points, the latter used to obtain and augment abilities. With skill points, abilities can obtain power-ups and passive bonuses. In order to use power-ups however, one must use rage, designated by the yellow bar.
In truth, the story overall is bland and forgettable, despite attempts at humor. Yet, many of these references, such as the Monty Python and The Holy Grail Black Knight, tend to simply appear and contain no actual punchline or sense of comedic timing. The voice delivery can also cause Katarina’s and Van Helsing’s banter to feel rather dry and devoid of life. Plot points are also left undeveloped once the story moves onto the next chapter.
As for gameplay, it’s extremely tedious and frustrating. Your damage and protection scaling is extremely low in comparison to enemy progression. As such, you are essentially firing a BB gun at pointblank a lot of the time. Enemies can also fatally combo you and Katarina with abilities, like using Entrap and then Skystrike. At higher difficulties it will instantly deplete your HP, despite defense buffs. Due to this, there is very little room for experimentation. Want to focus on a beefy Katarina? Too bad, she will mostly die regardless of what you do.
In the end, the bulk of this review is about the technical aspects present. Unfortunately, there are a myriad of issues. For instance, the game’s animation frames can suffer heavily in intense sequences. Animation frames drop by roughly a third. Better than the framerate itself dipping, but a jarring graphical weakness nonetheless. However, the framerate can still dip as well when there are a lot of effects on screen or rain. It can drop roughly to a third depending the circumstance. Another possible issue is the game crashing in the lair. During one session, I had it crash three times in a row when I attempted to modify a piece of gear. Oddly enough, this hasn’t happened since. Nonetheless, saving is advisable whenever modifying gear.
The character menu is not tailored for the console, despite being changed from the PC version. Interestingly, the standard menu is fine as all the options are from top to down. Yet, for character sheets, inventory, and skills, it’s extremely inconvenient to cycle through the other menu. It is easy to fumble around the menu to get to the section you want. It would’ve been better to have a standard menu screen. Some sections also need better organization such as the skills section. It’s difficult to discern a pattern behind the placement of each individual skill.
Skills at points also have difficulties in working properly. One of my main skills was a gun shot that fired a fire-based explosion. Overall, simple to use and straightforward. However, much of the time while running, instead of shooting the enemy I had the L-stick pointed toward, it would shoot off in the opposite direction. As such, I wasted mana and had to wait for it to cool down. It easily gets frustrating when it involves enemies that regenerate their HP.
Unfortunately, the game’s PS4 port failed to deliver an optimized experience due to the technical issues present. This was done on a vanilla PS4, as a disclaimer. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II was already a bleak experience for me, and the technical aspects made it even bleaker. The game itself is $15, so it’s not asking for much, to be fair. However, the game could’ve been streamlined much better.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
ARPGNeocoreGamesPCPS4The Incredible Adventures of Van HelsingXbox One