After PC gamers were disappointed with Diablo 3 when it initially launched, many looked to get their action/RPG fix elsewhere. Lucky for them the platform saw such gems as Torchlight 2 and The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing. The game was created by the European studio Neocore games, who had a hand in creating the King Arthur RPG games on PC. While the original Van Helsing was applauded for taking the APRG formula and making something different from it, it was met with mostly average reviews.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II takes the formula the first game was built on and expands on it in almost every way - something most sequels like to claim but rarely deliver on. While the first game lacked distinct character classes, the sequel has three; the Hunter with ranged and melee skills, the Thaumaturge who wields magic, or the Arcane Mechanic who uses traps and other mechanical devices. Each of these classes are then further broken up into subsets of the melee and ranged subclasses. On top of this there's a perk and reputation system that lets you unlock permanent abilities and buffs for your character.
Ready to go down the rabbit hole of the skill tree? Each subclass offers dozens of skills to choose from, which can be locked and leveled up adding to their ability. You can also unlock modifier skills on each skill (Got that? you've got skills in my skills), adding further depth to your character development. By my estimation there's over 120 possible places to put your points PER SKILL TREE. Loop in all three classes, the multiple trees and Katarina (you're AI sidekick) and you have almost 1000 skill decisions to make. There's so many possible combinations of characters to build it's almost obscene. If you're micromanagement type player, kiss your time goodbye because you'll be spending it trying to build your perfect character.
It's in this that Van Helsing II's greatest strength is also it's greatest weakness. The game is so incredibly deep and verbose, you almost never feel like you can get a grasp on all it has to offer. What else do you manage? How about an entire war. Your character is put in charge of hiring generals (and outfitting them), training troops, and sending them on missions to win an ongoing conflict. It's all done through a quick graphical interface, but it's one more aspect you need to remember.
While I mentioned the previous game in the series earlier, I never actually got around to playing it myself. So it's hard to know just how polished things have gotten, as well as just how much has been "added" for the sequel. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II is a meaty game as it stands now, with a download weighing in at over 20GB. The first of three chapters alone should take you 5-6 hours to complete. The entire campaign is fully voiced for every conversation, including every little interaction between your character and Katarina.
Speaking of the dialog the game has an almost uncomfortable sense of humor. Katarina likes to make offbeat jokes and witty retorts to most characters in the game. There are several "cameos" of pop culture as well including the Incredible Hulk, Silence of the Lambs, and even Saving Private Ryan. While some of the jokes gave me a light chuckle, most just made me want to facepalm. I'll commend Neocore for sticking with it throughout the game, it just feels out of place at time.
For the most part I found the story pretty forgettable, if not, ridiculous. Eventually I got so lost I just started to skip cut scenes and didn't look back. There's a decent variety of areas to fight in, and it's nice to not find all the standard desert/jungle/town/ocean environments - instead there's a distinctive steampunk influence in the towns and mountains as well as plenty of fantasy areas to explore.