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With Neocore Games' The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing sequel scheduled for release in less than a month and the game well into beta testing, it's no surprise that a fistful of new hands-on previews have reached the web.
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.
Though I couldn't engineer a change of scenery, Van Helsing 2'²s additional character classes (also retrospectively added to the first game through DLC) gave me an option to alter my approach. Once I'd selected one of the beta's pre-made Doctor Fate-ish Thaumaturge characters, things got a whole lot simpler. Rather than taking 90 minutes to claw half-way through the level, I could run through the entire beta in about 40.
The Thaumaturge is a magic user, and the fellow I'd chosen could produce a massive, semi-sentient column of fire that would track down foes. He also had a devastating void vortex type spell, which could layer even more damage with the returning '˜Rage' mechanic from the first title. Topped off with a basic freezing attack, he was pretty much a killing machine. Lesson learned here? Use a magician in Van Helsing 2, I guess. Your other new option is the Arcane Mechanic, who can call helpful bots to his aid and lay down automated devices like turrets.
Gameplay consists mainly of running around and finding the place marked on the map, with tons of fighting and an occasional dialogue. Conversations offer choices and your decision will shape the progress. For instance, you can choose whether to command defensive actions, or to let someone else do the job. Sure, it is always tempting to do everything by yourself and true RPG fans will certainly choose that path. The game has all core RPG mechanics including equipment, skills-tree, quests and ability points. It is not set in an open world and that is refreshing these days. Instead, Van Helsing II game has a set of maps that will unlock as you progress. Loot is scarce, or maybe I am just used to modern RPG games being packed with various loot on almost every inch of a map. Speaking of loot, items in the inventory could have been designed better. The whole look of my inventory just felt like I stepped in some old game.
Maps and monsters alike are designed in a good way, with focus on details and unique features of each race. Although the art-style looks like those we have seen in ARPG titles more than 5 years ago. It's a fictional world based on Bram Stoker's novel and the noir look is there for a reason. The atmosphere is dark, monsters are ugly and sometimes futuristic, and there is a lot of blood. You can turn blood effects off in the menu, but then it won't be the same effect. Mad scientist rules with violence and that feeling is there throughout the Beta. Sound effects and soundtrack just add to the dark setting of Van Helsing. Lady Katarina and her wits were a nice surprise, the ghost that understand sarcasm was the best NPC in a game.