The first Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing wasn't a bad game, however it did have crippling technical issues that held it back. Those issues have since been fixed, and developer Neocore Games has learned a lot in the process, it seems. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II does what a sequel is known for and improves on the core idea of Van Helsing while adding enough content to justify a sequel.
The story of Van Helsing II picks up right after the end of the first game. In case players completely forgot the plot or never played it, the opening cinematic does a superb job of catching everyone up. Essentially -- the city of Borgovia needs defending, and Van Helsing just so happens to be pretty great at exactly that. Simple enough.
In addition, a mysterious character simply named "Prisoner Seven" is involved, helping out Van Helsing throughout his adventure. However, Seven's intentions are the definition of vague, leaving the player and Van Helsing to always question his motives. The plot isn't too far off the beaten path and gets pretty predictable, but it's decently written and very well voiced in order to keep the player's attention throughout. The first game's humor comes back in full force, however this time its done with much more tact.
Players now have the ability to make Van Helsing one of three classes available, instead of being forced into a single role like in the original game. In addition to the classic Hunter, players can opt to make Van Helsing a Thaumaturge or an Arcane Mechanic. Each class plays very differently from the next, and there are loads of customization options within each class themselves, almost ensuring that two players will not play alike. Players may also import their characters from the first game if they wish.
Katarina, the "ghost with a snappy wit" returns in the sequel and can also be customized a ton. She feels much more fully fleshed out than in the first game and she even filled the classic "tank" role pretty well during my playthrough. Her AI can be extremely customized, which allows her to not feel like dead weight the entire time. Plus, she can hold on to excess items, go back to town and sell them, and even go buy potions.
The tower defense mini-game makes its return, which is a mode that I wasn't too fond of in the original due to lack of direction. I am happy to say, however, that Van Helsing II gives this mode the care and dedication it deserves, making it leagues better. The towers are more interesting, the maps feel better designed, and the package as a whole comes together nicely.
Van Helsing is also in charge of resistance commanders now, and can send one of his commanders out to do his bidding for him. Managing these commanders is a mini-game in itself, as each one has certain tactics they are better at and sending the wrong one can mean a mission failure.
The visual design of enemies in Van Helsing II is great, offering up some truly bizarre foes to take down throughout the campaign. Their behaviors are varied enough so that every enemy doesn't simply run straight towards the player, though many do. The visual style is alright, though things are overly shiny and can be a bit muddy as well.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II is a much better showing than the original. It's what a sequel should be; it improves on nearly everything while adding brand new ideas to the pile. Best of all, the core gameplay mechanics are still a blast to use and really spice up a genre that if often left untouched. It certainly has its shortcomings, but fans of games like the Diablo series, Torchlight, Titan Quest, or Path of Exile will love it.