The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 2 Preview: Undead loot

I want to be perfectly honest and upfront: it’s going to be incredibly hard to ignore the elephant in the room when talking about The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 2. Seeing as it falls into the action-RPG/loot grinding genre, comparisons to the recently released (and spectacular) Diablo III: Reaper of Souls are going to be impossible, so why don’t we have a little fun with it?

Who has the better story?

Both the narrative for Diablo III and Reaper of Souls were pretty, well, you know…iffy. Compared to what we see with Van Helsing, however, Diablo III is downright Shakespearean. Yet I’ve found that I’m not cringing as much when playing the latter; I’m chuckling at the accents, happily sighing at the random references from NPCs, and smiling at the cheese factor. Neither of these narratives are going to bring home Pulitzer Prizes, but one of them is making me smile, albeit in a non-intentional way.

Seriously, though, you’re not playing either of these games for the story. You’re playing them to kill a lot of things, something that both do well.

Who has the better gameplay?

Dare I say that Van Helsing plays better than Reaper of Souls? Yes, I dare. There’s just something about the former that resonates well with me. On the surface, there really isn’t anything to reinvent the genre; you have your two basic attacks and usable cooldowns, but it all finds a way to mesh together. There’s a concept in particular that won me over and it involves the game’s Rage meter. As you attack, you’ll build up Rage, which you can spend to power-up your next attack. As a melee fighter, I can add an AOE quake to my attack to drain life in a pinch. It’s these little subtleties that have helped keep me alive during the most intense firefights.

Who has the better companion?

When playing solo, both Reaper of Souls and Van Helsing allow you to bring along companions for the ride. When it comes to who feels more valuable, it’s not even close. Your sidekick in Van Helsing compliments your play style, filling in the gaps you create, and even has her own power-ups you can use on cooldown, helping to increase your DPS. Most importantly, though, I notice she’s there, compared to at times forgetting I have an AI counterpart in Reaper of Souls.

Who has the better level design?

To say that the level I played during my Van Helsing time was frustrating would be an absolute understatement. I’m often confused as to where to go next, backtracking quickly and far too often, and spending too much time walking instead of fighting. In short, it reminds me a lot of the early Acts in Diablo III. That’s not a good comparison, by the way. Act V in Reaper of Souls is just so well constructed in terms of pacing and design. There’s a definite difference in terms of budgets between the games and this is where it starts to show.

So are you saying that Van Helsing is comparable to Reaper of Souls?

Not quite; believe it or not, despite the games falling in the same genre, they feel completely different. Diablo III is about both the journey and the loot you find along the way. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 2 feels like it’s all about the moments, the combat, and actually playing the game; the loot simply plays second fiddle to help you do well against stronger enemies. It’s an incredibly (pun not intended) pleasant surprise thus far and has me looking forward to the final product.

I just hope that the level design doesn’t continue to suffer, because damn, it already feels like a chore constantly traversing around the map.

Jake Valentine is a regular freelance contributor for GameZone. When he’s not writing about (or playing) video games, chances are he’s playing a board game, Magic: the Gathering, or obsessing over food. You can follow him on Twitter @hop3less.

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