After arriving in Budapest during their Spring Festival, we met up with the very happy NeocoreGames team and some characterful journalists before playing an updated beta build of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 2. It’s been a while since our previous Van Helsing 2 QA, but whether you’re new to the series or not, there’s plenty for Van Helsing fans to sink their teeth into.
The most notable changes upon playing the updated build were the new GUI and expanded skill tree, allowing players to use far more skills and passive combinations together with your tricks to create some really good builds. That’s excluding Lady Katarina’s new skills, the huge Chimera, rune fragments, enchantments and your mini-pet (if you pre-order the game), phew! The expanded layers of customisation should appeal to the aRPG build explorers among you, especially with the level cap raised to 60 in order to use the new skills and passives.
New pop culture references are to be found for those who search for them, easter egg decisions will make you wish you chose the path for the completionist and there’s plenty of banter in the same unique style we’ve come to expect from the Van Helsing series. In my case, I missed a potentially good sword. Luckily, the loot drops have been improved, which may mean some tough choices for those of you who like your min/max stats; though the item rating for those who don’t care about numbers could be better represented.
Some enemies remain familiar such as those pesky Ornithopters, others are new and designed to keep even hardcore hunters on their toes, possibly leave teeth marks on their keyboard too. It’s not quite Dark Souls 2, but there are plenty of surprises with the new enemies based on how you decide to try defeat them.
Whilst we’ve interviewed NeocoreGames team to find what’s changed since the previous Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, we also did a fair bit of work by grinding mobs, crashing the game and finding those unique items. Meanwhile, the NeocoreGames team were busy playing ping pong and answering all our questions.
Providing those answers were Producer, Zoltán Pozsonyi (aka Pozs), System Designer, Balázs Farkas, Game Designer, Péter Szegedi, Narrative Designer and Lead Writer, Viktor Juhász, PR & Community Manager, Orsolya Tóth and Community Manager and Tester, Mátyás Csikós (aka Megapull).
Almost the full team! Next time we’ll have to try harder to collect them all for you.
IncGamers: From my tour with you guys so far, I know there are some film fanatics amongst you all. So firstly, how did you come up with the concept for the Godzilla and rabbit mini-pets?
Orsolya: Indeed! We already knew that we wanted to create mini-pets as part of the supporter packages. Only we didn’t know what these pets should be, so we had a huge brainstorming session where everyone wrote down as many ideas as they could and we chose the best. Quite simple but very effective.
IncGamers: Are these summoned like the Chimera? How do they interact with Van Helsing?
Orsolya: You don’t need to summon them, they are always by your side. They all give passive bonuses to the characters. Players can even set in the options whether they want to see them or not.
IncGamers: Can you talk us through some of the design choices you’ve made with the Thaumaturge class’ skills that require drawing pentagrams?
Balázs: All the Pentagram tricks are very powerful skills so we wanted to limit their use somehow or at least make them a bit harder to use compared to other skills. After a while we came up with the idea of drawing pentagrams where the swiftness and skillfulness of the player are also very important, so it became a new tactical element in the game.
IncGamers: What’s your favourite use of the Thaumaturge’s Kinetic Attack skill?
Balázs: I like picking up my enemies and throwing them off the cliff into the abyss. There are obviously quite a few monsters that can resist this, mostly those with significant HP, but it’s still a lot of fun.
IncGamers: In order to stop treasure goblins getting away with their lovely loot sacks I’m hoping to use this spell if the chimera fails to catch them.
Orsolya: Well, they have a lot of HP…
IncGamers: So is Domovoy Baggins immune to the spell?
Orsolya: Haha, actually he isn’t. Only the first Domovoy you met in the first game had that many HP to resist this spell for sure. But back then you didn’t even have this skill anyway. As a matter of fact, this would be a very creative way to use the Kinetic Attack skill.
IncGamers: Shaking those Domovoy’s around to get loot is very helpful! Speaking of Domovoy Baggins, what’s he up to this time?
Orsolya: Baking cakes…and explosives.
IncGamers: A healthy combination we can expect only from ‘the’ Domovoy of course! From our previous QA for Van Helsing 2, you mentioned an expanded Borgovia, specifically the carnival, can you tell us about other points of interest?
Viktor: The gothic-noir city of Borgova has been slowly expanding over the months, right until the point where we realized that it just won’t fit into a single game, since we will also send our hunter into the untamed wilderness. It means that in Van Helsing 2, where the plot focuses on the civil war raging on the streets, you will see those points of interest that play a significant role in the urban warfare: the colossal Viaduct Junction where the elevated train bridges converge, the underground Foundry with the gaping pits of molten steel or certain sections of the Old Town with the once beautiful canals and bridges, now used for moving military equipment and of course new regions of the underground labyrinth. Other significant districts of the gothic Old Town will eventually appear in the third game.
IncGamers: On the Borgovia Thunderhead mountain map, will it be possible to explore the Dragon Peaks? I want to give a dragon an explosive cake.
Viktor: We won’t go near the Dragons Peaks. No one dares to go near the Dragon Peaks! Instead, we are going to show you the forbidden regions of the Thunderhead Mountains, the ancient caves, the Giantwoods and the winding mountain passes, which were closed for a reason.
IncGamers: Co-op is really fun, but how stable is multiplayer compared to the first Van Helsing? Could you tell us about what you’ve learned and improved on this aspect?
Megapull: We have acquired new dedicated servers to handle the larger workload, so there should not be any problems with handling large amount of players. Moreover, we have implemented a new netcode for the game so everything should run seamlessly in the multiplayer sessions of Van Helsing 2.
IncGamers: Cool, moving on to loot. What have you learned from the first Van Helsing’s loot system? Can you tell us about any new changes?
Megapull: The loot system in its core has remained unchanged in Van Helsing 2. We added a lot more unique and set items to the game and there are a few guaranteed epic drops as well, in order to make players feel more rewarded for their efforts. Additionally the quest rewards became more specialized, as players can often choose between reward options based on their specialization. To add to the visual factor, we implemented loads of unique weapon and armour models, over 250 in fact, so characters wearing epic gear will have a much more badass look compared to starter gear characters. Also, a couple new weapon types are introduced in the sequel, namely staves for the Thaumaturge and axes along with crossbows for the Hunter.
IncGamers: Is there a critical hit rune as I want to make kind of trigger on crit build?
Balázs: Yes, there is! You can create runes basically from every enchantment that can appear on an item. But you can only add a maximum of four runes to a newly crafted item.
IncGamers: Cool. Character build wise, what’s your favourite with the new expanded skill trees? Any cool combinations?
Megapull: The Thaumaturge using all the crowd control spells such as the Ice Wall and the Pentagram skills in combination with powerful AoE spells like the Thunderbolt looks really cool – trap those monsters and blast them apart!
IncGamers: For the new PVP mode, what’s your process on gameplay balance?
Megapull: Every player in PvP receives a drastic debuff and we have also added a lot of so-called “game changers” that can be looted from various spots across the PvP area. These give players various side-effects – slowing hits, more damage or critical hit chance and so on – that can give them the edge over their opponents.
IncGamers: Sounds interesting. In a similar style to Diablo 3, will the balancing of skills in single player be separate to the same skills available in multiplayer PvP?
Megapull: The overall balance of the skills is the same, but in PvP, all players receive a drastic stat squishing debuff, that reduces their damage done by 90%. Therefore, the spells preserve their mechanics but because of the stat squishing, players will not be able to oneshot each other or take advantage of overpowered spells.
IncGamers: Can you tell us more about the vampire lords?
Viktor: The vampire lords are slowly making their glorious return, but this is going to be a long process. As a first step, in Van Helsing 2 we are going to introduce two very powerful and very old vampires who are quite different from our extravagant Count Vlados: they are ancient and primal creatures. One of them hates this new world of weird science, so he might be willing to help you – for the moment – however, the other Old One doesn’t need your help and doesn’t want your presence at all.
IncGamers: We’ve seen Skyrim and Saving Private Ryan puns and quests, what other influences have made it into The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 2?
Viktor: Apart from our constant sources of inspiration, which are still the classic gothic and pulp stories that we sometimes use in a very ironic way so we could play with the well-known clichés, we have numerous pop-cultural references in the game. Keep an eye on the hidden special artifacts and unique characters, influenced by popular comic books, Star Wars and even the Silence of the Lambs, just to mention a few.
IncGamers: Awesome. For the lair defense could you tell us about the changes on sending hunters with a group of soldiers out on missions?
Megapull: The Resistance Management is a whole new feature in the sequel that allows the player to send troops to deal with specific missions. The player can train and assign soldiers under three captains’ command, and send them on challenging quests that yield loot and give experience to the captains. Each captain has its own strengths and weaknesses, so players must choose wisely when choosing the right leader for a mission. Players can equip the captains with various magic relics as well to make the missions easier, and when the captains gain levels, the player is in charge of deciding which stat of the captains should be improved.
IncGamers: What would you like to see as future DLC?
Orsolya: Good question! But let’s just get the game out first and then we’ll see what ideas we can come up with for DLCs.
IncGamers: Any splendid new traps for the lair in Van Helsing 2?
Megapull: The Melt-O-Pool is pretty cool as it deals AoE damage to all monsters that are dumb enough to set foot on a lava pit. If it’s powered up completely, it also ignites the enemies, making sure that they take damage even after passing through the trap, and it also disorients them so they get absolutely toasted.
IncGamers: What’s the highest priority for your team in terms of the Van Helsing series game design?
Orsolya: To create a game that is easy to learn, hard to master and makes you smile a lot during the process.
IncGamers: A question to inspire wannabe voice actors this one. Could you tell us about your voice acting process you use for Van Helsing and Lady Katarina?
Péter: Choosing the right voice actors was maybe the hardest part of the process. We had gone through a lot of applicants until we found the perfect voices: Michelle Sparks as Lady Katarina and Alex Warner as Van Helsing. When we were recording the first few dialogues from the early chapters of the first game, we had to recapture complete sections over and over again till they got the hang of it. It’s been going smoothly ever since. First, I get the script from our Lead Writer, Viktor and then I sort it by characters and send them to the voice actors. They record their scripts in their studios and send back the different variations of their lines. Actually they can identify with their roles so much that I barely have to ask for any changes, they already know their characters really well. The approved recordings finally go through a sound post production before they make their way into the game. Voila! Quest Complete.
IncGamers: Cool. What’s been the biggest challenge so far with improving your game engine?
Pozs: Optimizing it to the extremely wide range of hardware configurations in different software environments.
IncGamers: What are your current thoughts on the RPG market and if you can say, your competitors?
Pozs: RPG elements just tend to appear in all kinds of games nowadays, be it shooters, strategy games or anything really, which I think is a welcome addition to any game. In the last decade the RPG genre slowly dissolved into several sub-genres that have gained independence since then, and the old-school methods also made their return today, so there’s a great variety to pick from. Due to this change in the scene, our direct competitors are only the Diablo-like, hack and slash action RPGs. Undeniably a lot of games have been released lately in this sub-genre due to the arrival of the latest game in the great and awesome Diablo series. We never denied that the titans of the APRG have been a significant influence for our team in creating the Van Helsing series, but we wanted to place our game in a unique world filled with steampunk-like elements and use the typical Hungarian sarcastic humour to our own advantage. Looks like we did that well after all!
IncGamers: Thanks guys, you’ve been really great once again! Thanks for answering all our questions. Anything you’d like to say to UK fans?
NeoCore: Keep your swords and pistols ready, and be prepared to hunt down the new swarm of monstrosities when the game hits Steam next month, May 22.
Indeed I will and there you have it, a sequel all loaded and sharpened up for the loot hunt. Our review will be coming in May, but do head over to NeocoreGames and check out more info on The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 2, oh and hardcore players, beware of these two words… Bedlam Behemoths.