Having not played the original The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, I wasn't quite sure what to expect going into a preview build of the sequel. The game is clearly stylized after other action RPGs, such as Diablo, with the player controlling the titular Van Helsing in a steampunk-inspired version of 19th century Europe. You cut and shoot your way through legions of enemies, but there are elements that clearly try to expand the formula.
The basic gameplay is simple enough, and anyone familiar with action RPGs will pick it up quickly. Your mouse buttons control your main combat abilities, the first six number keys trigger a customized set of secondary abilities, and the UI at the bottom contains other information, such as indicators on potions, ability modifiers, and other options. The game packs a lot of information into its UI cluster.
In the preview build, Van Helsing fights his way out of an underground lair, but the gameplay only begins to open up in a later segment, where you fight in the elevated streets of a city under siege. Enemy forces drop in from pods while you are trying to secure the city, but along the way, you make choices on how to proceed. In one instance, you either blow up a bridge and hope the citizens evacuate, or you leave the bridge open and provide the enemy with another avenue of attack. In another, you order squads to prepare for the siege by asking for reinforcements, deploying automated turrets, or redistributing their forces. It's tough to tell what impact such choices had on the resulting gameplay, but blowing up the bridge sure made the defense easier.
The new game lets you import your character from the previous one, keeping your level and letting you pick up from where you left off. For new players, you can choose to create a new character based on the six available templates, or you can create your own from the three available classes. As you level up, you put points into your base characteristics and into improving or unlocking new abilities. Of the latter, there are quite a few to choose from, and they vary based on your class, such as a shot that has to potential to freeze enemies or the ability to summon mechanical spiders to fight for you.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 2 has some promise, and it does well to try and add new gameplay elements to what would otherwise be standard action RPG gameplay. As a title expected to launch for $15, the game is fairly impressive in its ambition; with some patch elbow grease, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing 2 has the potential to be a viable alternative to its big-budget cousins.