The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II Interview

Recently we here at Darkstation had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Zoltán Pozsonyi, the producer of  The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II to talk about the upcoming game and what differs it from the original and all sorts of interesting new details. 

The first questions that come to mind revolve diversity. Short of the DLC the only real character was Van Helsing. Are there plans to incorporate any more playable characters? Will there be room for more gender diversity?

We are not planning to add playable female characters to the game, as we think that would kill the snappy conversations between Van Helsing and Lady Katarina, which is still a very important part of the sequel. The two DLC classes of the first game, however, will be available as starting characters for everyone in the vanilla version of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II, so all players can choose now either the Hunter or the Thaumaturge or the Arcane Mechanic to go on this new adventure.

That said, will the second installation in the series see an increase in character classes? The DLC class additions focused almost primarily on ranged combat, especially the Thaumaturge. While those ranged focused additions brought diversity to the game play, Van Helsing still had a lot of unexplored room. What additions, if any, do you have in store to allow a larger swath of play types?

We are not planning to add any more classes at the moment, but we wish to expand the diversity within each class. In the first game all three classes had wide skill trees that allowed several different specializations, but due to the initial level cap players could create a character build without giving too much thought to this aspect. In the sequel you’ll be able to develop your characters further and choose from 50-60 skills/tricks/auras per class, so after a while you’ll need to pick a certain path on the skill tree after all.

The Hunter class, for example, has melee, ranged and magic-wielding specializations, and depending on which path you chose for your character, your most important primary ability was Body, Dexterity or Willpower, respectively. It was also possible to combine these and become a battle mage who can stand his ground in the middle of the battle or a ranged-mage character with devastating AoE spells.

The Thaumaturge has two different character builds that can be set apart easily. You could choose the “fire and forget” style of play and learn elemental magic that does direct and instant damage, including a few shape-drawing and chargeable spells – or you could go down the other path where you manipulate enemies, hide yourself from the prying eyes or just debuff them and then show them hell… or even better, turn some of them to your side and watch the slaughterfest.

The Arcane Mechanic has three different specializations. You can be a medium-ranged character who deals direct damage with his gadgets, including grenades and flamethrowers. The second path is a specialization for deploying traps, using rockets and different kind of mines to turn your surrounding environment into a deadly minefield. The third path for the Arcane Mechanic is where you use mechanical minions, like spiders and turrets to aid you in combat. If you take this path, it is more than advisable to use it together with the Elyctric Sphere trick that makes you invulnerable for a while and speeds up your HP and Mana regeneration and also all cooldown times so you can place your minions a lot faster while you’re in the sphere.

While we are expanding on these specific character specializations, making them more distinctive, we also want to allow players to experiment with any combination they feel appropriate so we decided to add more skill/trick slots to the UI. We do hope everyone will find their own perfect combo that best fits their play style.

There is a noticeable lack of distinction between pieces of loot in the first game. With much of the loot feeling and looking similar and mostly making only minor changes to stats and no change to the physical player avatar; I never felt my version of Van Helsing feeling unique. How are you working to address this, and what's going to make this Van Helsing feel more like my Van Helsing?

That’s right. This wasn’t the strongest points of the first game and we received considerable negative feedback on the issue, so we have decided to make the necessary changes in the sequel. This time we’ll implement much more items and they will look different from each other. We’re also adding new weapon types like crossbows, axes, maces, staffs and wands that were completely missing from the first game. So yes, we’re on it :)

What was the inspiration behind choosing Van Helsing for the game? The decision to dress the role as an “all monster hunter” leaves room for you to take the character to plenty of unexplored avenues. When handling a beloved figure like Van Helsing, is best to keep it familiar and safe; in lieu of risky and more creative approaches to the mythos?

We’ve always loved to rely on well-known characters or events that have many different interpretations in the pop-culture, but only loosely. Each time we pick a character like this we try to leave space for inspiration, taking all the elements we like and using our imagination to add a unique taste to it. We did the same with King Arthur, and now we followed a similar path with Van Helsing. Actually the first version was totally different from the widely-known Van Helsing character: he was a younglad who looked like the larger-than-life hero of a fictitious manga series aimed for a younger audience. Judging by the feedback of the first teaser video, it was not a good choice at all. So we decided to change the main character and therefore the whole concept of the game changed as well. This is how the setting became much gloomier and more mature, and when we finally added the snappy dialogues and the pop-cultural references, we actually realized that we’ve found what we were looking for. Anyway, when it became obvious that Van Helsing Junior had to go, we called for the help of the gaming community to choose THE Van Helsing for us from threepossiblecontestants, the Chevalier, the Veteran and the Mysterious Stranger. And people chose the Mysterious Stranger, the one that resembles the Van Helsing stereotype the most. So he became our prominent monster hunter, although our Van Helsing is still considered as a very generous interpretation of Stoker’s original character: we changed a lot, like giving him magical abilities and making him wear hats no film producer would ever dare to put on their protagonists. :) And when we decided to add more playable classes based on community requests, we just let our imagination run free, and changed the looks and tools of the new Van Helsing characters completely.

Skills seemed to be a bit all over the place in the first game. While some such as cleave feeling indispensable, other skills felt entirely nonessential. Is there any thought reconstruct the system allowing for more weight placed on the validity of each skill? That said, what are some of your favorite spells and skills from the first game that will certainly be making a return; and, some new ideas?

Gameplay-wise the sequel builds upon the first part in many aspects, including the skill tree, which will be expanded for each class. That means all skills from the first game will make an appearance in the sequel too. However, we also realized that it needs heavy balancing, so that is exactly what we did in Part Two. Moreover, many of the new skills can be used to build a powerful combo with some of the old skills making both of them significantly stronger if used together.

My favorite Hunter is a battle mage type of character with its Lightning Strike and Embracing Flames, which is basically a fire ring around the character. It’s a very powerful combination, especially if you also use the Sphere of Timelessness trick with them and stop the flow of time while you’re slashing your foes. When I built a ranged Occult Hunter character, I played a Rage-heavy build that could be used as a tank too because this character was able to heal himself with every Rage point he spent. While playing the Arcane Mechanic, my favorite setup was the one using traps like Noxious Charge that besides doing direct poison damage also causes vulnerability, in combination with the Phlogiston Torch or later the Frost Jet that did continuous fire or ice damage. I used this build as a tank-like character and when things went south, I escaped quickly with the Ghastly Shape trick, pulled my character together and returned to the thick of it to stand my ground firmly again against the tide of monsters. When I played the Thaumaturge, my favorite build was the one fully optimized for DPS using Spool of Energy and Elyctric Discharge as the two main skills and called down a meteor every now and then with the Skyblast trick. I also loved the Firewall on lower levels, because it’s a nice element there that you can draw its shape, be it a circle around you, around the enemies or a line blocking the way in a narrow lane but as it’s a low level spell it’s not effective enough to keep it till the end of the game. What I particularly enjoyed in this build was the Sluggish Time trick that slowed the world to half speed around me. It was a gorgeous experience, especially in PvP mode, to see enemy rockets passing by my character while I just evaded them. Felt like I was Neo from “The Matrix” :)

In the sequel we’ll add more skills that will make it easier to create tank type of characters for all classes, like Stone Skin and some Jedi tricks like tossing away enemies. There will be more of the drawing and chargeable skills too: the more mana you spend on the skill, the more damage it will do. And we’ll also introduce runes, like the Pentagram of Pain or Weakness and these are most effective if used in combination with certain other skills. So there will be room for players’ imagination and exploration along the vast skill trees.

Rage was a system that served to set Van Helsing apart from its brethren in the genre, but it was difficult to keep track of. With some skills drawing on rage in any of three functions, it was far too easy to feel inept at the entire system. What are your intentions for tightening down the idea for the second game?

The Rage and PowerUp system was designed to be a tactical layer in the game, basically like micromanaging your resources where the resources are the three available PowerUps you can use to boost each of your active skills different ways, always by judging the current situation. On lower difficulty levels, however, you can choose to ignore it completely, it only becomes inevitable when you’re playing on Veteran or Heroic level or if you want to optimize your character build and your damage to perfection. During the testing it turned out that not everyone enjoyed micromanaging these resources given that the combat is quite fast-paced on its own even without giving any thought to the Rage system.

So now by design there are four different ways for players to harness the benefits of the Rage System:

  • Skillfulness: players charge each PowerUp one by one with hotkeys. This method is recommended for players who love to challenge their skills and prefer speedy battles and can concentrate on many things at once. Magicka fans have an advantage here ;)
  • Tactics: players can save their preferred PowerUp combo for the skills they use and activate it by hitting Space right before casting the spell or attacking with a weapon when this extra benefit is needed. Did you know for example that by activating the Aura of Counterbalance or the Hidden Reserves aura, every Rage point players spend will heal Lady Katarina and Van Helsing? It’s a good combo if you want to build a Rage-heavy tank character.
  • Auto-PowerUp: can be activated in the Options menu, basically it will automatically spend the player’s Rage points on PowerUps whenever there’s enough Rage. This is obviously not the most optimal choice but it saves you a lot of trouble if you’re not really into this aspect of the game, but you still want to receive the benefits.
  • Passive Rage: if you don't want to use the PowerUps, then you simply don't use them, but then make sure you learn those passive skills that grant you benefits if your Rage is full, like the Rampage aura that gives a significant boost to your Critical Damage whenever your Rage is at maximum. In this case it's better not to spend your Rage at all.

Will this Incredible Adventure arrive directly after the resolution to the first game, or should we expect something more stand alone? Can players expect a larger explanation for the relationship between Van Helsing and Lady Katarina; and, what are your intentions for keeping mission types more varied in the second game?

The story of the sequel starts almost right after the events of the first game, but while the two stories are obviously connected, our aim was to create a new adventure that could stand completely on its own and be enjoyed by new players who didn’t see the first game at all. We wanted to give the players of the first game the opportunity to import their existing characters, but we also agreed on one thing: this shouldn’t mean any disadvantage to newcomers. So now, new monster hunters can choose between two options, they can either create a level 30 character, distribute their ability and skill points and jump right into the adventure or start the game with a fresh, level 1 character in a game mode we just call the “NewGame-“ for now within the office. :)

Players will learn more about Lady Katarina’s past during the course of the trilogy. At first it was only a secondary storyline planned for the sequel, but it became so big that it was transferred tothe last part, where it’ll have some serious impact on the story.

In the sequel players will find themselves in the middle of a civil war. They will become leaders of the Resistance, trying to protect the people in the city and face the gothic-industrial nightmares of the new Borgovian army – new man-machines, enhanced monsters, special troops and vehicles. That opens up a lot of new opportunities for new mission types, controlling troops and making tactical decisions, so occasionally Van Helsing deviates from the “lone wolf attitude” of the first game. The second adventure offers a much more substantial story with more complex quests, where you’ll need to fulfill several objectives and make actual decisions that will affect later gameplay.

Thank you for your time, and best of luck with the development of the game.

Thank you.

The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.