Warhammer: Vermintide 2 has just been released on PC by Fatshark, the developer and publisher of the title, with release on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 scheduled for later in the year. If you didn’t get hands on with the original, Vermintide 2 is like Left 4 Dead has been thrown into the Warhammer universe, with the zombies being replaced by hordes of Skaven. However, has this sequel managed to fix the issues players had with the original? Let’s find out!
The aim of Vermintide 2 is to progress through the 13 levels as part of a 4-member party. This can be done on your own with relatively capable AI or with some teammates cooperatively. Each player will control one of 5 characters (Bright Wizard, Waywatcher, Witch Hunter, Dwarf Ranger and Empire Soldier) from a first-person perspective.
You can play Vermintide 2 as a bit of a hack and slash game, but it won’t be easy unless you look into the underlying RPG elements. Each of the 5 characters come with 3 sub-classes that enable players to customize their gameplay experience, via different playstyles and available traits. Balancing the party in terms of the classes and sub-classes can be extremely important to surviving a mission. Get a tank in the middle of all the action, grabbing all the aggro and a horde can be whittled down by others from range.
At the same time with the quantity that comes against you often one character in the midst of the action is most certainly not enough. Find what works for you and your friends and choose the rolls accordingly. While you can flick between characters, players would do best to choose one to level up early on, as there are skill trees to follow and choose from – enabling heroes to get better at defeating enemies.
Being thrown back into the mix, despite being in new locations, one of the first things players will notice is that combat feels extremely reminiscent of the original. This is by no means a bad thing, as the same fast paced satisfaction is prevalent, with minor tweaks to make timing a little more important. Characters will still be burning stamina to block, dodge or land heavy attacks and there will be plenty of enemies to take a swing at, let an arrow fly towards or burn in glorious fire.
The design of the levels is what sets Vermintide 2 apart from the crowd. It does a phenomenal job of capturing the desolation and darkness of Warhammer’s End Times apocalyptic fantasy theming. From crumbling overrun ruins to abandoned mines, from fields to forests, each level has something unique and distinct about it. Care and attention has been spent crafting the path the heroes will follow. Locations are incredibly atmospheric, with only the incoming hordes ready to tear through the tension.
There are locations that players will stop and look at in wonder the first time they turn that corner, emerge from that tunnel or ride a lift to. Do this at your peril though as more than once I’ve turned around after admiring a view to find a Skaven mid-attack… something not overly great for your health bar! The game itself is rather linear, with an obvious path to follow. This results in a game less about the destination and more about the progress through the levels and surviving the journey.
A huge stumbling block of the original was the eventual grind it became. Seemingly taking some cues from Activision’s Destiny 2 score-based loot system is a new crate system, though thankfully one that does not include microtransactions. These loot crate items are award at the end of every level, meaning you gain weapons a faster rate than before. Not only does this enable the player to try different items out quicker but also gives them more choice over the exact traits they want from their primary weapon.
The loot players get, that gear people get their hands on, almost needs to come at a faster rate to deal with the onslaught they will face. The team at Fatshark has upped the ante with the inclusion of the Chaos units and in terms of the difficulty the game presents. On top of the special Skaven units and the hordes of ratmen, plenty of new enemies will spawn along players’ journeys. Now you’ll have to contend with the likes of Chaos Sorcerers and Bile Trolls, whom are ready to down much of your party.
Stumble through the tutorial and Vermintide 2 will have given you the basic grasps of how to use both melee and ranged attacks. It isn’t exactly the best tutorial, feeling like a painfully scripted event, but it does the job. The learning won’t stop there though, as players will need to understand each weapon and discover their nuances. While most of combat will revolve around clicking or holding the left and right mouse buttons timings importance comes to light fairly early on. Combine this with the fact each weapon handles a little different and it’ll take around 30 seconds of swinging a new battle hammer or firing a flamethrower to find its effectiveness.
Despite the additions the Skaven have had no downgrade, leading to an experience that can truly test gamers. In a game where a single landed heavy attack can almost down you, you’ll need to learn fast. This could be off-putting for some new players, but others will relish the challenge that Vermintide 2 can pose. It isn’t uncommon to be overrun as a party and barely make it through with a couple of incapacitated teammates.
If that isn’t enough of a challenge the same Tomes and Grimoires system has been brought across from the original. Once again, these mysterious items take up an inventory slot, the healing tool and potions slot respectively, making it a risk to carry then throughout the level. To ramp the struggle up Grimoires even reduce a player’s health! Of course, there is a reason for these items and that is to improve the loot earnt at the end of a level. Normally players will see this risk as worthwhile, at least until they get nearly torn apart by the next wave of Skaven and Chaos.
As with the likes of Left 4 Dead players will return the levels time and time again, following the same path. To add some variety the spawning of enemies has been somewhat randomised. This doesn’t mean that lots of Skaven won’t be heading your way but often the special units you’ll encounter might change. One time a Ratling Gunner could be damaging from distance, only for another playthrough to see suicidal-like Chaos Marauder getting close and personal. Even a subtle change like this can significantly change the feel of a level and players will have to adapt to the incoming threats dynamically or face incapacitation!
While I have seen very little in the way of bad frame rate performance while playing in 4K with a i7-6700K & Nvidia GTX 1080 I have seen some complaining about drops when it comes to large hordes of Skaven and Chaos raiders. Thankfully and as is to be expected, there are a range of graphics options to enable you to boost your frame rate. For those not wanting to drop their settings, due to the majority of the game being swinging melee attacks rather than split second sniper shots the game would be more than playable below 60 fps. Effectively, reactions are still very much needed but accuracy isn’t overly required for swinging a battle-axe.
Overall, Vermintide 2 is a worthy sequel to the 2015 original. It takes the combat systems and class system and expands upon them. This leads to a slightly deeper RPG experience where players can customise the gameplay to suit their style even more than before. The setting of Warhammer’s End Times is unexpectedly incredible, with the new locations and Chaos enemies living up to the billing. Several features, such as grinding for loot, have been fixed or developed, making the whole game feel like a huge step up. It all comes together to craft an experience that is fun, fast and will undoubtedly become a glorious time sink for many… just don’t go into the game expecting an easy ride.
[Editor’s Note: Warhammer: Vermintide 2 was reviewed on PC, with the game being provided by the publisher for the review.]