Title: Warhammer: Vermintide 2
Genre: Co-op FPS
Available On: PC (Coming to PS4/Xbox One later this year)
Version Tested: PC
Official Site: http://www.vermintide.com/
Release Date: March 8th, 2018
Where to Buy it: Steam
There are more of them coming. It won’t be long until a horn sounds and a swarm of bipedal Skaven, the ratman army of the Warhammer universe, will charge from all sides, determined to kill you and your comrades. But the brief moment of quiet allows you to make a bit of progress toward the mission goal and take in some of the breathtaking scenery that surrounds you in Warhammer: Vermintide 2.
These little moments of reprieve are nearly as enjoyable as the thrill of cutting through hordes of enemies, and that’s a very good thing.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is the sequel to 2015’s awkwardly named Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide. Luckily, they polished up the title when fixing a lot of the issues that made the original a flawed, but enjoyable, game. It plays with the Vermintide formula quite successfully, but whether or not it can unseat Left 4 Dead 2 as the king of the genre will come down to the type of longevity its developers and community can sustain.
Set immediately after the first game (it utilizes a thin story, so don’t worry if you haven’t kept up on the lore), Warhammer: Vermintide 2 features five unique heroes battling through waves of enemies to complete different objectives. Each level is always laid out the same, but enemy spawns, bosses, item placements, and more are controlled by an AI “director” to make every playthrough fresh. It works remarkably well and, even after several times through the same level, I was still being surprised by new things the game would throw at me.
Each character is equipped with a melee weapon and a ranged weapon, and there are a few other slots for picking up health potions, stat increasing items, and bombs. Left 4 Dead typically encourages you to keep your distance from its hordes of enemies, but Warhammer: Vermintide 2 does the opposite. Ammunition on your crossbows, rifles, and other ranged weapons is scarce, forcing you to get up and close with your swords, daggers, hammers, and axes. It can be rather chaotic: trying to identify high priority targets when surrounded by enemies and wildly flailing your sword is a near impossibility, so mastering your movement options and other offensive capabilities is crucial on higher difficulties.
No doubt about it, this game will kick your teeth in a few times. Developer Fatshark actually released a patch making the early stages and difficulty level spikes a little less brutal. If you are playing through with some friends and all on the same footing, you may have some trouble until you’re able to get some decent items and level up your characters a bit. Likewise, the end game grind can be nasty if you have not spent time maxing out equipment or received favorable trait roles.
Other times, you may play a match as a level six character and get paired up with a stranger who is maxed out. This will cause the level to fly by with almost zero difficulty, and Quick Play matches have, by definition, no settings that stop this. It has been rare to have that type of discrepancy in the hours I’ve put in, but this is a game that will definitely benefit if you have a few regular partners to venture forth with.
One of the interesting elements that Warhammer: Vermintide 2 has over others in the genre comes from the loot and RPG level systems in place. Each character can be equipped with different equipment, including different types of melee and ranged weapons, as well as jewelry that adds bonuses in addition to increasing their overall power. Each of the five characters also has a talent tree that can help you specialize for certain missions or plug holes in your squad. It helps give your character choice more meaning, rather than, say, Left 4 Dead‘s “I hope I get Rochelle because she wears a Depeche Mode shirt.”
Warhammer: Vermintide 2‘s combat feels meaty and powerful. Swinging a massive sword to cleave through hordes of anthropomorphic rats is extremely satisfying, and boss battles are tough and harrowing. Even with geared up heroes, you can sometimes get caught out of position or take a few significant hits if you are not paying attention and keeping your guard up. It rarely feels unfair, especially with the post-launch difficulty tweaks, but it generally always has some challenge.
The story and setting are a bit… meh. Warhammer is an odd universe, and the game tries to balance some of the the serious absurdity by having the characters constantly banter. It does not have the charm of Left 4 Dead, because that game’s world felt very B-movie. The campiness fit with the scenario. Warhammer: Vermintide 2 tries to find that balance and does not quite hit the mark: sometimes it is funny, other times I want to strangle Kerillian. Sometimes the characters are endearing, and other times I want to strangle Kerillian.
The other big issue with the game is that it could get repetitive, and that’s where the developers and community come in. As of right now, Vermintide 2 has about a dozen levels and a few different difficulties to run. Each character is different, but they do not change the game all that much. Without a regular group to grind with and go through the ups and downs of Vermintide 2‘s progression, it has the possibility to get a little stale. Some different ways of playing or heavy duty mods, something like a versus mode, would be brutal and loads of fun. If the community stays strong, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 could become the new gem of the genre.
Verdict: As it stands now, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is a gorgeous, meaty game with a good grind and some smart design choices. It may wear out its welcome once you have seen or done everything, but that could take awhile. If the community and developers continue to support the game with new content and ways to play, it should stay high on the Steam charts for a long time.
- Very pretty
- Satisfying, meaty gameplay
- Will take you a while to get through
- Excellent co-op
- Not a lot of variety
- Inconsistent tone