Warhammer: Vermintide 2 Review - Skaven Massacre

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Skaven Massacre

Played On: PC
What I've Played:

  • Game Time: 32 hours and counting.
  • Played every character and some of their classes.
  • My highest character is level 26.
  • Unlocked every map and finished each at least once.
  • Highest difficulty completed: Champion

When I started playing Warhammer: Vermintide 2, I was easily pulled in by how satisfying it felt to go through gauntlet-like missions in a team of 4 players. It reminded me of the days when the first game came out, and how it played like a good take on the Left 4 Dead formula, only set in the Warhammer universe. This sequel is a perfect example of building from the first game’s successes while simultaneously focusing on improving where it fell short.

For those unfamiliar with Vermintide, 4 players choose to play one of the five characters in the game – namely, Markus Kruber (Empire Soldier), Viktor Saltzpyre (Witch Hunter), Bardin Goreksson (Dwarf Ranger), Kerillian (Wood Elf), and Sienna Fuegonasus (Bright Wizard). You are then thrown into various missions where you go through waves of enemies and other creatures that attempt to overwhelm your group through sheer numbers. There are bosses that will soften up your group, and special enemies that aim to disrupt your team's synergy. There will be items to consume, tomes and grimoires to collect for better rewards, and a loot chest waiting for you if you somehow survive.

Familiar Combat With The Same Satisfying Results

For those that have played through the first game, the combat in the sequel will feel similar, but in a good way. You hack away and push incoming waves of enemies, and pick off unaware special enemies with your ranged weapon. Melee combat in Vermintide 2 feels right when swinging each weapon. Thanks to the animation and sound effects, the crunch of contact from every one of your attacks, and the feeling of resistance against, for example, an armored foe, is gratifying. The game not only boasts many types of weapons, but each weapon is different. They have certain perks that make them ideal for certain situations. Even ranged weapons have different properties that can be effective from short, to mid, to long range.

 Mostly checking out the scenery but also making sure nothing was climbing up to flank us.

Mostly checking out the scenery but also making sure nothing was climbing up to flank us.

In Warhammer: Vermintide 2, there are 13 maps available in the base game. Each map is themed, bringing you to different locations; you’ll see narrow and dark mining caves, a quiet open forest, an enemy war camp, and even the streets of a ravaged town. These locations are large, but easy to navigate, thanks to audio cues from characters and the obvious visual hints like lanterns or torches lighting a pathway. They are beautiful to look at, despite the prevailing theme of death and misery, and encourage exploration in the hopes of finding more helpful items.

Be Always on Alert

Each map can take up to 30 minutes of your time. These maps are designed to be replayed multiple times, so the level designs are engineered to reduce familiarity and redundancy. And thanks to its “AI Director”, Vermintide 2 always changes up how the opposition will engage you. The type of miniboss you'll encounter may be different than the last time you played the map, and where it will show up is also undetermined. This is also the case for consumables and special enemies.

 The Bright Wizard is the most unique out of the five characters.

The Bright Wizard is the most unique out of the five characters.

The ratmen faction, the Skaven, were the primary antagonists of the first game. They have extra help this time around via the Rotbloods, a faction new to the game that brings forth special enemies to mix things up every mission; Chaos Warriors, Bile Trolls, Special Chaos Infantry wielding different weapons, Blightstormers - all of these new enemies are now part of the AI Director's arsenal. Skaven special enemies were bad enough, but Vermintide 2 is all about building on what was established in the first game, thus giving us more to worry about. It’s not easy to take these maps lightly.

It can be tough at times, but the game rewards those who stay focused and listen. The music ramps up when a horde of enemies begin to charge at you, and distinct sounds are given to specific special enemies and bosses, giving players a hint at what’s around the corner. I’ve had moments where the team stops moving because we hear whispers, suggesting a rat assassin is nearby and looking for its chance to pounce on one of us.

 It might take a while to get used to the user interface. 

It might take a while to get used to the user interface. 

Loot and Progress System Improved

The progression system in Vermintide 2 has been improved. Each character now has three classes, each with their own passive and active skill, plus their own sets of traits to choose from. The Wood Elf Kerillian, for example, is by default adept at long range combat, but the other classes make her more melee focused. Each character already plays differently, and the introduction of classes makes for more room for experimentation and uniqueness in every group.

The loot system also received an upgrade. It’s still randomized loot just like the first game, and items that are essentially useless can be broken down into parts, which will be used to craft items, or improve/reroll stats of existing equipment. But compared to other systems that do something similar, each chest gives the feeling that you’re moving forward in your progression. The loot system also picked up a few pointers from games like Destiny. All loot contributes to your overall Hero Power stat, which improves the overall performance of your character. There's no single equipment slot that's more important than the others (ex. having the weapon determine all damage output). You can be wielding a weapon low in Hero Power, but thanks to your level and other equipment, you’ll still have enough Hero Power to be effective at higher difficulties (there are 4 difficulties available on release).

 Choke points are your best friend when you trigger a swarm of Rotbloods/Skaven. 

Choke points are your best friend when you trigger a swarm of Rotbloods/Skaven. 

Vermintide 2 is a great co-op game that has minor issues that can be fixed further down the line. Oddly, there's no character stats page to inform you of secondary stats like critical hit chance or current curse resistance. Another issue arises if the player hosting the game suddenly leaves at the last part of the mission, causing the remaining three players to lose all that progress and restart the mission. There are even a few bugs, and character models got stuck in the 'T pose' position all too often during my time with the game, making my whole group giggle. Some stats and trait descriptions are also vague and require outside help in order to fully understand.

This is a solid sequel, though. Fatshark didn't stray away from what made the first game successful. They improved on what they already had. Newcomers will experience a fun and rewarding first-person co-op game, while veterans will be thrilled with the new changes and variety in content, difficulty, and character builds. Players will have fun playing Warhammer: Vermintide 2 for a long time alone, or with a few buddies, thanks to the friendly community they have established. I can see myself easily recommending this if you need to scratch that co-op itch.


8/10
 

Highlights

  • A rewarding loot system that makes you feel like you are moving forward in progression.

  • A fun combat system that also requires teamwork for higher difficulties.

  • Maps are large, gorgeous to look at, and easily replayable.

  • UI interface can be frustrating when managing multiple characters.

  • Bugs are frequent.

  • Replayable, and further challenge can be found in Heroic Deeds missions.

[This review is based on a PC review copy provided by the developer Fatshark.]