Warhammer: Vermintide 2 PC Review

Bigger, brutal and visually striking, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is an insanely fun co-op title.

By Woozie, Posted 13 Mar 2018

No matter how many times I’ve heard the blaring horn that announces an incoming horde of rats and northlanders – and I’ve heard it a lot –, it still makes me quickly scramble to get closer to my teammates. Warhammer: Vermintide 2’s AI director may let you know when it’s sending a tide of ratmen your way, or when a sneaky assassin is in the shadows, but that doesn’t mean facing them will be easy, or that a stray foe can’t come up from behind, providing a nasty surprise. This core need to watch your (and your companions’) back, never knowing how many enemies are on their way, alongside the frantic pace of its combat made the first Vermintide a great co-op title; and it’s precisely the ways in which Warhammer: Vermintide 2 builds upon that foundation that make it an almost perfect example of how to tackle a sequel.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2, Screenshot, PC, Review

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 starts where the original left off, with the five heroes attempting an escape from a Skaven stronghold, in what’s both a tutorial and a setup for why countless more Skaven will be slain. While narratively, things are as simple and straightforward as before, the characters have received significant additions, in the shape of the carreer system. Each hero has access to three careers which provide different abilities while allowing the use of weapons specific to them (the Ironbreaker’s Drakegun, is a good example). This can also nudge the role that you play in certain directions. A Ranger dwarf starts with double the ammo for ranged weapons, while an Ironbreaker, although not necessarily less potent offensively, is bound to play a bigger role in protecting his team, as he has skills that taunt foes and reduce incoming damage. Each carreer also has its set of talents, disposed in five rows of three talents each. They’re all easily switched between while in the keep. It takes time to level up each character and learn which roles are better suited for them, but it’s a process that’s encouraged by the approachable lower difficulties (given a competent team), and the revamped loot system.

In the original, loot was harder to come by and failing a mission yielded no XP. This is no longer the case. Not only do failed missions yield XP now, albeit in a smaller amount, but successfully completing missions rewards an item chest which contains three random items, of varying quality. Tomes and Grimoires make a return as well, influencing the quality of the chest. If Tomes only take up the healing item’s space, Grimoires not only replace potions but also reduce the party’s health by a percentage and disappear, should the character that’s carrying them die. Levelling up a character rewards commendation chests that can contain gear up to 300 power, whereas normal loot chests have their power gated depending on the difficulty they’re obtained from. Loot is given out to the character you’re opening them as, meaning that you could run missions with your main, and have the other heroes open the loot chest, should you want items for any of them. Warhammer: Vermintide 2 puts in effort to keep players engaged even when losing and, as that will happen regardless if you’re a newbie or a veteran of the first game playing on the higher difficulties, it’s a welcome addition. In my experience, crates were more likely to reward trinkets over weapons, which might be a bit frustrating at first. As you level up, however, you gain blueprints for each weapon type the hero can wield, being able to craft weapons of your own, by breaking down unneeded equipment into parts. The crafting system also allows for upgrading an item’s quality or rerolling stats, although both the type of the stat and its numerical value are up to the RNG gods. A hero’s strength, and their eligibility to attempt higher difficulty missions, is dictated by power level, which is a combination of a character’s level and the average power of all their items. The game’s very nature involves repetition and grinding, especially after a certain point on the higher difficulties, and that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. In between the different carreers and weapon types to explore, however, there are enough reasons to go back for that one extra run.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2, Screenshot, PC, Review

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 launched with thirteen missions, spread across four acts that take four heroes through both closed and more open environments. While pushing a cart through tight, poorly lit mineshafts, I felt a constant need to slash at the darkness around me, just in case a rat happened to come out of a hole I could not see. Ruined Imperial streets were littered with signs that acted as a constant reminder of who we were up against, while forests surrounding elven ruins were flooded with light, impressing through their size. Even the most open of levels, however, have their narrow corridors, or spots where space isn’t as readily available. Aside from adding some much needed variation, this shift in environments does push the party into reassessing their place in the level and deciding when to back into a wall, or a house, while pushing on. Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is a gorgeous game, presenting its scenery in a way that makes it feel massive, while making expert use of particle effects. Whether it’s the unnatural green glow of Warpfire being spouted at you in moonlit Imperial streets, the rays of the sun piercing through the thick branches of a giant tree or the sight of a distant manor in a ravaged town, there are plenty of views that will steal your attention. But this isn’t a game about pretty sights and, visual accuracy also contributes to how visceral the combat feels. Strike at a foe’s head, and you’ll likely chop it off, aim a wide strike at a horde of Skaven slaves spiced up with Nurgle fanatics and watch limbs fly everywhere. It’s a bit of a shame that bodies disappear very quickly, probably to maintain the game’s constant framerate; but that’s a minor complaint, since taking the corner means bumping into more stuff to slaughter.

The AI director does an excellent job of keeping a party on their toes, mixing Stormvermin, Chaos Warriors and the likes in with regular enemies. Sticking together is as necessary as ever, since getting separated will make you vulnerable to Leech sorcerers, Skaven Packmasters or Clan Enshin Assassins, whose attacks can be broken out of solely with the help of a teammate. When it deems fit, or in certain scripted moments, the AI director will spawn in bosses. The Rat Ogre has received new company in the shape of the Stormfiend, Bile Troll and Chaos Horror, all which can do lovely things like eating players to replenish health, or sharing some of that famed troll vomit with everybody. If the AI Director is in a bad mood, it might also spice boss fights up with a wave of baddies, both of the regular and special variety. While there were undoubtedly moments when it felt like the AI Director was just being sadistic, throwing a couple of Poisoned Wind Globadiers, or Chaos Warriors covered in rusty armor at a nearly dead party that barely overcame a Chaos Horror, most of my failures were caused either by bad positioning, miscommunication or mishandling bosses.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2, Screenshot, PC, Review

What makes Vermintide great, is not only its visceral, meaty combat, but also its requirement for teamwork, understanding one’s arsenal and, with this installment, their carreer. Combat has a flow to it which doesn’t just amount to mindlessly flailing your weapon around. Depending on what role you play, you’ll need to add a push in between a couple of slashes, or look out for when the friendly dwarf throws several enemies to the floor. Each weapon has its own combo that can be interrupted with a block and, on higher difficulties, knowing when to restart a combo can prove quite useful. Bosses have a pattern of attacks and learning when to block and when to dodge can make the difference between taking a Chaos Horror down while receiving fewer hits or having it feast on a teammate and replenishing its health. Some of these things won’t be obvious from the very start, but learning them is very much possible either through guides, simply playing or friendly community members.

As Warhammer: Vermintide 2 focuses on co-op, it goes without saying that playing in an organized party is the best way to go around it. As I’m as lonely as the Lonely Dwarf on the Lonely Mountain’s Lonely Peak of Loneliness, I spent a good portion of the time playing alongside random players through the game’s Quick Play feature and found it to work surprisingly well. The game also supports in-game voice communication, which in this case turned out to be a plus. If you’re particular about completing a specific mission, on a specific difficulty level, custom games can be set up, or joined through the Lobby Browser. If a hero is taken, you’ll get a chance to switch to another one before the match begins. Furthermore, Hero Deeds are missions with special modifiers like heroes constantly losing health, or a higher number of present special enemies, which do a good enough job at adding a bit of freshness to what’s on offer.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2, Screenshot, PC, Review

Warhammer: Vermintide 2’s most glaring fault is the fact that when a game’s host leaves, progress is reset for the remaining players. This is less of an issue when playing with a set party, but over Quick Play, it can translate into wasted time. Aside from this, there are a couple of small, infrequent bugs. Every now and then, I would notice enemies walking through walls only to either disappear completely, or return to battle after a couple of seconds. Perhaps they just needed a breather, but taking one inside of a wall is a rather eccentric approach. On a couple of occasions, Ratling Gunners could shoot through walls, just as bosses could land hits through objects. Wonky collision is also present in some of the platforming puzzles required for Tomes and Grimoires and, on one occasion, Bardin began to slowly be lifted in the air as I was backing into a crate. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen in a level like Against The Grain, where the dwarf can barely see above the crops (I’m mentioning this because it’s nice to see this small detail wasn’t overlooked). The game also crashed a couple of times, but luckily, it happened only after completing the mission, which meant that loot was not lost.

While the enemy roster was enriched, especially since the Chaos Warriors are out butchering and desecrating in the name of the dark god of colds and headaches, the bosses could have used a bit more variety when it comes to their attacks. The sight of a boss entering the fray is as terrifying as ever, however their pool of attacks is fairly limited, so that they rely a bit too much on being damage sponges to amp up the difficulty. Of course, the AI director’s tendency to spawn hordes when a boss pops up does add stuff to worry about, but regardless if it’s a Stormfiend, Bile Troll, Rat Ogre or a Chaos Spawn, there aren’t that many attacks they cycle through during the encounter. It’s even more disappointing to see that the story antagonists got the same treatment.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2, PC, Screenshot, Review

At the end of the day, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is an excellent example of a properly handled sequel. It takes the recipe of the first game, which mixed visceral combat with a high requirement of teamwork and position awareness, and builds on top of it, both with its career system and new enemies. Wiping out hordes of rats and raiders is exhilarating and finishing the mission after barely surviving a boss encounter gives an amazing feeling. I’ve died to monstrosities and hordes of Skaven and Chaos Warriors many times. But I’ve also separated even more of them from their limbs and by the looks of it, I’m far from done.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Fatshark
Developer(s): Fatshark
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Fantasy, Co-Op
Release Date: 2018-03-08

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