Warhammer: Vermintide 2 - Winds of Magic PC Review

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 – Winds of Magic and its 2.0 update are yet another shaky step in the game’s post-launch journey.

By Woozie, Posted 18 Aug 2019

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 – Winds of Magic marks the first time when developer Fatshark steps outside the realm of map-based DLC with its post-launch content. On paper, the first expansion to its excellent melee-focused co-op title sounds quite rich in content: a new randomized mode, a map and weapon type for each class alongside the mighty Beastmen as new opponents. But is it the shot in the arm that Vermintide 2 needs or does it fail to live up to expectations?

The meat of Warhammer: Vermintide 2 – Winds of Magic can be found in its new Weaves mode. Spanning 120 levels, it takes chunks from existing maps and glues them together while introducing modifiers in the shape of the eponymous Winds of Magic. Each wind adds its own specific element to maps. The wind of life spawns a bush of damaging thorns from every dead enemy, turning tight corridors into deadly life-leeching tunnels, while the wind of heavens brings down destructive lightning bolts in a large area around characters. Some of the winds affect gameplay more than others but getting used to them doesn’t take too long.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 - Winds of Magic, PC, Review, Screenshot

Weaves are much shorter than regular levels, making them a great alternative for when you don’t want – or have the time – to spend 30-40 minutes hacking and slashing mobs of Chaos-aligned opponents. As a replacement for new maps, however, they fall short. As much as each wind gives maps an aesthetic shift – applying different color filters and elements such as strangling vegetation or rocky overgrowths to its assets – it doesn’t take long until you start recognizing the locations from the base game’s maps. At their worst, Weaves feel like treading the same old ground, but with a blue or yellow filter that, admittedly, does showcase how gorgeous Warhammer: Vermintide 2 – Winds of Magic can look when color contrasts come into play. At their best, they retain a portion of Vermintide 2’s intensity as you go through rather indistinct territory. Less repetition would have helped, though.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 – Winds of Magic’s Weaves have their own separate progression based around the new Essence resource. As you collect it from fallen foes, you can upgrade and build weave-infused versions of the weapons from the base game at the new magical cauldron in your keep. Upgrading the cauldron itself gives more options in terms of customizing your amulet and weapons. The great thing about this system is that you get to manually apply and strengthen the perks and traits of both your character and weapons. Compared to the base game’s overly randomized loot box-centric system, it’s a welcome breath of fresh air. Sadly, this system has its own flaws as replaying Weaves you’ve already beaten yields a minuscule amount of Essence, which can become problematic once you hit a level you’ve trouble overcoming.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 - Winds of Magic, PC, Review, Screenshot

The concept behind Weaves isn’t truly original – Diablo 3’s Rifts being a clear source of inspiration – but, nonetheless, has the potential to breathe new life into Vermintide 2 overtime. It’s very much a mode you play for the fun of it and its progression, as the rewards it provides besides character experience are some rather unimpressive portrait frames. In order for that to happen, however, it definitely needs expanding upon and some extra polish.

In order to access the Weaves and unlock the new weapon types, you need to complete the new Dark Omens map. It takes the Ubersreik Four-plus-one through desolate, meteor-blasted lands teeming with the new Beastmen faction that now also challenges you in the game’s other levels. The crude, brutal nature of the new foes goes hand-in-hand with the rough aesthetics of the new map, however, the Beastmen themselves have a number of issues. As much as they’re imposing enemies, they seem to be relatively unbalanced at the moment, dealing a heftier amount of damage than their counterparts. Add to that the fact that they have archers that can damage you from a distance and an extremely annoying standard bearer that buffs surrounding troops, and they end up being a source for frustration quite often. The new Minotaur boss also fails to add anything new to battles, its constant dual wielding attacks paling in comparison to the Stormfiend or Chaos Horror. Vermintide 2 desperately needed new bosses and Winds of Magic doesn’t quite deliver.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2, PC, Review, Screenshot

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 – Winds of Magic’s largest issue doesn’t stem from an expansion feature. Instead, it’s brought about by the free 2.0 update which greatly changes combat. Focusing on a stagger mechanic that rewards repeatedly hitting opponents for increased damage, it also reduces the potency of cleave attacks. This results in the majority of weapons feeling thoroughly neutered and a good chunk of the visceral feeling that made Vermintide 2’s combat so very addictive disappearing. Dodging is also less reliable now, enemies sometimes being able to score hits in spite of successful dodges.

Not only are most weapons less effective, but the AI director also tends to spawn Special enemies spawn in higher numbers, one after the other. While this sometimes adds challenge, in plenty of occasions it just triggers these silly situations of lone Ratling Gunners attacking your party one by one without backup. There’s also a higher tendency to plop down hordes on your head while in locations with not much space to maneuver. Needless to say, this did also occur in the past, however with the weaker cleave attacks, it now often results in quick, frustrating deaths. There is also a fair share of missing sound cues, which result in Beastmen, Berserkers and Skaven backstabbing you without any warning.

Update 2.0’s purpose is arguably that of refreshing Vermintide 2’s combat and, perhaps, more strongly incentivizing the use of specific combat roles. However, it’s disconcerting to see how much weaker the majority of weapons feel, the less visceral nature of the combat and how easily it is to get stabbed in the back while you’re struggling to clear hordes of enemies one at a time.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2, PC, Review, Screenshot

While not exactly groundbreaking, on its own, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 – Winds of Magic is a decent expansion pack. It comes with a mode whose potential can be unlocked as long as developer Fatshark adds rewards and works on its modifiers and random map generation. If you’ve no interest in Weaves, however, the new map and weapons are likely not enough to warrant a purchase. Coupled with the changes ushered in by Update 2.0, however, it’s inevitably going to divide people.

Newer players are likely to be more receptive to it than veterans, who will require a period of accommodation, however, taking away much of that feeling of raw power behind strikes makes little sense. Instead of further cementing it as a staple of co-op games, by fixing bugs and expanding upon other systems, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 – Winds of Magic and its 2.0 update are yet another shaky step in the game’s post-launch journey.

Bogdan Robert,
Senior Editor, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher(s): Fatshark
Developer(s): Fatshark
Genres: Action
Themes: Fantasy
Release Date: 2019-08-13

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