Let’s face it: the Warhammer IP is hit and miss. There are good Warhammer games, and incredibly bad ones. Luckily, developer Fatshark has managed another good entry into the vast Warhammer canon. Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is the followup to 2015’s Warhammer: Endtimes–Vermintide, a first-person hack and slash that used horde mode sensibilities and teamwork in the style of Left 4 Dead while having a loot system as a way to progress your character. Vermintide 2 takes the formula of its predecessor, while fixing the loot system, upping the polish and fidelity, and making a great hack and slash Warhammer game.
Set in the apocalyptic End Times of the Age of Sigmar, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 isn’t a very optimistic game. The world is in ruins, overrun with Skaven; rat-men who live off of death and decay, swarming from their vast subterranean networks and blanketing the overworld with their disease and death. In Vermintide 2 the Skaven are working directly with the forces of Chaos, so instead of just hordes of ratmen, there are some corrupted Northmen and other forces of Chaos thrown into the mix.
If you’ve played either of the Left 4 Dead games, you’ll immediately recognize the formula Vermintide 2 uses. While it doesn’t copy Left 4 Dead directly (no safe rooms, among other things) it comes pretty damn close. There are special enemies that grab you, or otherwise incapacitate you (with an icon alerting your teammates to your predicament). Even your characters constantly banter at each other, and warn of dangers–like if an assassin rat is prowling about. At certain points (indicated by a rallying horn and then a musical cue) there will be a horde of enemies spawning to cause trouble for your group of four adventurers fighting through the destroyed world.
You and three other people will have to hack, slash, shoot and otherwise survive by working together to accomplish varied goals and survive the gauntlets that are Vermintide 2’s levels. There are three acts, each containing four different levels all with their own objectives and challenges. Each act culminates in a big boss fight, and after you’ve completed all three acts you can take on the final challenge in the thirteenth level, including its own unique boss fight. Each time you play you and your team will have to face wave after wave of Skaven and orcs in spectacularly bloody combat.
The combat in Vermintide 2 feels great: it’s appropriately impactful, with melee blows feeling satisfying landing against foes. Heavy hammer hit with a glorious clunk, while slicing weapons catch and glide in a glorious dance of gore and death. Ranged weapons are fun, feel good, and have a large variety. Enemy types in Vermintide 2 are also quite various with Northmen and ratmen filling out the ranks, while larger boss enemies await your group at certain areas of each level to test your mettle. There are also smaller “special” enemy types, with all of the same cast of annoying hook rats and gutter runners from the previous Vermintide game.
While there can be only four players in a game simultaneously, there are five different characters to choose from. Every character is superbly voice acted (the Witch Hunter is a little hammy, though) and have their own unique personalities that reflect their race/kingdom. Each character has three classes available to them, with one available immediately and the other two available as you reach levels seven and twelve respectively, with fifteen classes total. Each class feels different enough, though only a few feel very different from the others. With certain weapons only available to certain characters’ classes, there is even more differences between them. Some classes are more focused on ranged attacks, while others are focused on melee damage dealing. Still others allow for great survivability and the ability to shove back opponents so teammates can hack or burn them up.
Character progression in Vermintide 2 is satisfying–it doesn’t feel too slow. Even though the talents you have available to choose from sometimes feel useless, there are a few talents in each tree that you will be looking forward to unlocking. The loot system, while similar to the one in Vermintide 2’s predecessor, is in my opinion a vast improvement.
Instead of rolling for loot at the end of each mission, there is a set of bonuses you can collect in each level to increase your loot payout. Playing on harder difficulty levels also increases your chances at better gear. The more secret tomes and grimoires you collect, the better you end of mission loot crate. These tomes and grimoires are not only hard to find, they also take up inventory slots. Grimoires also lower your maximum health, adding an additional challenge. Of course, if you a fail a mission in Vermintide 2, you only get a tiny bit of experience, and lose any shot at your loot.
There are several ways you can play Warhammer: Vermintide 2. Despite being a multiplayer focused title, you can play offline with bots. The bots aren’t the most sophisticated, but they are pretty good and tend to be pretty helpful by handing you potions and bombs they aren’t using. This is a vast improvement over the original Vermintide AI. While playing offline is viable to a point, if you want to accomplish Vermintide 2’s harder challenges, you’ll have to find some real people. You can either do that by browsing by lobby, or creating your own game. You can also make a private game to play just with friends.
While not strictly a AAA game, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 looks and feels the part. It is pretty polished, and it sports some impressive visuals. I did run into some bugs, though. There were some disconnections, talents randomly going away during missions, and enemies falling through the floor, but these issues were few and far between.
Vermintide is what happens when you combine two great flavors, in this case, Left 4 Dead style gameplay and Diablo 3 style progression and loot system. It works out great here, and it’s even better if you have friends around for challenge runs and deeds. The community is, for the most part, helpful and friendly. Vermintide 2 also has a level of polish and visual fidelity that brings it close to AAA despite being indie-made. A great multiplayer game that should leave you occupied for some time, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is available now on Windows, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.
A copy of this game was provided to us for review purposes