Review: Winds of Magic is Not Quite What We Wanted for Vermintide 2
We’ve been playing Warhammer: Vermintide 2 since its beta early last year. It became one of my group’s go-to games, and we spent hundreds of hours slicing through Skaven and Northmen, fighting through the various difficulty levels, and trying out the various characters and their subclasses. Eventually we moved on, buoyed by the fact that Winds of Magic would be bringing a lot more gameplay for us to sink our teeth into. Well, Winds of Magic is here, and we’ve had some time to play with it.
Winds of Magic brings with it an entire new race of bad guys to fight—the Beastmen—along with a new level, new weapons, and the new “Weave” game mode. The level cap was also raised to 35, and the talents got tweaked on some characters, and completely changed around on others. Along with these changes came the controversial emphasis on the stagger mechanic. Developer Fatshark described Winds of Magic as more than just DLC, but as an entire expansion pack. My thoughts on that: “Ehhhhhhh….”
First off, I like the Beastmen. They do add a bit of clutter to an already crowded field of special enemy types that the other two races have, but I feel like they’re just different enough to be interesting—and annoying for the Ubersreik 5. The Beastmen come with their own special type enemies—including the charging Bestigor, and the standard Bearer that makes his allies stronger. There is a new “monster” (previously called bosses) type too, called the Minotaur. The Minotaur is hyper aggressive with a good amount of HP, but no Armor and a giant crit zone (his big bull head.)
The new level serves as a story introduction to the Beastmen, and to the weaves. It centers on an meteor that crashes down, drawing to it the attention of the Beastmen. The new level can feel a bit challenging in parts, especially the finale, which sees you destroying Beastmen standards while holding off hordes of foes. But the entire preceding level is sort of bland. You fight while descending through the crater left by the felled meteor, and understandably it’s just burning trees and bland rocks, but it doesn’t make for an interesting level.
Since the beta, the scuttlebutt on the various forums is that Vermintide 2 is becoming less slashy, and more spongey. What I’m trying to say is, enemies seem to take a few more hits to kill them, rather than slicing freely through them before the update. I did notice a bit of extra sponginess, but without enemy health bars and damage numbers, I can’t really tell for sure. Since I hadn’t played Vermintide 2 in a few months before Winds of Magic, the prepatch version wasn’t fresh on my mind.
The level cap has been raised to 35—and with it, a hero power increase. This serves as a bit of an incentive to play through the roster of the Ubersreik Five again, but beyond the extra hero power, the cap feels arbitrary. There is a new level 30 talent, which is appreciated, and the old talents were refreshed to mostly positive results. The item levels didn’t go up though, which is a mixed blessing. On one hand, you can’t raise your hero power to 700, on the other, you don’t have to replace all of your gear with new gear. Well, except for the new weapons that were added.
The new weapons are a mixed bag. Saltzpyre and Sienna gets weapons that can be used on all of their subclasses—the billhook and flaming flail, respectively. However, Bardin’s throwing axes, Kerillian’s spear and shield, and Kruber’s spear can only be used on certain subclasses. I have to admit, I’ve spent most of my time with Bardin’s throwing axes. While fun, his axes are a bit high maintenance—if you throw them, you have to retrieve them, otherwise they’re lost for the level. There are no ammo resupplies for the axes.
One of the biggest advertised draws to Winds of Magic was the weaves—a new game mode that promised endless variety and progression. My impression of them, before I got to play them, is they would be something like Diablo 3’s rifts. The promise was chunks of levels randomized with a boss encounter at the end. What I didn’t know about was the separate progression, and the absolute lack of reasons to play them.
Each weave is affected by a different color “wind” of magic that changes the environment in significant ways—like being continuously healed, or continuously damaged as you play. Stuff like that. Unfortunately, you can’t carry items from your main gameplay into weaves—and you can’t carry weave items out with you. Also, when playing weaves, you’re essentially starting your character back at square one—something that my group wasn’t too keen on, myself included.
Further, there just doesn’t seem to be much incentive to play weaves. Progression in weaves is separate from the main game, and Fatshark has said that they might reset progress for the weaves once the current season is finished—something that is the nail in the coffin for a mode that is already all about the grind.
You can play weaves solo if you’d like. In fact, there are no bots available at all in weaves. This adds yet another barrier for players who may not have a full group of friends to jump into weaves with. What’s worse: matchmaking for weaves feels dead as of this writing.
For this to truly be an expansion for me, I would have needed more levels. The Weave mode, potentially fun, feels ultimately pointless, like just another hamster wheel to grind on. If it added something to the “main” game, then I’d have some incentive to play it. The new level cap, meanwhile, also feels arbitrary and pointless.
Winds of Magic adds more to Vermintide 2, period. If that’s what you want, Winds of Magic should have something for you—but it isn’t perfect.
The Winds of Magic expansion for Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is available now.
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