Review: Chaos Wastes Has Been a Breath of New Life for Vermintide 2

Screenshot: Warhammer: Vermintide 2-Chaos Wastes I’ve played a ton of Warhammer: Vermintide 2 since its release over three years ago. It’s been on/off again on my co-op group’s playlist for a long time, but it fell off our radar a bit through 2020. The release of the Grail Knight and Engineer career paths for Kruber and Bardin (respectively) gave us an excuse to play a few rounds, but nothing quite stuck. There was a feeling that nothing was quite the same after the disappointment that Winds of Magic ultimately turned out to be. When Chaos Wastes released, my group gave it a shot, but it didn’t initially stick. It’s true we liked the rogue-lite approach, but it wasn’t until about a week after the release of Chaos Wastes that we really started to get a hankering for more rat slaying. If you don’t know what Chaos Wastes is, it’s a free expansion to the first person action game Warhammer: Vermintide 2. I’ve long been a fan of Vermintide 2, and I feel like it has some of the best melee combat in a first person game. Chaos Wastes, like Winds of Magic before it, doesn’t integrate directly into the main game—rather, it’s a side endeavor with its own twisted maps that take chunks of levels from the story campaign, and rearrange them into new areas. But the biggest change to the main gameplay is how gear and “talents” work in the Chaos Wastes—your starting gear is reduced to its lowest level, and other than your starting talents, every weapon upgrade and new talent (called boons in Chaos Wastes) has to be purchased with a mode-specific currency called Pilgrim’s Coins. These coins are found through the levels and dropped by boss monsters like Rat Ogres, Chaos Spawns, etc. To further the rogue-lite feel, each run only ends when you lose or win—and you can choose your path, which includes the ability to choose the threats you face, and potential rewards. Screenshot: Warhammer: Vermintide 2-Chaos Wastes It’s not just you and your teammates that are empowered by the Chaos Wastes, however. The Chaos Wastes are overseen by four chaos gods: Nurgle, Khorne, Slaanesh, and Tzeentch. Each run is overseen by one of these Chaos gods, but each level has the possibility of being cursed by one of these malefic deities. The finale is guaranteed to be cursed by the host god, but the other three can still pop up along the run. Different gods yield different curses, and each god has about three or four curses to make you suffer through. These range from Khorne’s exploding enemies, to Nurgle’s miasma that can only be warded off with a special scepter. If that all sounds like a whole new game, it sort of is: Chaos Wastes takes the great Vermintide 2 combat, and adds a rogue-lite element to it that turns out to be exactly what the game needed. Like in any good rogue-lite (or roguelike) it’s possible to get a great combination of boons, creating an almost unstoppable synergy. There are also shrines that you can encounter between levels where you can buy powerful team power-ups that can make your next level a little easier. The further you progress into the Chaos Wastes, the more powerful your characters become, especially with some boons that don’t exist in the main game—like the ability to shoot chain lightning on critical hits, or which make enemies get hit with an area of effect explosion when you hit them. It’s great fun to get a series of powerful boons, and just lay waste to hordes with ease. Chaos Wastes aren’t all great, however. There are a whole bunch of new maps, but these are really just rearrangements of previous maps. That’s not really a bad, thing, but I didn’t realize how much I appreciated Vermintide 2’s level design until I encountered the ‘lazier’ feeling levels of the Chaos Wastes. Ironically though, since I always wanted more Vermintide 2 levels I was also always a proponent of the very technique they’ve used to create these new levels. Don’t get me wrong: they’re fun, and interesting enough—just not as good as the base game’s fare. It also seems like the finales suffered the most from this lack of variety, as they come in two forms: hold out until the enemies stop spawning, or get to a location while enemies keep spawning. I would also love to see more boons to choose from. There are a few boons I’ve only recently had the chance to buy after playing for weeks, but even so, I feel like I’m hoping for the same few powerful boons each run. I’m sure there’s a consideration towards balance, but having more boons would be excellent. Screenshot: Warhammer: Vermintide 2-Chaos Wastes Chaos Wastes do have some effect on the ‘main’ Vermintide 2 mode, too. The Chaos Wastes are a good place to get gear you can use in Helmgart. If you win a whole run, gear is just rained down upon you. Chaos Wastes is also a decent place to level-up characters, or to just gear out characters, because gear quality doesn’t matter in Chaos Wastes and you can earn higher quality gear that can be used in the original Vermintide 2 campaign. I’ve put a lot of hours in Vermintide 2’s Chaos Wastes mode, and it’s definitely a new favorite co-op experience. If you ever played Vermintide 2 and wanted an excuse to get back into it, Chaos Wastes is it. And if you’re on console and have been waiting patiently for a chance to run an expedition into the Chaos Wastes, it’ll get its console debut later this week. Chaos Wastes is already out as a free DLC on PC, and will be coming June 3rd for consoles.       Independent media like Third Coast Review depends on your support to survive. 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Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian. He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.