Like a finely crafted Dawi mace, Warhammer Fantasy is as blunt as they come. Games Workshop has created a world of extremes, where strife and sorrow are the norm. Swedish developer Fatshark Games took that world and brought about the beginning of the end for Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide.
Now, two years later, players return to the blood-soaked soil of the Reikland. Vermintide 2 is a worthy sequel in many regards. While it doesn’t change any of the core gameplay, it adds many features that make it all the more fun.
Into the Abyss
Vermintide 2 directly follows the events of the first game, but you needn’t have played it to dive in. Veterans and newcomers alike can feel at home in the extensively detailed world of Warhammer. Where Vermintide 1 put players at the onset of the apocalypse, the sequel places them in the middle of it. Reeling from the initial shock of invasion, our heroes now strike back at the heart of evil.
The game’s intro sequence has all you need to know. Giant humanoid rats (Skaven) have allied with soldiers of darkness (Chaos) in order to bring humanity (the Empire) to its knees. You play one of five unique heroes who escape the clutches of evil and bring the fight back to them.
Vermintide 2 takes an anthology approach to storytelling. The game is divided into three acts, each with four missions, and a final mission to cap it all off. Every mission has a unique objective for the heroes and takes them in and around the region of Helmgart.
The Old World Brought to Life
While ostensibly a fusion of Early Modern Medieval Germany and Tolkien fantasy, the Warhammer universe has evolved to take on a distinctly unique identity. Monsters and magic weave together into a grim and gritty fantasy world. Through a high level of AAA polish, Fatshark Games has brought Warhammer’s “Old World” to life.
Most, if not all of Vermintide 2‘s missions take place through sprawling vistas and impressive scenery. Players travel through towering Elven woods, winding Dwarven tunnels, and flaming city ruins. More than simply being high-fidelity, Vermintide 2‘s lush environments serve as fantastic storytellers.
Each mission carries players through a dynamic narrative arc, whether you’re arriving in the aftermath of a terrible battle or fighting through one yourself. Jesper Kyd’s sweeping orchestral soundtrack does an excellent job of capturing the grim tone of the Warhammer universe. Thumping drums, blaring horns, and dreary violins paint a grim picture of a world embroiled in war.
Going hand-in-hand with the environmental storytelling are the character voiceovers. As with the first Vermintide, each of the five characters engage in snarky banter that provides brief peeks into a larger world. Compared to the original game however, the voice lines are a bit on the lacking side. The character banter serves more to explain each character to the player rather than demonstrating this through gameplay.
People draw comparisons between Vermintide and Left 4 Dead with good reason. However, Vermintide takes the skeleton of Left 4 Dead and fleshes it out with a robust system of engaging mechanics and progression.
While ranged weapons are a crucial element, the bulk of Vermintide 2‘s gameplay revolves around the deeply satisfying melee combat. Every weapon has a different set of attacks and combos that provide a number of different ways to cut a bloody swathe through the enemy. Whether you’re a long-range DPS or a stalwart tank, there’s something for every playstyle.
Combat is easy to pick up, but hard to master. The tutorial gives you the basics to get you going, but fails to cover many of the nuances that are critical to success at higher difficulties. Items, stat values, and higher-level combat mechanics go largely unexplained.
The game’s four difficulty modes do a good job of accommodating all skill levels while still providing a decent amount of challenge. The AI director randomizes encounter types and spawn rates with each mission, ensuring that no two runs will play the same. You may have the occasional odd difficulty spike, but it happens infrequently enough to not be a huge issue.
Unlike Vermintide 1‘s stingy loot system, Vermintide 2 errs on the side of generosity. While it still relies heavily on RNG, players have better opportunities to affect the kinds of gear they obtain. It feels more like a steady progression rather than blind gambling.
- Richly detailed world and environments
- Fun characters and flavor
- High amounts of replayability
- Tactile and visceral melee combat system
- Dynamically thrilling soundtrack
- Balance issues with random difficulty spikes
- Learning curve for higher difficulties and deeper mechanics
- Certain voice lines may get a bit repetitive after some time
While Vermintide 2 may have its fair share of issues, Fatshark Games have delivered an excellent follow-up to the first game. Between the character and weapon variety, dynamic replayability, and generous loot progression, it’ll be easy to sink dozens of hours into this brutal game.