I remember back in the day – to when there were only 4 tele channels – I went round my mates house and found a massive 6ft by 12ft table in the garage. It was setup with micro terrain, roads, bushes, trees, partly destroyed buildings, etc… I was looking at a games table – war-games that is. My introduction to Warhammer, meh. I was a kid, there were consoles to play on… not tables.

Never did I expect to see such a pastime flower so profusely. Warhammer is huge, even World of Warcraft was originally being developed for the Warhammer universe before stepping out on its own (strikingly similar) two feet. Since then Warhammer games have taken many different genres by storm, from action-adventures to table-top sims, from dungeon crawlers to first-person shooters and rarely they fail to meet expectations.

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What we have here is Warhammer: Vermintide II, following directly on from where the first game left off with its just released Death on the Reik DLC. A first-person melee action co-op masterclass. Think Left 4 Dead’s mechanics meets Lord of the Rings, just typing that made me think genius. Developed and published again by Fatshark, also known for the War of the Roses/Vikings titles and Bionic Commando:Re-Armed. 

You and up to 3 of your besties can hack and slash your way through a gorgeous fantasy realm (bots will be there to help if you want to play solo). A word of warning – the Vermintide series is quite gory, limbs and heads will fly high into the air as they are severed and grenades… well, you get the idea. Anyway, each mission has a linear path and mostly its just about getting from A to B but often there’s something in the way, whether it’s just a horde defence for a few minutes or having to collect a few gunpowder kegs to blow up a gate you’ll find the journey frantic and exciting all the same. As mentioned above, Vermintide II is similar to Left 4 Dead in design and mechanics, even to the point where an AI directs the horde of enemies and specials to get in the way.

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In the first game you battle against a race of rat-men known as the Skaven, this time round its the Chaos Army (north men) and the Skaven .The game features five different characters to play as. These characters are divided into 15 different careers (three per character), each with a unique set of skills and abilities. You get a skill point every 5 ranks to spend, picking one of three passive abilities to enhance your play which you can change around how you like. After completing missions you receive rewards through a randomised loot system. Depending on how well you explore within each mission, to collect Tomes, Grimoire and Loot Die which will increase the quality of the items in your Spoils of War. Each loot box will contain three items to improve your gear.

Our biggest beef with the first game is that loot was too slow coming, a right proper grind if you will. Putting in well over 100 hours of game time to create a solid gear setup was normal due to the pace at which loot was handed to you, a usually pointless weapon upon levelling and a quasi-random reward for having completed a mission. Not this time though – each box contains three lovely items.

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Similar to Tom Clancy’s: The Division and Destiny, Vermintide II has a gear score system – the higher your individual equipment then the higher your overall score will be. Creating the opportunity to find higher gear still. This time, the weapon options are much more diverse (the spear is a favourite of mine) and all have distinct tactics to use. Flails, Spear, Repeater Crossbow, Halberds, Double Axes, Irondrake gun – all new to the fold as well as a few more.

As you would expect with having two factions to fight this time round, you also get double the amount of specials. As well as the Packmaster, Globadier, RatlingGunner and so on we are treated to the Chaos Army‘s nastiest, the Marauder and the Bile Troll , in particular the Mage has an effective magical green tornado that follows you about and the mutated Chaos Spawn is much more dangerous than the old Rat Ogre. Double the amount of special enemies means double the fun.

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Visually speaking, it’s bloody stunning. It’s stepped up from its predecessor and then leapt some more, particularly with the lighting. If you’ve set your gamma right at the settings screen – the game will come alive, the couple of seconds adjustment needed from looking at bright sunlight then running into a barn or something is a great immersive touch.

One of the better points this time round is audio. I had massively better awareness with my space this time round than in the previous End Times outing, each of the specials are distinctive in sound making them much easier to prioritize and locate while in the thick of things. Overall atmosphere is heavily accredited to the soundtrack design. Without it, it just wouldn’t feel so alive. The banter between the characters is very similar to the last title and can get somewhat repetitive, nevertheless the quality of the voice acting is superb.

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During our time with Vermintide II we only got access to three missions but its understood that the game will launch with 13 minimum with no doubt a long line of planned DLC in the pipeline. I wish I had more because I didn’t want to turn the game off! There is something truly special in the making here, I cannot wait for the full release and get stuck into the Chaos gits.

One of the strongest titles of the year so far it seems. If you like Warhammer, like first-person shooters/slashers, like co-op games, liked the first game or even liked Left 4 Dead then I urge you to give this beauty a go. I will no doubt be spending many a late nights getting up to some antics with the lads on this one.

Written by Michael Jones.

(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a preview copy of Warhammer: Vermintide II, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)

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