In its first two weeks, Vermintide 2 has doubled the total sales of its predecessor. A testament to the quality of the game and Swedish developer Fatshark, it oozes with AAA polish, atmosphere and immersion. I can safely say, that over the last two weeks I have become enveloped within this beautiful fantasy world, a clash of Early Medieval Germany and Tolkien.
With Endtimes, Games Workshop created a world breaking apart, where gloom and doom are every day things. The great cataclysmic event prophesied to bring about the end of the world, heralded upon the arrival of the Twin-Tailed Comet. Greenskins (Orcs) to the East, Chaos Army and a demon summoning mist to the West – all conquering, all converging on the realm of men, the Empire which is already being beseiged by the Skaven (rat-men) in the hundreds of thousands.
The first game was set in Übersreik, a medium-sized town by Warhammer standards besieged by the Skaven – as is every other town near. Five heroes band to gether to prevent the Skaven pulling off the Great Ascendancy, a magical rupture releasing a plague to end all.
Directly following the events of the first game, Vermintide 2 takes place in Helmgart, don’t worry if you havent played the first game. Veterans and newcomers alike can feel at home, now within the middle of the conflict. It’s time to strike back, the Heroes of Übersreik are fed up with being reactionary – taking the fight to them as it were.
This time round we open up with an intro/tutorial mission around 20 minutes long (a drawback of the first game was its lack of hand-holding) and it tells you what you need to know. The Skaven have allied with the Chaos Army to bring the Empire down. You play as Markus Kruber, captured and trapped in a cage hanging on a rail system, you get to see the bad guys have some words and quickly realise what the goal is this time round. Markus is one of five unique heroes who escapes the clutch of this new unholy alliance and bring the fight back to them.
Different to its predecessor, Vermintide 2‘s campaign is split into three chapters. A new feature, at the end of each 4 mission chapter is a boss, a very tough one at that. Once all three chapter bosses have been put down the final mission unlocks and you can finally save the day, all of which takes them in and around the region of Helmgart.
Just like the first Vermintide, each of the five heroes converse in sarcastic banter, providing a brief peek into their relationships and the larger world. Sadly, we tend to hear the same dialogue all too often and although it’s a definite improvement on the first, it still seems it could do with a fair bit more filler.
Missions take place through breathtaking vistas and lush scenery, through long forgotten Dwarven tunnels, ancient Elven woods and a city in ruins. Fueled by a dynamic narrative arc, fighting through or arriving in the wake of a brutal battle. The soundtrack delivers 100%, whether it’s the drums of battle, grim violins or blasting trumpet, it all heightens the harsh picture of a kingdom at war – Jesper Kyd (soundtrack composer), I take my hat off to you sir, he the man responsible for the Hitman, Borderlands and Darksiders soundtracks and 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.
As in the first game, the playable characters are Bardin Goreksson, Kerillian, Victor Saltzpyre, Sienna Fuegonasus and Markus Kruber – each one of these has unique play-style and weapon combinations and each one of these heroes has three different careers which are unlocked on levels 7 and 12. A total of fifteen different careers, each of which has its own unique skill/ability and passive ability, along with a skill point every five levels up to 25 to spend on customising your hero to better survive the hordes.
Bardin Goreksson – A small man with a big attitude, a Dwarf Ranger with large hammers/axes , shotguns, flame cannons and without fear. Bardin three careers are: the Veteran Ranger, a swift survivalist with a smoke bomb; the Ironbreaker, an unstoppable force carrying an immovable object, has the ability to shrug off blows and taunt all those close into attacking him; the Slayer, a dual axe wielding berserker causing more damage the more he attacks and is able to leap several meters into the think of the horde.
Kerillian – a Wood Elf Waywatcher full of snark and mystery. Careers: Waystalker, all about the Bow, double the amount of ammo and a triple arrow skill that seeks out headshots; the Handmaiden, former bodyguard of the Everqueen, a swift spear wielding dervish with increased dodge distance and a dash ability to slam through enemies; and the Shade, the assassin of the game, dual daggers and increased damage when attacking from behind, also has the ability to enter stealth.
Victor Saltzpyre – a Witch Hunter of unwavering faith and a hatred for all fell sorcery. Careers: Witch Hunter Captain, promoted after the event of the first game the captain boosts the morale of nearby allies with higher critical hit chances and marks targets for increased damage; the Bounty Hunter, able to fire a shot that will pierce all enemies and is guaranteed a critical hit every ten seconds; and the Zealot, full of faith and fervor, better suited to the mace for high-speed and swinging blows, he gains power as he looses health and can charge forward increasing his attack speed for 5 seconds.
Markus Kruber – emotionally scarred as the sole survivor of his regiment, fell to gruesome death magic. Refusing to be beaten in the mind or in battle, Kruber is ever the optimist. His careers include; the Mercenary, a fast paced point man boosting allies with temporary health and increasing his attack speed with multiple hits; the Huntsman, recovering ammunition upon ranged headshots and able to slip into the shadows for an ambush to ensure a quick victory; and the Foot Knight, the tutorial class, another tank but this time more supportive by granting a damage resistance to allies and a charge skill with great knockback.
Lastly, Sienna Fuegonasus – a fiery tempered Bright Wizard who arrived in Übersreik as the prisoner of a Witch Hunter, Victor Saltzpyre and guarded by a former State Trooper, Markus Kruber. Sienna has a mechanic the others do not, sure she’s a wizard and wont run out of ammo but she is governed by the flames, if she does not ventilate her Overcharge she will erupt into flames herself. Careers: The Battle Wizard, not taking or dealing damage for 8 seconds ventilates Overcharge and a teleport skill leaving a fiery trail in her wake; the Pyromancer, this career deals more damage the more Overcharge she carries and fires an enemy seeking fire-ball; and the Unchained, possibly the most difficult career the play, revolves around you exploding with flames after building up too much Overcharge, which is easy to do as 50% of damage taken is transferred to it.
Effecting your gameplay and tactics is the weapons you use, each career has the ability to use different weapons, some of them share the same pool but the result is always different. Two handed weapons are heavy and have slower attacks with more powerful blows and larger arcing swings and with sometimes armor penetration and/or shield breaking. Smaller weapons have much quicker swings but less damage. Depending on your choice, your play-style and tactics change drastically. Balancing yourself and your team is a necessity for the later stages and difficulty tiers.
Ranged weapons are critical but the majority of the gameplay revolves around the deeply satisfying melee combat. Every weapon type totes a different attack combo, enriching the combat to reinforce its variety, never had it been so satisfyingly brutal when cutting a path through your enemy. That said, a few careers cater to the ranged player but when the going gets tough – an it bloody well will – bring out the axe. Something for every play style.
Vermintide 2 has four difficulty tiers and they do a good job of providing an intense amount of challenge. The AI director randomises each encounter, analyzes how fast/slow your party is moving for example and does its best to separate you. Enemy types and spawn rates vary, making sure that no two runs of the same mission will play out the same. Combat is easy and quick to pick up, but hard to master. The difficulty curve escalates rapidly as you progress the tiers and a spate of random difficulty spikes – few and far between – which can ruin your day has yet to be fixed. For example, just this morning my group got hit by 3 swarms of Skaven, a Stormvermin patrol, a Chaos Wind Mage and a Life leech at the same time… on veteran tier (2nd tier). It’s the kind of sweep that you’d rarely find the 4th tier, Catyclsym.
A step up on the first Vermintide outing is the loot. Where as in the former, acquiring weapons, trinkets and loot was a severe grind, this time round its far more generous. After each rank up, you get a box. After each successful mission, you get a box. Completing a Heroic Deed, you can get 1-3 boxes, within each box is three randomized loot rolls for weapons and trinkets and Heroic Deeds. Safe to say, mucho…loot-o. Similar to Tom Clancy’s: The Division and Destiny, Vermintide 2 has a gear score system – the higher your individual equipment then the higher your overall score will be.
With unwanted gear you can salvage the materials to craft your own or improve some you’ve already got and re-rolling the perks/talents on items too. This is key to being successful at later difficulties, having a trinket that has a 25% chance to not consume a health potion on use could mean the difference between life and death or recovering ammunition after performing a critical headshot with keep you shooting for longer.
Visually and technically speaking, wow. The first thing I have to mention here is how well the game runs, you don’t need a high-end monster rig on steroids and a half ton of protein a day. Still using the Autodesk Stingray Engine which is very well optimized for the PC and Vermintide 2 works flawlessly even on a relatively older systems. At highest or lowest settings the game looks beautiful, an attention to detail we dont see often. Just running through the streets of a city broken apart by cataclysm and seeing the debris and detritus in corners, hay carts parked up or knock on their sides, remains of battles fought and lost… I did however come across a few visual bugs, polygons missing here and there, distant or close terrain visible through one side of a window but not through the other and a sewer drain with no textures at its bottom… just a glaringly white basin.
At the end of the day, Vermintide 2 was a surprise. I was thrilled to get back into the throng of it and I expected more of the same, but I was wrong. It’s so much more, progression actually amounting to something, RPG like class systems, a far more rewarding loot drop and a grim combat improved upon where there was previously few flaws. It looks amazing, plays amazing and sounds amazing. While it may have its fair share of issues, Fatshark Games have delivered, it’s rare to see a good sequel to an already good game. Between the character and weapon diversity, dynamic repeatability, and generous loot progression, its safe to say you wont see me for a while.
OVERALL: 8.9/10 – GREAT
Written by Michael Jones.
(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a review 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.)