Platform: Windows 10
Time: 170 hours (at the time of writing)
A follow-up to Fatshark’s Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 sees players returning to the Warhammer universe beset by an apocalypse. Similarly to last time, your focus will be much narrower in scope as you venture to stop an army of rat-men, known as Skaven. Joining the Skaven are the Choas horde, a war-driven barbarian tribe hellbent on enslaving the known world. Through thirteen different levels you, along with three others, will hack, slash, and cut your way to victory while completing various objectives. Spoils of war in the form of new more powerful equipment will be granted to those who are successful. Overall, Vermintide 2 delivers a lot of the same content that defined its predecessor, which makes for some good and some bad.
The melee combat of the previous game sees a return in Vermintide 2 and it’s still as weighty and satisfying. The use of anticipation animation, and excellent sound design give many of the weapons an appropriately heavy impact. This doesn’t come at the cost of responsiveness, however, so the game never feels sluggish. Learning each of the different weapons combos, and how best to use them is one of my favourite aspects of Vermintide 2 and was a far more fulfilling end-game than simply grinding for better equipment.
Speaking of equipment, the loot system has seen a massive overhaul. Completing a level will earn players a loot box containing three items. Where previously you were awarded a random item, you are now always given equipment that is usable by the character that opens the box. This change eliminates a big point of frustration from the previous game and allows players greater control over their progression. It also makes trying new heroes easier as you can use boxes earned by another character to gain equipment without having to grind up through the easier difficulties.
Furthermore, equipment now has power levels: a streamlined representation of a weapon’s various statistics. A higher power level equates to greater damage output, cleave, and stagger. As new equipment is collected players will slowly raise their power level to a maximum of three hundred. This level is shared across all characters, so gear progression is never impeded by trying a new character.
The introduction of a new careers system is also a highlight in Vermintide 2. Each of the five playable heroes has three different careers to choose from featuring unique passive and active abilities. The big gain here is that different careers allow for the play style of each characters to be augmented. In the previous game I only played one class finding the others unbearably slow, or too heavily focused on ranged play. However, in Vermintide 2 I’ve had a lot of fun playing each of the different heroes as I was able to customize them to fit my preferences. Additionally, careers further provide incentive for players to experiment with each of the classes adding some much-needed variety to the game.
While the different careers in Vermintide 2 are an improvement, the talents of these different classes leave much to be desired. Each career features fifteen talents, split into five tiers, which are used to develop your character. The problem here is that almost every talent is featured across several of the careers. Classes aren’t made as unique as possible because of the volume of talent overlap, and it feels like a missed opportunity to further distinguish each of the careers.
Vermintide 2 also has a big problem with repetition. Comparing the first and second game reveals there is a far wider array of levels, enemies, and bosses within the sequel. However, Vermintide 2 still feels like it lacks variety, which is especially problematic when players are going to be trudging through the same thirteen maps repeatedly. With a gameplay loop that relies on replayability having a wide range of content is integral, and Vermintide 2 is lacking in this department.
Additionally, the crafting system in Vermintide 2 is quite monotonous. A menu gives way to a number of operations each with an accompanying animation. Having to wait a few seconds to re-roll the stats on a weapon may seem fine, but consider that players could potentially sit through the same animation hundreds of times as they try to maximize a piece of equipment. Having a way to speed up subsequent attempts, or a system where you are able to lock desirable stats from being re-rolled would have mitigated much of the tedium.
Finally, it’d be remiss of me to not mention bugs and glitches. Similar to its predecessor, Vermintide 2 is home to a whole host of technical problems. Enemies can spawn in and attack through walls, the AI controlled characters can get stuck on environment features, players can be disconnected from games at random, and physics can stop properly functioning on dead enemies to name only a few problems. Many bugs can lead to unfair player deaths, which makes them feel especially frustrating. It’s a shame that Fatshark wasn’t able to deliver a more polished technical experience building off of the lessons they learned from the first game.
Vermintide 2 is the sequel to a game I really enjoyed, and it mostly manages to deliver. The improvements made to the loot and class systems, as well as the deeply satisfying melee combat make for a sequel that I think will please many fans of the previous game. However, the lack of variety in the talents, missions, enemies, along with the tedium of crafting, and the myriad of bugs hold the game back from being truly great. Vermintide 2 is an easy recommendation for existing fans, but I’d be a lot harder pressed to recommend it to newcomers.