Warhammer Vermintide 2 brings you back into the Warhammer fantasy universe, arms you with even more brutal melee and ranged weaponry, and pits you against not only the Skaven but also the forces of Chaos. Indeed, this Left 4 Dead inspired action title largely sticks with the original’s premise, but some smart changes here and there, along side some more stunningly beautiful locations, means more of a good thing for those enamoured with the formula.
The core gameplay-loop is very much the same as with the first Vermintide: you and up to three others venture off into a relatively linear level towards an objective whilst a variety of different Skaven, and this time Chaos foes flood your screen and try to murder you. A few additional special units enter the fray, giving you and your party a particularly powerful foe to fell or a clever tactic to overcome. These help break up the level with what are essentially mini boss encounters, and with many of these special units designed to try and separate a member from your party and pick them off, it encourages you to stick together and watch your surroundings carefully.
Players still respawn further within a level if they are felled, and items can be picked up to help heal or buff you and your party, as well as offensive options such as bombs and grenades. Furthermore, an omnipresent AI director oversees the summoning of the Skaven horde and Chaos forces in order to make your playthrough more dynamic and scalable. Additionally, mission objectives are occasionally made more interesting with mine carts lighting the way as they move and caravans to protect. Indeed, it’s very much still plays like Left 4 Dead but with a Warhammer fantasy skin and more diverse scenarios.
Vermintide 2 is fast paced and intense, with dozens of enemies filling the screen forcing you and your party to wildly swing, bash and shoot to try and clear a path forward. Meanwhile, teamwork is crucial in dealing with the number of foes and the aforementioned special units that mean to separate you from your friends and pick you off whilst you’re vulnerable. However, while dealing with these special units requires some forethought, it’s otherwise a fairly mindless brawler, but still remarkable fun.
Once again, stunning visuals brings the city streets, sewers, forests, harbours and more to life, with character models for your adventurers as well as the many enemies looking tremendously detailed. Moreover, this visual fidelity doesn’t compromises the fast pace, regardless of the action unfolding around you. Your party of four, swinging melee weapons or firing off projectiles against dozens of humanoid rats and hulking chaos knights remains remarkably smooth and fast throughout.
The rest of the presentation is also superb, with a fantastically thematic score accompanying your dance of slaughter, not at all listenable outside of the game but wonderfully fitting for the action and world whilst you’re immersed within it. Furthermore, the clash of steal, the swish of arrows, the roar of fire, and the boom of firearms all sound excellent amongst the equally terrific Skaven, Chaos and party member voices. Vocal cues from your foes and your party aid you in preparing for upcoming battles, or point you in the right direction if you get lost, but are used sparingly enough not to grate or become superfluous. Additionally, the little elements of lore you glean from short snippets of dialogue between your party point to the larger world of the Warhammer universe subtlety but rewardingly for fans.
You can embark on a large selection of missions across multiple different locations either alone and supported by AI teammates, or via online coop with up to three other players. You choose a hero from the five available, with each revolving around one style of combat. Each character also has their own skill tree, specific pool of weapons, as well as special passive and active abilities. Additionally, these characters also have two unlockable alternate versions called careers, which you gain access to through levelling. These careers change your abilities, skill tree, and even play style, allowing you to better shape any character to your own preferred playstyle and adding additional depth and considerations for which character you choose.
You also customise your characters as they level up by allocating points into skills. These buffs modify abilities or improve your stats to better prepare you for the higher difficulties. Additionally, you can reallocate your skills at any time, allowing you to experiment without a suffering a penalty.
Securing new weapons still relies on the loot system from the original Vermintide, although it’s been modified slightly. Once you complete a level, depending on how well you do, you’ll unlock loot. Fortunately, this time the loot will be for the character you’re using, making it feel fairer despite the randomness. You can still combine unwanted weapons to form new ones, or upgrade favourites at the forge, helping to alleviate the frustration of tackling a level and not receiving anything particularly useful.
This random loot system certainly works better this time around but there’s a lack of variety to it. It’s common to unlock the same weapons time and time again only with slightly different stats. It’s functional but variety would help make it more interesting. On the lower difficulty levels the challenging is stiff but still conquerable, the higher difficulty levels require every advantage you can muster, encouraging you to grind levels and loot before you tackle them. This is especially so if you choose to play solo, as your AI teammates appear smarter than the original Vermintide but still a poor substitute for humans.
Warhammer Vermintide 2 is great fun to play, with its hugely satisfying combat and its excellent feedback as enemies are knocked around and sliced apart, to the visually stunning environments, as well as the character and enemy models, which truly bring the Warhammer world to life. It’s difficult, and the loot system is a little dull, but the gameplay-loop is easily compelling enough to keep you coming back for more.
Thanks to Xbox and Fatshark for supporting Thumbstix