by Sean Martin
reviewed on PC
Back in 2015 I was blown away by the first Vermintide and how successfully it adapted the Warhammer: End Times setting into a first-person horde survival. I was amazed by how perfectly it fulfilled the apocalyptic aspects of End Times but also how completely it fit the Skaven and their M.O. It was hard not to be drawn in by the authenticity of the game; by the way it used the scenery, the characters, the soundtrack, the weapons, hell, everything about it fit with the setting. But what’s more, it gave us a perspective that we’d never really seen before.
Games that utilize the Warhammer setting, whether 40k or fantasy, usually work on the larger strategic scale. The most successful Warhammer adaptations to date: Total War: Warhammer and the initial Dawn of War games, lack this ‘boots on the ground’ perspective that is so strong in Vermintide. With that in mind, I would say that the first Vermintide is the strongest first-person adaptation we have. Until now. Sequels can be problematic and while a part of me expected more of the same, Fatshark has undoubtedly improved the Vermintide formula.
THE UBERSREIK FIVE… OR FOUR
A lot has happened to our heroes since the last game; after being repelled from Ubersreik, the Skaven change up their game and ally themselves with Godvar Ribspreader and his horde of Rotblood raiders, using their new invention ‘The Skittergate’ to transport them from the north. Together, they attack the city of Helmgart and set about raiding Reikland. Our heroes are captured, but escape during the amazing intro sequence with the help of old Kislevite peg-leg Oleysa. You must choose one of these heroes, each with their own distinctive playstyle and undertake missions, observing the usual character banter, horde-hacking and monster slaying.
The most significant addition to the characters, is the career system. Now each hero has three careers taken from the lore, each based around a different playstyle. For example, my chosen character Bardin Goreksson (the Dwarf), can be either a Ranger, an Ironbreaker or a Slayer. Ironbreakers focus on defence, with heavy armour, Slayers focus on attack with little armour and dual axes, and Rangers focus more on ranged attacks. Each of the five characters has three of these careers and every one has a linked ability that reflects the playstyle. On top of this, there’s a large variety of weapons, and with the new improved loot system, they are far easier to get than in the previous game.
It’s difficult knowing where to begin with the monsters; the number of new enemies and special enemies makes the first game appear empty by comparison. So of course, there is a whole new faction, the Rotbloods, who are generally tougher than Skaven and have some of their own unique units. Armour is more significant than in the first game; there are enemies with shields, as well as new heavily armoured units like the Chaos warriors. On top of this, big monsters such as Rat Ogres are now in their own class, along with Stormfiends, Bile Trolls and Chaos Spawn (yes, they are all as bad as they sound). And finally you have life-leechers, gutter-runners, warp-fire throwers, rattling gunners, pack-masters and poison wind globadiers. Playing Vermintide 2 reminds me somewhat of horde mode in Gears of War 3; your level of WTF progressively increasing as the things trying to kill you get weirder and weirder.
But best of all, the game now has actual boss fights. Rather than being dotted around randomly, the missions in this game are split into three self-contained narratives, each leading you to face one of the bosses you witnessed during the intro sequence. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself actually facing Godvar Ribspreader in a battle that felt multi-staged and distinctive from any other fight I’d had. Some of these battles can be quite tough, but Vermintide 2 is a tough game. It’s incredibly hard to get beyond recruit level with the AI and you’ll need to team up with randoms if you wish to face veteran, but that was the same in the first game. You’ll find that generally, death in Vermintide 2 comes from bad timing, you’ll be facing a a bile troll but then two hordes will also happen to turn up. In this sense, it’s hard to get angry when your failure is often based upon luck. Also it just wouldn’t seem right if Vermintide 2 was easy.
Vermintide 2’s rest area, Taal’s Horn Keep, might go down as being my favourite rest area of any game (even better than the monastery in Hitman 2). It’s so explorable, with doors and passageways and staircases that all wind and circle back to one another. There’s also this old crooked tower, precariously balanced on a single impossible stack of rock. For me, it perfectly sums up the weird gothic absurdity of Warhammer fantasy and the game gets that just right. It is so rare for me to find a sequel better than the original, but Vermintide 2 just goes from strength to strength. It has improved upon the original formula in almost every way I can think of: narrative focus, class variation, enemies, scenery and soundtrack, but what’s most significant, is that the authenticity is still there. Whether it’s Franz Lohner telling you about Karl Franz’s crude sense of humour, or Saltzpyre and Sienna arguing with each other, Vermintide 2 is unequivocally Warhammer.
Lots more enemies, careers improve combat variation
Very occasional glitches