Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is one of those sequels which improves on its predecessor in every conceivable way whilst keeping everything that made it special intact. It’s a brutally difficult that delights in stacking the odds against you in some delightfully insidious ways that make sure you never get too complacent, always staying on your feet. Having spent a week or so with the game, I have countless stories of just barely surviving skirmishes by the skin of my teeth, sometimes losing an ally or two along the way.
Set during the End Times in the Warhammer lore, Vermintide 2 runs you through tarnished cities infested with hordes of Ratmen and Rotblood with up to three other players. You run through levels slaying enemies in a manner similar to the Left 4 Dead games, although Vermintide 2 has a lot more going on than simply running to the end of a level and killing everything. Unlikes its obvious inspirations, Vermintide 2 is all about that RPG grind and that sweet, sweet loot.
After a brief prologue where you escape a prison, you pick one of five available character classes. You’ve got the Wizard, the Mercenary, the Dward, the Elf, and the Witch Hunter. On top of the base class, you later unlock the ability to pick one of two subclasses per character, which adds a fair bit of flexibility to your character builds. Every character has a melee and a ranged weapon that you can switch between seamlessly, although each one specializes one of the two.
In addition to their weapons, each character has their own skill trees and special abilities, lending to varied play styles with tons of flexibility. I went with the Elf, focusing on my bow skills over sword strikes. Every character has a special ability that runs on a meter which fills up over time. The Elf’s special lets her fire three magical arrows that seek out enemies. In addition, every character also gets passive abilities as they level up which can be anything ranging from increased ammo counts to health regeneration.
The visual presentation in Vermintide 2 is absolute gorgeous and a marked improvement over the first game’s already stellar visuals. This sequel captures the same medieval gothic aesthetic of the original while using a much wider range of environments as well as a richer colour palette. While the original game mostly stuck to war torn gothic cityscapes, Vermintide 2 has cities, sprawling sunlit forests, swamps, and even a farm.
The core gameplay loop in Vermintide 2 revolves around its loot system. At the end of every mission run, you’re scored on your performance, which determines what kind of chest you will receive. Each chest is filled with random loot for your character, weapons, charms, and other things. The game is, however, completely devoid of microtransactions, so the only way to earn these loot chests is through in-game unlocks. Additionally, every mission has three tomes and two grimoires to find, This adds another thing to worry about in an already tense mission setup, because holding a tome occupies your health potion slot. Grimoires take up the slot that holds buffs while also reducing the maximum health for everyone in your party. Collecting these offer up additional rewards at the end of the mission, so it’s always a good idea to get those along the way.
It’s not all perfect, however. At least at the moment, Vermintide 2 suffers from major matchmaking issues. Moreover, the AI director that dynamically alters difficulty based on how you’re playing has a propensity to flip out and send an overwhelming horde your way just when you think you’ve got the situation under control. Vermintide 2 comes with an in-built Twitch mode that disempowers the AI a little bit, letting your chat decide what will try to befall you and your party. I didn’t get to try this mode out but, by all indication, it’s a great addition to anyone who has an active Twitch chat to get the most out of it.
There are a total of 13 levels to go through in Vermintide 2, though you’ll be replaying them a lot. In any other game, this would get boring very quickly, but the levels on offer here are large enough and the AI director is versatile enough that it’ll be a while before subsequent runs through a level start to feel rote.
Vermintide 2 is a great sequel that improves over the original with better levels, more enemy variety, and great loot system, and some surprisingly fleshed out RPG mechanics. Anyone who loved the original should get this game without a second thought, though I also find it easy to recommend to those looking for a good action game to play with their friends.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2 was reviewed using a code provided by the developer.