Back at the end of August, developer Fatshark release its first DLC pack the action packed Co-op FPS Warhammer: Vermintide 2. This Co-op FPS meets hack n slash title is a blast to play as I had shared in my first impression piece back in March. After a couple of months away from the game it's been nice to spend some time back in the world of Vermintide 2 specifically hacking and slashing my way through its latest DLC Shadows Over Bogenhafen. So grab that coffee, kick back and enjoy our review of Warhammer: Vermintide 2 - Shadows Over Bogenhafen, and yes I too notice how long that title is!
Set during the same timeframe as the base game, Shadows sees our fearless band of heroes tasked with saving the city of Bogenhafen from utter destruction by locating and capturing a legendary Chaos runesword. The Sword which is hidden in the city is the source of great death and decay that is plaguing the streets and wiping out the populous.
The DLC pack brings with it two new levels, The Pit and the Gottenplatz District, as well as some new cosmetics, quests and challenges all wrapped up in a fairly reasonable DLC price point. Interestingly the actual maps are available, free of charge for anyone using the Quickplay feature of the game (more on that later).
With two new map areas to explore I was pleased to see that much of the creative level design and layout has carried over from the base game. The Pit and the Gottenplatz District both have a very distinct feel and, despite borrowing some assets from other levels, still manage to feel unique and engaging to explore. More than once I found myself straying off the beaten path to see what was around corner or at the end of an ally and not simply because I was lost. Although the game does to a pretty solid job at keeping you on the straight and narrow each level did reward exploration by way of additional items to pick up along the way.
Level design seems to have evolved some since the base game release as the use of vertical space seems to be more prevalent in these two new levels. Additionally the developer has found some fun and creative new ways to work in the need for cooperation in order to successfully navigate the world. An example of this comes early on in the Gottenplatz District. Tasked with funding the Runesword, your motley crew of heroes has to enter the city district via a sewer system.
The issue that the characters quickly discover is that it's pretty dark in the sewers. The only real solution offered is for one character to be the torchbearer (literally) while the remaining players escort and fend off the hordes of enemies that will attempt to hinder your progression. As the torchbearer you are limited to either using the torch as a basic club (with the added bonus of lighting everything on fire) or dropping it and plunging your team into darkness. There are moments along the way where wall and standing torches can be ignited but for the most part you must work together to navigate the sewers. It's a great mechanic and highlights the cooperative nature of the game.
As mentioned earlier, these two new levels, although included in the purchasable DLC, are also offered for free to anyone who owns the base game by way of the Quickplay mode. At first glance this can seem a bit odd as it essentially means that you don’t need to purchase the DLC to experience the DLC. This of course is true to a point but upon further process and review it's actually something I’ve come to appreciate about the developer. Fatshark has essentially done two things by offering up these levels for free. First the’ve communicated that they want no barriers for any of their fans to play together. As someone who has personally hit the content paywall while playing with friends I greatly appreciate this gesture from Fatshark.
Second the developer have communicated that they have faith in the product and its quality. As mentioned the game comes with a host of new cosmetics in the form of hats, skins, portrait frames and illusions but more importantly (and this is where the real replay comes from with Vermintide) a host of new quests and challenges. In essence it allows casual players to enjoy new content, creates a larger player base of players for Quickplay, and still opens up new ways to play for more hardcore fans.
At the end of the day, Shadows Over Bogenhafen offers two new levels, some fun cosmetics and some new quests, story, and challenges. It doesn’t dramatically change the fun formula of the co-op FPS but it does create a bigger playground to have fun in. Ultimately it feels like a “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to DLC which some might or may not be a fan of. However, with its low barrier of entry (free in the case of the level access) it really does offer something for both casual and hardcore players and if it's an excuse to jump back in the Vermintide 2 and support a developer that is doing some great work then sign this Mercenary main up!