Vermintide 2 Looks Like It’s Going to be Chaos
The Warhammer Universe is difficult to describe in just a few words. It is a massive, sprawling beast that encompasses gods, men, and monsters. It has seen kingdoms rise and worlds descend into chaos, but I am not here to talk of these momentous moments. Instead, I got a taste of Vermintide 2, the tale of five warriors and their personal battles against the encroaching darkness.
The original Vermintide stands out among a dirge of half-baked concepts that only occasionally live up to fervent fan expectations. Fatshark Games, developer of Vermintide, took the giant Warhammer universe and filtered it down to a single squalid town, and the fate of five warriors. Claustrophobic co-op carnage reigned supreme as players clambered through wave after wave of unrelenting enemies, and decaying Skaven corpses kept the fires of Ubersreik burning in the dark.
Now, Fatshark has unveiled a sequel to their Skaven extermination simulator and it is another satisfyingly visceral return to the Warhammer universe. I got hands on with Vermintide 2 at the weekend and it seems that the Sweedish team has taken what they’ve learned from their inaugural outing and built on this. The Stromdorf and Karak Azgaraz DLC content introduced some much needed variety to the Vermintide Universe with the open air environments proving particularly popular. Fatshark appear to have taken this to heart with Vermintide 2. Rather than deposit players in another dank dungeon, Vermintide 2 drags players into the fresh air. The winding streets and dead end alleys of the original are replaced with a spacious woodland thicket that skirts around a small village. The game still runs on the same core engine meaning that while this is a departure from the apocalyptic setting of the first game, things still feel familiar.
This is true for much of Vermintide 2. There is an obvious feeling of familiarity as you take control of the game’s original five protagonists. Both Kerillian and Markus Kruber were available at PC Gamer Weekender and both were instantly recognizable to veterans, who should be able to drop straight back into the fight. The same WASD movement is present and limited number of keys are bound to the basic combat skills. Anybody who has played an arena based FPS will understand these systems. Combat in Vermintide 2 responds exactly as you would expect and feels adequately brutal. Routing the Skaven is still an industrial scale slaughter, and as you eviscerate your way across the map it becomes clear that Vermintide 2 has lost none of its glorious blood lust.
The same basic combat cues are present here as in Vermintide. Blood spews from all angles and players blocking significant blows will stagger around the battlefield as they parry a flurry of blows from incoming axes. Audio is equally engaging. From the crunching sound of steel on bone to the cries of derision from your fellow warriors. Fatshark seems to have taken on some of the criticism surrounding a weightless combat system and worked hard to improve upon it. As a result, when Markus Kruber’s hammer meets a mark, it really does feel present in the world.
I had the opportunity to spend time with Kruber’s Knight, one of this character’s potential careers. Another layer of diversity, the career system provides a sort of progression and gives players a multitude of extra options on the battlefield. Kruber’s Knight is the epitaph of any soldier and a continuation of his role in the original game. A heavily armored, frontline warrior, this career path includes a unique passive and active ability. Valiant Charge, just like Kerillion’s Shade ability, is formidable. In Kruber’s case, it provides a mechanism to plow through foes and close gaps on enemies. It gives him a direct route to the front lines and compliments the Knight’s playstyle. Despite the obvious damage, Kruber’s charge is not game changing. These career options instead tread a fine line, being valuable without spinning too far off into the realms of high fantasy.
It is not just the central characters that see a change this time round. What appear to be Warriors of Chaos arrive in Vermintide 2. As my four heroes meandered down a country road, idly exchanging banter, I encountered these barbaric hulks blocking the road. The Norsca is a barren waste, corrupted by chaos, and the massive Norse barbarians are a perfect palate cleanser to the Skaven. Instead of overwhelming waves of rodents storming out of dark recesses, these warriors are a clear and present danger. They display a range of behaviors that allowed me to sneak up on guards or pick them off before they realized I was approaching. Despite the welcome change of pace, it does not take long until things to take on a familiar air of panic.
What starts as a careful trek eventually descends into waves of Chaos, and the odd Skaven straggler, thundering down the open road. A solid mix of cannon fodder and elite armored Norse enemies attempt to overwhelm intruders as the game progresses into the center of town. What remains is a familiar loot and mission system that continues to send the same punishing torrent of enemies at players. It almost wallows in the frantic struggle to decapitate everything in sight. In a lot of respects, Vermintide 2 feels a lot like Left 4 Dead 2, but this is no bad thing.
Fatshark’s second outing with Vermintide is an exercise in balance. The core fundamentals of Vermintide remain while the new changes make the game feel fresh and inviting for veterans. New adversaries, lore, and play styles keep the experience from becoming a derivative iteration of itself. While Game’s Workshop titles sometimes seem like a weapon of Chaos, raising expectations only unleash an unwavering cash grab on its fans, Vermintide is one of the shining lights holding the line. If you want to test your steel against the Norsemen, then head over to the official website before February 28.