Warhammer: Vermintide made some excellent impressions when it launched, most notably for its fluid and deep gameplay, its well developed mechanics and its dark theme. Learning that Warhammer: Vermintide 2 was going to be landing on Xbox One, let alone as part of the ever growing library of games via Xbox Game Pass, was exciting news indeed. The real question here is, does the sequel build upon what made its predecessor so compelling and offer up new refinements, gameplay elements and all round improvements? Yes, it does.
Fatshark have held back no punches for Warhammer: Vermintide 2. Following on from the events in Vermintide, Ubersreik is now safe from the dangers of the now defeated Skaven forces, who have been rightfully and fiercely forced back into their caves. It appears as though peace, or as much of it as possible, has been restored. Well, until the heroes of the land gets captured and the city finally falls, that is. Now, it once again falls to you to aid your team in another struggle against the might of the Skaven forces, along with their new ally.
What ally is that? You ask? The Northmen of Chaos. By and large, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is more of the same. It’s a game that retains the identity and allure of its predecessor whilst throwing in new enemy variations, new functionalities and new locations. Expect a massive portion of enemy variations in plentiful hordes at each and every hurdle, with enough blood, guts and limbs flying all over the place that would even have Jigsaw feeling squeamish. Yes, this is one hell of a gory game and it certainly doesn’t hold back on that.
Players take on the role of the five heroes from End Times, though you’re able to select three different variations for each. The game is crammed with content, offering up four different acts, each of which housing thirteen different maps in total. Now, let’s get my first gripe out of the way, shall we? When you first dive into the game, you’re asked whether you want to play online or offline. The difference between the two? Gated progression, that’s what. Perhaps I’m overlooking a meaningful design choice here, but hell it annoyed me.
When playing offline, you’re able to play the full game alongside AI companions. However, you wont be able to unlock any level ups and nothing will carry over to the online variation of the game. For me, someone that doesn’t always feel socially inclined, this felt like a kick to the teeth as not everyone wants to play alongside others. It’s a niggling issue, for sure, but something I wanted to make a hefty note about all the same. Either way, once you’ve chosen your flavor of the menu, you’ll then select one of the aforementioned five heroes.
These characters bring their own unique pros and cons to the fields of play. There’s; Markus Kruber the Mercenary, Bardin Goreksson the Ranger Veteran, Kerillian the Waystalker, Victor Saltzpyre the Witch Hunter, and Sienna Fuegonasus the Battle Wizard. These characters each have distinct outputs and gear, such as Bardin’s hammer and crossbow or Victor’s trusty dual pistols. Plenty of variety to select from, safe to say. Furthermore, each of these character’s enjoy a neat branching unlock system that directly feeds into class choice.
The first unlocks at level seven, and then level twelve, and so forth. These new unlocks brings forward new and interesting ways to play, complete with distinct skills that players can utilize to find a play-style that suits just about everyone. For example, starting the game as Victor will throw you into the role of Witch Hunter Captain, a class that’s able to push back nearby enemies and boost your party’s critical damage capabilities for six seconds. Though, when you hit level twelve, you can enjoy Zealot Victor, a force not to be tested.
Zealot Victor offers some very handy passive perks and career skills, including the ability to gain a twenty five percent increase to attack speed for a total of five seconds. Different weaponry also plays a role in these wide selection of load-outs, further lending the game a solid amount of diversity. Anyway, back to basics. Once you have selected your character you will be taken to the main hub, here is where you will be sent between missions to sort out your gear, unlock quest boxes and select where you want to go next. Simple stuff.
The gameplay loop largely remains the same throughout the entirety of the game. Players will fight their way through heaps of varying foes such as rats and chaos knights in an attempt to reach their pre-determined goals. Certain levels will offer differing quests; hold a position or (light puzzle-esque) locate a specific door, but for the most part, it’s brutality at its finest. Health orbs, speed potions, strength potions and so forth will be yours for the taking to make your life in Vermintide 2 that little bit less chaotic, emphasize on little bit.
The game also includes tombs that house hidden books throughout, though you will only be able to carry one each and there’s a total of three per-level. If you’re able to locate and extract all three books, it will count towards getting a decent chest once you nuke each mission. The difficulty can be selected pre-mission and if you find yourselves taking that proverbial dirt nap, you’ll be required to run the whole level again. I quite enjoyed the story structure in Vermintide 2, it’s quite loose level-to-level, but has a nice overarching plot too.
Challenges present a decent portion of replay value on top of the lengthy campaign itself. Leveling up is mostly achieved through succession, but the previously alluded to loot crates can provide a much needed edge (worry not, there’s no pay to win here). When all is said and done, however, the main loop is that you’ll gain strength and capabilities through upping your overall power-level. Become strong enough and you’ll soon have what it takes to play the harder difficulty tiers, thus opening more opportunities to better your hero.
Upping your power-level can be achieved through crafting and upgrading gear. Unwanted gear can be broken down for materials, to which it can then be attributed towards better gear creation. Safe to say that if you plugged in some hours with End Times, you’ll have a good idea as to how this game functions. With that said, though, it’s a relatively easy game to bond with, so accessibility is clearly something that Fatshark planned to relay. On the other hand, unfortunately, I do have some minor issues with the game’s presentation.
Don’t get me wrong, Vermintide 2 looks incredible. The locations are distinct and diverse, and the soundtrack and audio cues equally as so. Though with that said, on several occasions I witnessed the occasional environmental glitch. It’s nothing to write home about, but it can be pretty distracting when windows appear to bug out and the lighting goes all over the place. Nevertheless, when all is said and done, Vermintide 2 does not only Fatshark some justice, but the source material that it runs off too. It’s everything a sequel should be.
I especially liked the dialogue and funny one-liners that the hero’s would hand out at a regular pace and on that score, I thought the writing was top notch. When we factor in that this game costs nothing outside the cost of an Xbox Game Pass subscription, it’s an absolute no brainer. Though even when this eventually leaves Xbox Game Pass, the very generous asking price of $29.99 (or region equivalent) is a steal. Simply put, this is a must have for fans of the first game. It’s well structured, deep, innovative and thoroughly entertaining.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is a step up from its already impressive predecessor. Despite the occasional bug throughout play, the game offers up a refined experience that never wavers its pace nor its excitement. This is everything that a sequel should be, which is to say that it takes what worked in the first game and makes slight, yet notable improvements to maintain its distinct allure. Vermintide 2 is a must have.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.