From the moment you first launch Vermintide 2, you can see the love and attention to detail in capturing the old Warhammer fantasy setting that Fatshark have put into the game. As you are swung through the gorgeously realised Skaven warrens, taking in their eerily warp-stone green features and constant ratman chatter explaining their part in the end times, you get the rundown of why you are here, what you’re expected to do and how you’re going to go about it too. (Clearly the devs were a fan of those on-rails sections from Half Life 2)
You are quickly thrown into the boots of the mercenary Kruber, your most mechanically basic of the Übersreik five. As you gather up your fellow party members the game takes you back through the basics that will be familiar to any players of the original. That said, the game’s basic mechanics and style of play should be easily picked up by any Left 4 Dead players as well. You are quickly thrown into a desperate fight against waves of Skaven as you fight to escape their warren and begin the fightback.
With the prologue completed you are introduced to the Keep, a hub section of the game which you’ll be returning to between all your missions to select which hero you’ll be giving a bash, try out some newly looted, or crafted, weapons and, in general, set things up. The basic lore of the team’s shadowy portal network is explained, as well as how to set up a new mission before you are quickly on your way down one of three paths towards the final mission.
These paths all have a theme to them, either being the general locations you’ll be traversing or the types of missions you’ll be sent on. Each mission takes about 20 minutes or so to complete if you’re not trying to get all the bonuses and the game’s director doesn’t decide to throw too many terrible bosses at you. That said, don’t expect to set out and complete your first mission on the first attempt, even on the lowest difficulty.
Missions are tough on your first go, with the basic equipment you’ll start with on characters, and only really start mellowing out once you have levelled up a few times or managed to successfully complete a mission without trying your luck too hard on meeting any bonus objectives. You’ll also need to find which of the five playable characters, and then which loadout for said character, suits your play style as well. After quite a few failed attempts and a few more loot drops I finally found that I had a fondness for the two-handed warhammer when wielded by Markus in his first of three career paths. With the ability to carve through hordes of plague cultists and ratmen with some well-timed swipes, I could quickly focus on upgrading in a direction I felt comfortable with and mission victories followed shortly afterwards.
There really is something to be said about the weapons and loadouts available to the characters and just how much changing between a weapon before going out on a mission can change your experience. Whether trying to manage your arcane powers as wizard Sienna, the quick switches and agility of elven maiden Kerrilan, inspiring fervor of witch hunter Victor, berzerking as dwarf Bardin, or fitting all the “I’m too old for this” tropes in as Markus, there is a lot to play around with and unlock throughout Vermintide 2.
While this progression system may not be to everyone’s taste, I found that it reminded me quite a bit of playing through a season of Diablo 3; each run through of the maps giving you new ways of playing. On top of this the added challenge of heroic deeds, mission modifiers that can greatly hamper but also lead to great rewards if you can complete your mission in spite of them, leads to more replayability as with 13 missions to take part in out of the gates being enough to keep you returning for a good while before things get stale.
That said, the game also has some fantastic locales and great looking areas that are a real treat for fans of the Old World to keep you coming back to see just a little more of each time. The banter between the oddball collection of heroes also flows wonderfully, with chirps on the conditions, each other’s skills (or lack thereof) and their gallery of enemies flying fast and furious to draw you further into their world.
Of those enemies, there are a decent number of special units that each need their own way of being dealt with, though you will very quickly learn these. The fact that you can’t always expect these to spawn where they did in your last run or to know when the director will decide to through a horde your way makes up for not having a very large selection to face off against. Above these, however, you should also expect at least one “big bad” in each mission that will need to be managed or killed off to complete. These enemies are terrifying to come up against in the more narrow or confined areas of the game. While always a challenge, these fights can often feel like a bit of a let down as while most other enemies take the weight of your blows in a very convincing manner, these large creatures often have serious health bars that tick ever so slowly down as you kite them around.
For those streamers out there looking for something new to get some interaction with your viewers, you can also give the built-in twitch integration a go, though be warned if they’re prone to trolling you, as some missions can become difficult when the enemies are being chosen by a less than balanced force. Otherwise, for people looking to get friends involved and supporting your trip through the end times, it can be a really nice way to aid and perhaps get a few new players hooked to team up with.
Overall, my experience with Vermintide 2 was filled with ratman genocide induced glee, only the occasional matchmaking team-up proving too much to bear with and connections being stable enough, as well to avoid having blows miss or aimed shots wasted. However, the bots have been programmed well enough to keep you alive and ticking in a match that having one or the entire rest of your team filled with them can keep you going as well.
Features include: Knowledge of all things geeky. “Over 9000!” achievement points in World of Warcraft. Groantastic Puns. Marking out for canadian heels.
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