WARHAMMER: VERMINTIDE 2 Review
The universe of Warhammer is not merely large, it is massive. Having been introduced to the world in 1983 and even then, drawing from the works of J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series and European culture before that, Warhammer’s universe has expanded from tabletop gaming to literature, role-playing, and video games as well. These nearly four decades of history culminate in the story that developer Fatshark has designed for WARHAMMER: VERMINTIDE 2.
Set during End Times, the apocalyptic terminus of the now-concluded Warhammer Fantasy timeline, VERMINTIDE 2 follows five heroes on their journey to save what remains of civilization. As they clash against the rat-men hordes of the Skaven and their new allies, a tribe of barbarians known as the Rotbloods, the adventurers’ only hope is to destroy the infamous Skittergate, a portal with the power to unleash armies of demons upon the world. It’s a dark, brutal, and endlessly fun spectacle about fighting to prevent extinction among the remains of life that once was.
The end is nigh
From the second it starts, VERMINTIDE 2 makes it clear that it’s going to be a hectic experience. The concept can be easily summed up as a medieval LEFT 4 DEAD, with bands of four players teaming up to crush mobs of bloodthirsty horrors. However, just because the game sports grim worldbuilding and agonzing monstrosities doesn’t mean it features dismal vistas. Each level, from a long winding trek through an overrun city or a treacherous descent into shadowy tunnels, has its own unique flavor and design. What’s more, these environments are spruced up by an enormous assortment of enemy units. Breaking the monotony of horde survivals where three or four of the same grunts are recycled like clockwork, Fatshark offers up over 20 different types of attackers with a slew of boss creatures thrown in to mix and match encounters and create clashes that are as amusing as they are chaotic.
Along the way, VERMINTIDE 2 does slip up in a few places. Whilst journeying through the lands, I found that the often unfair AI spawns easily threw my party for a loop. The game never attempts to hide its love for unforgiving difficulty, but it finds itself crossing the line between relentless and cheap a few times too many. On top of heaping on wave after wave of baddies, there were simply too many occasions where enemy hordes would materialize on the exact spot that my teammates and I were standing. I could brush it off as an unlucky coincidence or even a tougher challenge after one or two instances, but after reaching the double digits with such episodes, I was drained by how quickly my avatar was eliminated before I could even lay eyes on the enemy.
Well, here we go again
Usually, my team was adept enough to overcome these obstacles, though in the moments where we just didn’t cut it, I discovered that rewards were forfeit unless we actually conquered the entire level. Thrown back to the beginning of it all without a single checkpoint or acknowledgement of progress, failure was a cruel kick in the pants. To top it off, beating a level is very tough, even on the easiest difficulty. Like many an RPG, the quality of one’s equipment is the primary signifier in whether a level will result in success or failure. As such, to find success over a challenge that is too hard, groups may have to backtrack to other stages in hopes of gathering higher tier loot rather than reworking their squad’s overall strategy. VERMINTIDE 2 offers a wide assortment of subclasses and skills for players to experiment with that offer new paths to success in challenging areas, but acquiring these upgrades requires significant grinding that strains the game’s flow.
Despite VERMINTIDE 2’s aggravating spawns and sadistic loot system, the act of slicing up ratmen is just too fun to ignore. In much the same way that DESTINY has gunplay that just feels good, the bread and butter of VERMINTIDE 2 lies in its combat. This entry in the series makes hand-to-hand skirmishes a pleasure. Everyone has the opportunity to choose between five characters, each of which accord separate skills, weapons, and attributes. Where the dwarf might use a crossbow at long range and a hammer for hand-to-hand fighting, other characters like the human wizard might be more inclined to use magic in all scenarios.
In these choices, each team member can determine the role they want to take on and cater their combatant’s gear and skills to be more inclined to close combat, defense, healing, or anything else that might contribute to another success. These options facilitate tactics and planning, while further engrossing players in the pure unadulterated joys of lopping off enemy heads en masse, bonking around corpses like ragdolls, and mastering a fine-tuned combat system that is very reminiscent of CHIVALRY: MEDIEVAL WARFARE. In addition to all of this, where easier modes might not require much mastery over battle, attempting a playthrough on any sort of higher challenge essentially mandates that everyone have an impeccable grasp over moment-to-moment strategy, spatial awareness, and most importantly, acting defensively.
To shreds you say?
WARHAMMER: VERMINTIDE 2 has layers. On the surface, it is a wonderful fusion of LEFT 4 DEAD gameplay with DESTINY’S loot system. A couple layers below that sleep problems aplenty, ranging from enemies spawning on top of players to a dense and unforgiving loot system. Then finally, as you reach the core of this cooperative slasher, you can expect to be greeted by a trifecta of incredibly fun characters, levels, and battles, all without a single microtransaction in sight. As the case may be, if you have any love for the Warhammer series, horde games, or playing with friends, then you certainly won’t be disappointed by what VERMINTIDE 2 has to offer.
Reviewed on PC