Heavily Improved, but Buggy Sequel
Game Title: Warhammer: Vermintide 2
Platform: PC (Coming to PS4/Xbox One later this year)
What is it?
Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is a direct sequel to 2015 first-person co-op action game Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide. Fundamentally it offers a similar gameplay experience, however with a variety of changes and new features to hopefully provide a more engaging and enjoyable experience.
For those unfamiliar with the series, the are first-person action action games with a strong focus on melee combat while also being heavily inspired by Left 4 Dead. A group of up to four players will progress through levels, occasionally taking on large amounts of foes that also have unique enemy types sprinkled in to keep players on their toes wondering what they game might throw at them next. Bosses will inevitably show up too, these are the most powerful enemy types with massive health pools and powerful attacks. Bosses are split into two different categories as well, the most common are the Monster types that will show up randomly or at set points in every level. Those who played the first game may remember the Rat Ogre as the sole boss type in this category, however Vermintide 2 mixes it up with a few new monsters to encounter. The other variety of boss are scripted encounter events that are usually met at the end of final act. While killing enemies and bosses don’t offer character progression rewards, completing a level results in experience points to level up your character in addition to some loot to customize your character’s combat capability. If your entire team goes down at any point in the level it means failure though and you’ll receive some experience points based on how far you got.
Character classes and progression were heavily overhauled in the sequel. Perhaps the most noticeable change is the addition of three different career options for each character. These are unlocked as you level up and provide different skill trees in addition to a passive and active power, all three of which are brand new features. The new active powers function like an ultimate in Overwatch in that a mater charges over time which can then be used when full. Many of these can be extremely helpful in a tight spot and save yourself, such as one of the Battle Wizard career’s ability which teleports her out of danger leaving a trail of flame in her wake or the Ironbreaker Dwarf which can taunt a group of enemies while always gaining infinite blocking capability for 10 seconds.
As mentioned each character career option as a skill tree to make decision on as you level up, something the first game was lacking. In fact, leveling in the first game didn’t feel rewarding at all, so fans should be happy to see they’ve made efforts to make the journey to level cap more interesting and meaningful. Every five levels there are three different choices, each offering notable boost to your character in various ways.
One other change for the better is a new revised loot system. No longer will you be rolling for a single random piece of loot at the end, but rather a loot chest that will always have a few items inside that will vary in rarity depending on your overall performance. You can even decide what class the loot will be for based on whoever opens the chest which is a godsend for those that want to focus on one particular role. Improved crafting systems help remove some of the RNG from the journey for better loot as well, allowing you to create specific items around your current power level and tweak their properties and upgrade rarity level.
To keep players playing the game for a long time they have a couple of systems in place to accommodate just that. First up are a series of four difficulty levels which are designed to be progressed through in order as you get better gear and level up. The first two difficulty levels are great for the average player, but the final two kick it up several notches with the increased challenge of friendly fire, much more challenging enemies, and limited pick-ups. The other system to keep the game interesting are Heroic Deeds. These are items which are randomly received from loot chests which offer missions with set parameters to make them more difficult such as there being no pick-ups or having a constantly draining health de-buff. Completing these results in a bonus loot chest as defined by what it says on the deed.
The future of the game will include a mix of both free and paid DLC updates. New levels will likely be paid, while new features will be free in most cases. The first update is planned for next month offering the much needed dedicated servers, mod support, and two new levels.
What Did I Think?
- New career options for each character adds more varied playstyles even if we dont get actual new characters.
- Leveling feels more rewarding with actual progression thanks to skill trees.
- Active and passive abilities further makes each character feel unique.
- Revised loot system is more rewarding and less frustrating.
- Much more variety in terms of enemy types thanks to the new Chaos faction.
- More variety in terms of level design, at least compared with the launch roster of each game.
- More mid-level boss encounters than just the Rat Ogre of the original. Each one has a distinct fighting style that ask more of the player than just shoot it until its dead.
- Crafting system helps you guide your character to get specific items and traits/attributes over time.
- Nice difficulty progression across four difficulty level options.
- Heroic Deed feature helps mix up the gameplay while offering extra rewards. (Note that these bugged out often and not all players would receive loot or XP, it may be fixed by the time of this review)
- New training dummy is a nice way to get visual feedback on the power of new gear you pick up.
- Despite there being so many new options for playable characters due to careers, you still can’t have duplicates of the same character. This seemed like a great opportunity to allow more mixing and matching due to not only the different careers but build options as well.
- Lack of weapons with special abilities. I think there is only one weapon type that makes use of that extra binding.
- A variety of bugs all around, many small, but some are bigger and frustrating to deal with.
- Bugs could cause you to not receive XP or loot and the end of a level.
- No dedicated servers available at launch, coming within the next month or so though.
- If the host leaves the match or is disconnected, it restarts the entire level for players resulting in a lot of wasted effort and time.
- The end of level sequence and loot chest screen take a bit too long and should be able to be rushed or skipped entirely.
- Inventory and crafting UI needs a lot of work. Not being able to modify equipped items becomes a frustrating chore as you have to manually unequip it on every hero using it.
- Doesn’t provide enough information about your character’s statistics.
- I kind of wish that the new Power rating gave some amount of resilience or a health boost as well. I don’t expect that much, but even a small amount would be nice so you felt a bit more character progression.
- Solid controls all around
- Gamepad support for those interested.
- Visually superior over the first game in most aspects. Lighting in particular shines in the game.
- Impressive just how many enemies the game will throw out on screen.
- Some visual and world geometry bugs and issues.
- The game is quite demanding and you may experience some performance issues when hordes spawn in particular.
- Another fantastic fitting soundtrack by Jesper Kyd.
- Good audio feedback to let you know about crits and headshots.
- Nice impact sounds make the visceral combat feel even better.
- Had a bug sometimes where certain audio would cut out.
Numerical Score: 8.5
Vermintide 2 is by far a better experience over the first game thanks to more interesting and rewarding character progression and fresh content. The launch levels also have much more variety in them, not just thematically and visually, but also thanks to the varied enemy types that aren’t limited to Skaven anymore. It nails the core gameplay, the visuals, and sound, however a variety of bugs and issues hold it back from its full potential. The game could easily push past the 9.0 barrier for me if it was patched up and had advertised features like dedicated servers available on launch. I still think it is a great experience despite these glaring issues hence my still solid score, but I could bump it up in the future when it is hopefully patched up.