Warhammer: Vermintide II Review
Spring (Vermin) Cleaning
Published on March 14, 2018
Warhammer: Vermintide II
Release Date: March 8, 2018
Standing in the middle of an open field, the rain pounds away at your body as you stand off against a horde of enemies. With your trusty ax in one hand, pistol in the other, you and your three teammates prepare to hack down the blood-thirsty foes that stand in your way. Sound familiar?
Fatshark has been trying their hardest to follow in the steps of Valve’s success with the Left 4 Dead franchise. The release of Warhammer: Vermintide II marks another entry in their effort to recreate the magic. A follow-up to the original title released in 2015, Vermintide II not only aims to provide a fresh survival experience but fix the problems of the initial game. While most of the effort for the first game was spent on mimicking the gameplay and foundation of its predecessors, the new entry can focus on adding unique content that sets it apart from the other co-operative action titles.
The game continues where the first left off, with the Heroes of Ubersreik being captured. As you make your escape during the prologue, you find that the Warriors of Chaos have joined forces with the Skaven. This provides considerable challenges for the heroes as there are far more enemies and bosses to face throughout the campaign’s 13 missions. A plethora of changes, along with new features that assist in the daunting task ahead, and players will need every bit of they can get.
Where Vermintide II is able to set itself apart from other titles is its difficulty. Players are thrown straight into the fire after a brief tutorial that teaches the basic controls. Even when playing on the easiest difficulty, the first mission provides a substantial challenge for newcomers. This is because the game punishes players who are not learning the mechanics of the game. There’s an emphasis on melee weapons, and the combat system requires more than spamming the attack button. A proper combination of striking, parrying and blocking will be necessary if you want to survive against more than a few enemies at once.
This doesn’t mean that mastering the game by yourself will solve all problems. Solo players won’t be able to carry a team of new players by themselves, as teamwork is an essential part of the game as well. The AI will spawn special units to drag players to their deaths if roaming alone for too long. Call-outs and proper positioning of each member are crucial if you want to survive the onslaught of the hordes that the game will throw at you. Random boss spawns will stretch a team’s capabilities and readiness to the extremes at any given moment.
Although the steep learning curve is frustrating at first, the game makes sure you’re finding the overall experience too hard or too easy. Your gear and traits get stronger as they level up, but the enemies will scale as well. With each bump in difficulty, the game does well to not only require players to build their heroes appropriately but for the team to function as a cohesive unit as well. Communication, mechanics, and adaptability are all needed when playing through a high difficulty Vermintide II run, and a tiny mistake will result in a quick failure.
Gathering the required gear to get through the missions isn’t too tedious, as there is a large variety of content to keep you occupied. Fatshark did a good job addressing complaints from the first game and maintaining features that worked the first time. The five heroes from the original return, each with different passives, abilities, and an additional job system that fit to different playstyles. Although the arsenal of weapons has not changed, more depth has been introduced with an addition of a weapon bonus system that increases character traits such as movement speed or critical power. Finally, a talent tree allows players to fine-tune heroes, but I found that most talents didn’t provide many benefits.
It’s not just the heroes that got a significant upgrade. The Warriors of Chaos have joined the fight, and they bring a slew of special units to reinforce the enemy army. Chaos Warriors are towering, durable behemoths that could take out a group of heroes by themselves. Rotblood Sorcerers can both drag heroes away from the group, or spawn a massive storm that will sweep up anyone caught in the vicinity. These new units require quick reactions and strategy for teams to deal with, even for veterans.
The game remains aware that there will be a group of hardcore players and makes sure to cater to them. Heroic deeds add random modifiers to maps akin to mutations in Left 4 Dead. The player-driven challenges of tomes and grimoires make its return to add additional difficulty for players that find the base game too easy. Tomes are a collectible item that replaces the slot of a healing item, and grimoires reduce maximum health of all heroes on the team when picked up. These provide more than just bridging the difficulties for those who find the next step too hard. The number of collectibles you can bring to the end of a mission increase the quality of the loot you receive.
Vermintide II does away with the highly criticized loot dice system, which relied heavily on random chance. This has now been replaced with a loot box system. Although that sounds horrible on paper, Fatshark has made sure to make it as fair as possible for players. Every successful mission will grant a player a guaranteed loot box (that are 100% free to open) and the number of challenges a team completes determines the quality of items inside. The game also rewards players upon leveling up, and experience is gained whether a run is successful or not. With the return of the crafting system to keep the RPG elements, this is the most refreshing implementation of gear collecting I’ve seen in a while.
Relative to the core gameplay, the world-building and maps leave a lot to be desired. There are many vistas scattered around that are beautiful to look at, but most of the areas and layout you will fight through feel uninspired. Many maps feel like copies of the same templates, replaced with different textures. The variety of the objectives are minimal and lack the same sort of creativity that we saw in the Left 4 Dead series. Combine this with the relatively loose continuity between missions in an act; it’s hard for the game to present the player with something memorable. Even after grinding each map a many times, I found it hard to recall anything from memory.
The dialogue and music only serve to detract from the experience, contrary to their efforts. Music is used solely to signal what event is about to happen so that players will be spending most of their time with ambient sounds. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem if the banter that is used to fill the silence weren’t annoying. Most of the dialogue writing is lazy at best, and heroes are constantly bouncing snarky comments between each other in reaction to every action. Even enemy dialogue is hard to take seriously when they are spouting lines such as “You shoot me, I shoot you!” I looked into turning off the dialogue, but the game doesn’t provide any settings to do so.
Even after an open beta session, I was disappointed to find such a large number of bugs in the full release of the game. Buggy AI will cause enemies to walk into walls, bad hitboxes will let you grab items through walls, chests will not open at times, and dying the wrong way may cause permadeath or invincibility. The final boss got stuck during my playthrough, allowing our group to kill it with ease. Voice clips will not match up with subtitles, and placeholder names riddle a bunch of the in-game texts. Adding to this is the peer to peer connection the game uses, which leads to frustrating restarts of a mission if the host drops for any reason. A plethora of bugs plagues the game, which detracts from the experience they tried so hard to build.
Fatshark is hard at work though. They have already released a roadmap of changes and updates that will follow the initial launch and are responsive to their forums. Judging by their dedication to the first game, it’s safe to say that there will be a steady stream of content for the next few years. Although the game is far from perfect in its current state, it’s able to present a unique experience on a shaky foundation that will keep players entertained.