Right oﬀ the bat, Vermintide 2 assumes you’ve played the first game. Thankfully, once you’ve cleared the prologue, missing background knowledge no longer becomes much of an issue.
After fighting through swarm after swarm of ratmen (which is basically what the Skaven are), you’ll slowly get to know the characters and their personalities. There are only a few cutscenes scattered throughout the stages, so much of the story is delivered through the loading screen briefings, your actions, and the bits of dialogue in-between.
The Vermintide games borrow heavily from Valve’s popular Left 4 Dead series. Your group of four will have to run through a largely linear level while swarms of Skaven attack, ambush, and do their best to stop you from reaching your goal. One boss fight or set-piece battle later and you’ll have to fight you way out to the escape point.
What Vermintide 2 gets very, very right is its combat. You have five playable heroes, each giving you a diﬀ erent kind of playstyle. You may choose the complicated fire mage Sienna, who must balance use of her power or risk over heating and blowing up; or the hot-blooded Bardin, who does much better when he’s fighting right in the thick of things.
There’s a good amount of character progression too, as heroes can level up, has equipment, and can swap between three sub-classes. These unlockable subclasses feel distinct enough that they feel like proper, fieshed-out playstyles, and the characters themselves also have talent trees that you can upgrade and customize.
Whether it’s ranged or melee, fighting the mass of Skaven and forces of Chaos never gets old. It’s very satisfying to cut down the AI in droves, mainly due to the great physics engine at work. For all the chaos that happens, the framerate is smooth on the PS4 Pro.
Melee weapons are especially weighty, so much so that you can almost feel every impact. The superb sound eﬀects complement the action very well, bringing another draw to the game’s fastpaced combat.
The game’s a definite challenge even on its lowest diﬃculty, and there are two reasons for that. First is the AI Director, which controls the ebb and flow of every stage you play, randomly spawning enemies and other gameplay eﬀects so you’re always in for a challenge or a surprise.
The second reason is the small pool of special enemies. These specialist Skaven are very similar to the special Infected in L4D, each having their own traits and skills. You’ll definitely need to be on your toes when one appears, since it’s usually timed with a massive wave of approaching enemies.
At least the friendly AI is eﬃcient. They can be extra tenacious at times, zealously charging enemies to engage in combat. If there are none nearby, you’ll see them running oﬀ to whack ratmen farther away.
For a game with loot, however, Vermintide 2 has the most boring system I’ve ever encountered. The items you find are very mundane, most of them simply raising your stats and nothing more. Loot Boxes are barely worth the eﬀort too. You’re better oﬀ using the crafting system for weapons that you do want, with attributere-rolls to bring you closer to your dream build.
While there aren’t a lot of levels to begin with, what’s available will still you take a while to get through. On average, it takes about half an hour per level; more if you’re playing on the harder diﬃculties. You can also find special dungeon levels from Heroic deeds, which come with their own mission conditions and enemies. You’ll want to replay the harder levels for better loot, and when that gets tiring there are DLC packs for you to explore newer levels.
There’s no drop-in multiplayer, but the lobby works fine for setting up for the combat ahead. You can switch heroes, subclasses, and equipment in this safe zone so you can better match each other’s strengths and abilities. You can’t do any of this once the match begins, however, so you may want to reserve the harder diﬃculties for friends you can voice chat with.
I can honestly say that Warhammer Vermintide 2 is perhaps one of the best sleeper hits of 2018. It’s visceral combat, RPG mechanics, and crafting system combine to create an engaging game that’s unrelenting in its action, yet still has the staying power to keep you playing.
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PICTURES GAMES WORKSHOP
Vermintide 2 takes place in the Warhammer Fantasy setting.
Rats, rats everywhere.
Who knew slaying large walking rats could be this much fun?