Vermintide 2 is a wholly addictive action RPG gorefest. I played far longer than was healthy due to the flavorful fantasy characters, improved loot system, and much-needed enemy variety.
Fatshark released Vermintide in 2015 to a warm response. Warhammer fans were jazzed. Left 4 Dead fans were intrigued. I was enthralled. However, the game suffered from a frustrating loot system and a stagnant enemy population. Vermintide 2 addresses these issues to engage the player with its signature brutality for much longer.
Vermintide is a Warhammer Fantasy spin on cooperative action survival. The raw gameplay is very similar to the original. Four characters, each fulfilling their own niche, slaughter their way through apocalyptic scenarios. The most familiar tropes remain. The heroes will discover scattered stockpiles of health and ammo. Characters can heal and revive one another. Special enemies regularly harass the party with unique attacks. Vermintide 2 won’t change your mind if you weren’t interested in this formula to begin with, although it does make enough of an improvement to progression, enemy variety, and level design to be a must-play if you enjoyed the original, Left 4 Dead, or cooperative action in general.
The dice rolling for loot from the original is mercifully gone. Now, every mission provides a loot box that guarantees three pieces of kit. Hidden tomes, grimoires, and loot dice upgrade the quality of these drops if recovered. Completing higher difficulties also contributes to more powerful items. Loot can be broken down for crafting materials and then these materials can be spent on upgrades or specific weapons. This system gives satisfying rewards for nearly every completion. Hence, useful loot is earned much more quickly than the original. The random dice rolls for single pieces of terrible loot are gone.
Additionally, Vermintide 2 introduces a career system to the franchise. The five original characters return; furthermore, they all now have two unlockable career paths. Each career path boasts a unique active skill, a few passives, an individual talent tree, and unique weaponry. This amounts to 15 different careers to master. Careers fulfill particular roles, with enough variation in equipment to customize for player preference. The selection also allows for many more party compositions; however, careers based on the same character can’t group together. This disappointing restriction does feel a little arbitrary.
Vermintide 2 introduces the forces of Chaos to the series. While these humanoid warriors are much tougher than the rats, they are less numerous. They have also brought their own special enemies. Sorcerers harass the players from range, while armored Chaos Warriors are more direct. At first, these new foes primarily inject visual variety. The players can initially hack through them all the same, although they do demand some tactical adaptation at higher difficulties
Especially exciting are the new bosses. Trolls, Chaos Spawn, and Stormfiends all join the rat ogres for climatic boss encounters. Each boss presents unique mechanics to overcome. I was praying for a familiar rat ogre fight instead of the much more lethal and disgusting trolls before long. The variation in bosses adds suspense during missions, at least until the boss is revealed.
Finally, level design is miles above the original game. Levels have clear pathing. The maps exhibit a balance of open areas, tight corridors, and choke points. Several levels include set pieces for unique boss battles against named characters. I only really wanted to play two or three of the missions in the original but now I can quite happily quick match into any Vermintide 2 map.
But It’s Not Perfect
Vermintide 2 isn’t flawless. No dedicated servers exist. The game suffers considerably with a poor connection. Combat is fast and precise; there is no margin of error to tolerate latency. You may be a burden to your teammates if you have a poor connection. Speaking of, be prepared to carry a few burdens in your adventures. There is no guarantee that matchmaking teammates are cooperative. This can be fatal in a title that requires constant cooperation. Ironically, this seems to become more severe at higher difficulties. While players seem happy enough to stick together at low levels, I began to run into divas as hero levels climbed. These players would inevitably run off, die, and rage quit. Fortunately, overt toxicity was rare.
I’m Not Long John Silver
The treasure hunting aspects have some unintended consequences. The maps can be played through with a steady rhythm, but players are encouraged to hunt treasures to ramp up their rewards. Significant detours or jumping puzzles often hide these bonuses. This compromises the pleasant rhythm and splits players based on their objectives and level knowledge. If everyone is on the same page, then great. If not, it is very easy for the team to split-up and collapse. This is particularly bad when the lone wolf types are involved.
Finally, the lack of any PVP opportunities is a little disappointing. It seems like PVP may have been difficult to implement considering the RPG mechanics. Regardless, I still would have enjoyed being able to experience the other side of the battle. This seems unlikely to change no matter how badly I want to shoot that stupid ratling gun.
Vermintide 2 is a textbook example of how to create a strong sequel. The spirit of the franchise is maintained and every supporting concept is improved and expanded. Vermintide 2 is an easy recommendation, except for those uninterested in online PVE.