It’s been a while since a game has left us with as many conflicting feelings as Warhammer: Vermintide 2 has. It’s sometimes outstanding, sometimes blindingly infuriating, and sometimes outright broken.
If you, like us, completely missed the first game in this series, the Vermintide games closely copy the Left 4 Dead formula of a co-op first person game where players take on scenarios, killing massive hordes of enemies.
Instead of zombies there are the Skaven, a race of ratmen from the Warhammer universe and they give this series its namesake. In Vermintide 2 there’s also the addition of Chaos (usually humans who have been turned evil by the Chaos gods).
With the setting you may think that you’ll be using mainly melee weapons to take on the enemies, but most characters in this game have both a close range, and a long range weapon which you’ll be using.
Here is Vermintide’s biggest selling point: the core combat is fantastic. Weapons are an absolute joy to use whether you’re cutting off limbs with an axe or blowing away an entire cluster with a fireball.
Unfortunately the well-designed weapons systems are directly at odds with the enemies you’ll be facing. Taking on a handful of enemies is where it works the best as you can directly see the impact of your weapons and carefully time and combine your attacks.
But this game’s entire premise is taking on hordes of enemies at once, so most of the time you’ll be blindly, madly swinging into a wall of foes and and managing resources to do so.
It also doesn’t help that many of the special enemies are massive damage sponges that quickly turn into chores.
All the combat and the 13 missions it takes place in serve as the grind for the second big part of the game: the never ending quest for random loot drops.
All the desirable weapons and equipment come from lootboxes which can only be obtained in two ways: from levelling up, and from successfully completing missions.
Right now it’s impossible to buy lootboxes with real money.
Each of these boxes contain a combination of three weapons or pieces of equipment for the character you are playing as. This process is actually really fun as the random element adds a lot to the excitement of getting new loot, especially considering that careful play to find objects in missions will reward you with better boxes.
But, as is the theme with the game, there’s a lot wrong with it too. The meta progression of opening the lootboxes at the right time, correctly salvaging spare items and more is never explained to you in the game, and is needlessly complex when you go and ask for an explanation on a forum.
It’s also very shallow, the buffs some rarer weapons have are uninspired, unseen stat increases and the equipment does nothing more than contribute to a power level that increases damage, shot penetration and how much you can stagger enemies.
While that may sound enticing, they’re three more stats that go up so slowly that you will never notice them in gameplay.
The final point of contention is this game’s technical performance, which also wildly swings between two ends.
On the graphical side, it’s a marvel. Not only does the game look gorgeous, but it runs amazingly on our older hardware (an i5-4670K and a R9 280X). On medium details at 1080p this game was pulling off high frames even when there were hundreds of Skaven on the screen.
The first time you encounter this many enemies is a truly great moment in gaming. The site of that many enemies coming for you, all while the game runs smoothly, is something everyone should experience.
While the graphics won’t crash the game, a lot of other stuff will. What other stuff? Well the crash report doesn’t really say and the players we spoke to over the in game chat didn’t know either. It’s also very common for the game to crash when closing, and losing a good run because of a crash is somewhat common and always irritating.
Each mission also needs a host and if they leave (or are forced out by a crash) the migration seldom happens without a hitch.
Vermintide 2 continues to be this mixed bag of a game at every corner. The five heroes and their three different careers are great for variety, but they’re a pain to unlock. The regional matchmaking (which we suspect works like DOOM 2016) is great for playing with other people near you, but it may be a detriment when the community is smaller. We love the enemy variety, but hate how certain enemies will spawn behind you and kill you before you can react.
Despite these flaws this is still the best title with a Games Workshop licence in a while. Some of the problems are technical and may be fixed with patches, while others are from design and may stay as intended.
Wait a few weeks to see how it pans out, but remember to give it a play.