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Stemming The Tide
“There can be no victory, for the darkness always returns.”
These chilling words greet players upon first booting up Warhammer: Vermintide 2.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2 opens during the final days of Order in the Warhammer Fantasy universe. The known world is sliding into chaos due to constant war. The cowardly, but mechanically ingenious, Skaven Rat-Men have begun a campaign of destruction across The Empire – the largest and longest-lasting human nation in the Warhammer world. Weak on their own, the Skaven’s true strength lies in their seemingly limitless numbers used to overwhelm their prey. They’ve razed several major holds within The Empire already. Their most recent conquest includes the city of Ubersreik – the setting of the previous Vermintide. The hold of Helmgart now draws their ruinous ire, leaving The Ubersreik Five responsible to coordinate a guerrilla campaign to stem the Vermintide.
Know Your Enemy
The Skaven Vermintide make for delightfully-compelling villains in Warhammer: Vermintide 2 because of their realized societal quirks, something that many games lack today. The vermin aren’t the mindless zombies that exist in so many horde-based games. They hold a stake in the world they inhabit, a clear goal they are trying to achieve. The Skaven require expansion in order for their own assured survival. Their culture is a brutal caste-system, where the most ruthless and cutthroat individuals impose themselves atop the horde. They are parasites following an unsustainable societal structure, feeding off of another civilization until its eventual ruinous demise. To this end, their end goal is the complete destruction of their enemy – even if this paradoxically assures their own eventual collapse.
The rat-men are strategic with their targets – only attacking when sheer numbers assure them of victory. They will run whenever that advantage is lost – and will even go as far as abandoning hard-fought territories in favor of living another day. The Skaven are cunning with their strategy, but also incredibly cowardly when confronted with a disciplined force. But a single-minded hatred of the human Empire has driven them to make extreme decisions in the name of victory.
The Coming Darkness
With the Skaven onslaught proceeding full-swing in Warhammer: Vermintide 2, things look bleak for the civilized nations of the world. Since their victories in the first game, the Skaven clan have made a tenuous alliance with the Chaos worshippers of Norsca. The armored, lumbering brutes stand in stark contrast to their Skaven allies. The Norscan warriors favor armor to speed and refuse to flee the battle.
Their goals align for the moment – and make their combined forces a seemingly unstoppable tide to engulf all who oppose them.
During Warhammer: Vermintide 2’s missions, players will often be pitted against both armies. They will face off against tiered grunts most of the time spawned in overwhelming numbers. Specialists provide unique challenges to overcome and keep players heads on a swivel. Boss creatures take a coordinated effort to bring down and continue along towards mission completion. Unique creations like the Spawn of Chaos makes one pause in terror at the sheer design of these monsters. All that players can do to end the threat is fight those that stand before them. Players receive a litany of steampunk-inspired weaponry to fell the evil in their path.
Character-specific weapon types appear spiced up with a Victorian-esque theme. While the industrial-inspired muskets, bows, and magical staves are a wonder to behold, melee combat is where Vermintide 2 truly shines. Make no mistake – slicing and dicing enemies with swords, claymores, and flails is the heart of the game’s combat system.
Think of your weapon choice as an extension of your specific role for the team. Larger 2-handed weapons are excellent for clearing crowds of unarmored Skaven slaves. But when an armored Chaos Warrior shows up on the field, your team needs help. One better hope that someone on their team can poke through the holes in his menacing armor. Otherwise, your team is in for a tough battle.
With the variety of weapon choices available to characters, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 adds an all-new career system to the five classes available from the original game. Each class comes with 3 new careers to tinker with – each offering unique abilities, buffs, and talent trees. This essentially allows for classes to favor specific roles as they progress in the game. Players are free to become an armored tank, a ranged specialist, a close-quarters damage dealer, or the coveted support position. One will need to know their strengths and weaknesses, as the world around them slides into chaos.
A World in Flames
Warhammer: Vermintide 2’s greatest strength lies within the awe-inducing spectacle that is the level and world design. From a crumbling cityscape sliding into a massive crater to a picturesque wheat plantation overrun by mangled corpses, shock and awe were obviously the priority of the design team. This writer personally can’t recall standout levels within recent mission-based survival games – Left 4 Dead and Killing Floor’s generally bland modern settings didn’t leave a very lasting impression. Warhammer: Vermintide 2 goes above and beyond to keep levels interesting.
And that’s what truly makes this game so engrossing. Bloody and satisfying combat makes the game incredibly appealing to play. But the number of secrets, mazes, and eyeball-popping vistas immerses one in the world of Warhammer. Detail can be found in abundance in Vermintide 2. The Skaven’s grimy fur and the glow of their warpstone-infused weaponry make the title a wonder to behold. It’s a unique setting, to be sure – apart from Bloodborne, not many games have so convincingly brought an industrial-based fantasy world to life.
But lower end systems are able to run this game as well. A friend was able to play on an Intel GPU laptop, albeit tuned to minimal settings.
Vermintide 2 is not without flaws. The sheer amount of effects and characters on the screen causes noticeable hitches once battles become too chaotic. Expect the game to run slower once the screen gets too busy.
Along with some framerate hitches, the loot/crafting system here is incredibly mediocre. The RNG based process is completely random. Players receive garbage items like trinkets and necklaces far too often. The team contribution compounds the problems with the system. Frustration ensues when last-minute attendees receive the same experience as match MVPs. Those who achieved more do not receive a bonus for their efforts. Because of this, there’s a lost opportunity to foster a competitive aspect to this cooperative experience.
An Accomplished Vision
Though these flaws exist, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is immensely fun. It transports players into the hold of Helmgart, desperately trying to halt the Skaven horde by any means necessary. With the developer’s passionate community-first attitude and future content plans, this game is sure to have a long life cycle. Warhammer: Vermintide 2 stands as an example of how to expand the horde-based survival genre, using new mechanics, ideas, and settings. For fans of games similar to Left 4 Dead, buckle up. You’re in for a ride.
Many games have come and gone struggling to ape the success of Valve’s genre-defining Left 4 Dead series. From Killing Floor to the recent Outbreak mode in Rainbow 6: Siege, these wave-based clones followed Valve’s model without truly daring to deviate from the established formula. Warhammer: Vermintide 2 significantly differs from its brothers in the horde-based survival genre with an immersive setting, frenetic steampunk-based combat, and ingeniously-creative level design that challenges the navigational skill of its players.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2
Release date: March 8th, 2018
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC
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