Warhammer: Vermintide II
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Release Date: March 8th, 2018 (PC) July 11th, 2018 (Xbox One) (Not yet released on PS4)
Reviewed On: Xbox One X
Price: $29.99 (Xbox/Steam) (Included in Xbox Game Pass)
Another Chapter Unfolds (Story)
Warhammer: Vermintide II follows of the events of the first game, Vermintide: The End Times. After the five heroes of Ubersreik were broken up, they are reunited when Grey Seer Rasknitt captures them in his stronghold (He is the main villain of the first game, thought to be dead but it looks like he is still alive and kicking). Grey Seer Rasknitt is the leader of Clan Fester, and this time around joins forces with Chaos Champion Bödvarr Ribspreader and his army of Rotbloods. Together they work on the construction of the Skittergate, which would allow the entirety of the Rotblood army to travel to Helmgart, one of the last remaining cities still struggling to stay alive in this treacherous time. During the tutorial of the game, you start out as Markus Kruber, a empire mercenary who is caught in a cage. You watch as the Skittergate collapses from a major malfunction, and your characters cage drops down and smashes open, freeing you from a potentially horrific fate! You then proceed to free the rest of the Heros of Uberskreik, fighting your way along, learning your abilities and controls of the game. After a hectic adventure, you escape through a portal and end up in a safe haven inside a ruined keep which becomes your hub before each mission.
Throughout the game, you fight through missions as any one of the five characters you so choose. Who are they you may ask? Markus Kruber, melee extraordinaire and Sergeant of the group. Victor Saltzpyre, Witch hunter and pointy hat enthusiast. Bardin Goreksson, dwarven archer/hammer lover. Kerillian, Elf archer and master of sassiness. Finally, we have Sienna Fuegonasus, a pyromancer with a burning temper and little patience.
Now as this does seem like an interesting story, with the type of game that this is, only some of the story is conveyed to players. More detail would have been appreciated, such as more levels to fluff it up a bit, or some could have done short videos and cutscenes during the loading scenes of each level instead of a voiceover explaining what is currently happening. There is a ton of potential here but in many aspects it just falls short of proper execution.
Chaotic Beauty (Graphics)
Warhammer: Vermintide II is a very impressive display of visual art and level design. They use their own graphics engine called Stingray which is developed by Fatshark out in Stockholm, Sweden. There is no shortage of eye-opening landscapes, from open forests with gigantic trees to the deep underground mines of a ruined dwarven city. The team behind this game has paid attention to many details large and small. The cracks in the cobblestones, split wood in beams, stairs and casks to the monstrous and grotesque enemies you slaughter on your journey are a great testament to the talent behind this game. This is definitely not a game for the faint of heart, or those that become uneasy at the sight of dark themes and imagery or blood and gore. The Warhammer universe is a very dark fantasy and Fatshark portrays exactly how the universe should look in a video game.
The Warhorn Sounds! (Audio)
Audio design has always been a very important aspect for games, though there are many who either fail in this regard or excel. Warhammer: Vermintide II falls right in the middle, where it doesn’t excessively focus on audio but there is just enough to give it recognition. The music suites it, but personally after running through the full game once I was inclined to turn it off. With a game like this, I felt all I truly needed is the in-game sound of the combat and character chatter. This is not saying that the music is bad however,I tend to put a playlist on of my own preference after I’ve experienced the full game to get into the “grinding mode”.
The combat audio is truly fantastic though, since many games have a difficult time get the *Thump* of a sword or mace to sound correctly. The guns, bows, crossbows, melee weapons and sorcery abilities sounds just how I would want them to. Some of my favourite aspects of this game is the character chatter during the missions. Drink a health potion with a decent amount of health left? You get chided for doing so! Shoot an enemy with your aim a little off? You get poked at! With such a dark and heavily chaotic atmosphere, the dialogue helps alleviate that feeling. To top everything off, there is one specific sound you either regret hearing or gets you excited, and that’s the Warhorn. When you hear that warhorn sound off in the distance, you know exactly whats coming. Hordes of either Skaven rats or Rotblood militia with Chaos Warriors come rushing at you from multiple places at the same time. For newcomers, this can get your blood pumping with a little bit of fear but more so excitement. On the higher levels though, it is mostly just fear as it is very difficult to hold your own even with a full party of players who know what they are doing.
I’ll Bite Your Legs Off! (Gameplay)
Warhammer: Vermintide II boasts some of the best combat I’ve played in a very long time. You can feel the weight behind the weapons, the lethality of the arrows you set loose, the rumble of the bomb you just set off at your enemies feet. One of the most noticeable aspects of the combat in Warhammer: Vermintide II is the gore and mutilation. Hit an enemy at the waist, watch as the top half of their body falls off. Swing at the arm/legs/head, anywhere really.. and watch the body of your enemy squirm and struggle with unique kill animations. I remember shooting a Chaos Warrior in the head, and just watched him stumble around like a ragdoll until he fell to the ground dead. Yes., this is fairly explicit but it is rarely seen in games as of late and it surprised me that this was present (and yes, I love it).
There are a lot of things to do in Warhammer: Vermintide II, with 10 levels that can be played on four difficulty settings, as well as five characters, with each having three sub classes to choose from that also have their own specific talent tree for those subclasses. There are over 50 different types of weapons and 20+ types of enemies to constantly keep you engaged and grinding for that loadout you like. There is a Heroic Deeds system, where if you are lucky enough to have one drop as a reward you can try your hand at a level with specific modifications such as increased horde spawn rate, specialist enemies and more. The gear is all based on a “Power” level, where the higher your level is the easier it is to slay your enemy. You can only obtain certain levels of gear though at certain difficulties, so if you want to try your hand at the Champion difficulty your going to need gear that is strong enough to even unlock that difficulty level.
There’s also quests and challenges that you can complete which reward you with a loot box of gear that can be of significant value. The amount of content is great for people who are new to the gam or even fans of the previous game, but it falls short in the end game. Unfortunately, once you run through all 10 levels playing whichever character you like there really is not much to keep you going. Sure, there are 15 different subclasses but outside of leveling them up and repeatedly playing levels over and over again on different difficulty settings there is not a whole lot to keep you invested. One thing I would like to see is a type of Horde mode, or if at all possible a procedurally generated dungeon run with high-end rewards when completed. We won’t know the full extent of what will happen down the road until a roadmap has been announced, which I do hope is sometime soon.
Warhammer: Vermintide II is easily is one of the best co-op experiences you can have. The combat is fantastic, it will constantly keep you on your toes and wary of the next section of the level your treading into. The audio of the game sets the tone and atmosphere very well, and thankfully it is not a flamboyant fanfare of heroic music as you march off to battle. The content is just enough to satisfy your needs but the end game falls flat on trying to keep the players invested. I highly recommend this title if you are always playing with a group of friends, or even just looking to mess up some rats by yourself!