A hypnotic slaughter simulator.
The sickening crunch of a hammer smashing into rats’ skulls. The thud of a blow glancing off a reinforced shield. Screams of frenzied enemies flooding the battlefield. Your three companions quipping back and forth about the horde of nasties. This is Warhammer: Vermintide 2 in a blood-drenched nutshell. In spite of a few issues, when the game is good, it’s good.
Fatshark have nailed atmosphere incredibly well here. From gloomy caves to cities under siege, Vermintide 2 creates an incredible world to be in which looks absolutely gorgeous, largely due to a stunning lighting engine that scales down well to lower graphical settings. The character and enemy animations bolster this strong aesthetic, with each swing of an axe or shot from a bow looking smooth. But, boy, it feels even better.
Picking between five different
cocky pricks confident champions – an obnoxious elf, a boastful dwarf, an insufferable human with an axe, a swaggering human with a rapier and an overbearing fire sorceress – you’ll make your way through 10 replayable missions. Throughout these missions the heroes frequently comment on each other’s killing ability and while some lines will garner a snigger, most will irritate, particularly when you hear them more than 20 times – which you most certainly will. Vermintide’s core is about repetition, although this isn’t not necessarily a bad thing, especially when it comes to slaughtering foes.
All of the champions handle exceptionally well, each offering their own variety and play style. Unlike the first Vermintide though, its sequel offers the ability to refine a character to your preference. All heroes boast three careers, adding another layer of malleability to choose from. For example, picking the Waywatcher doesn’t mean you have to play as an archer. Selecting a career and adding certain talent modifiers (both are unlocked depending on character level) can significantly change your play style. There’s a guaranteed setup which will entice each of your three friends.
You will absolutely need friends who know the series well, though, as the game assumes each player knows what each mechanic is for. The obtuse crafting system doesn’t help, either. Vermintide 2 frustratingly lacks information and although it’s lovely to not wade through a mire of tutorials, an option to better explain certain aspects of the game is needed.
Not only are buddies required for context but you’ll want someone to fight alongside with and chat to. Like most co-operative games, Vermintide 2 relies on communication and tactics – particularly for the harder difficulties. Relentlessly spamming attacks will only get you so far and with bots who occasionally struggle with ledges or get stuck in parts of the map, you’ll want players fighting beside you who know what to do and can snap you out of your death-fuelled, hypnotic murder-trance.
It’s easy in Vermintide 2 to lose all sense of time, awareness or general humanity as each slice, stab, push, prod and shot feels incredibly satisfying. Watching a Skaven rat or Chaos Warrior crumple to the ground after a solid ‘thonk’, to only be replaced by another of its kin who will soon suffer the same fate, is brilliant. There will be plenty of those moments: the game frequently throws hordes of enemies into your face as your team finds the right way to clean up the area like homicidal janitors.
As you play through the eyes of your character, getting up close and personal feels like you should be able to smell the stench of your enemy as they clog your view (sidenote: if you’re a dwarf be wary of the greatest enemy – wheat. On higher graphical settings it can be a struggle trying to see enemies as the yellowed grass fills your screen. Employ the jump-as-much-as-you-can-to-see-what-is-happening tactic). With a new enemy type – the Chaos Warriors – there are a few, newer ‘special’ enemies who shake things up for players old and new.
Speaking of the Chaos Warriors, they look great. A hulking mass of armour, helmet and, well, green tattoos. By the time you’re done with Vermintide 2, however, there will be countless of their deceased bodies who have fallen to you all in the name of better loot.
Like myriad co-operative games before it, Vermintide 2 would be nothing without its loot system which picks into the same, addictive feeling of opening a chest and hoping you’ll get something good. You’re usually rewarded with a certain class of chest after completing each mission and this is largely impacted by mission difficulty, as well as a few collectibles which grant a better reward but raise the risks.
Once it has its claws in you, Vermintide 2 is a hard game to shake off. At 20 hours of playtime and counting, there is loads more for me to learn but trying to do it without someone by your side is a difficult sell.