Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is vicious and unforgiving in the most satisfying ways. Slicing the head off a ratman with a single swing of a sword, unloading an entire gun into its face or otherwise destroying it using a myriad of methods is fun no matter how many thousands of times you do it.
But that same ratfolk can just as easily overwhelm you and your friends in a heartbeat, making combat tense and heart-pounding no matter the encounter. Even as the hordes of Chaos and Skaven are mutilating and gorging themselves on you and your friends for the umpteenth time, Vermintide 2 remains action-packed and a blast to play
Vermintide 2 is a four-play action co-op game in the vein of Left 4 Dead. Set during the End Times in Warhammer Fantasy, you play as one of five heroes who are desperately fighting back against the forces of the rat-like Skaven. This time around, the unending hordes of rats are bolstered with the addition of Chaos warriors and raiders. The 13 missions that make up the core of the game are dark and moody, emphasizing the ruin and desolation that the world finds itself in.
Much like Left 4 Dead, you’ll end up repeating the same missions over and over again. But rather than becoming stale, Vermintide 2’s level design is expansive and intricate enough that, despite being mostly linear, the experience never gets old. And thanks to the A.I. Director that changes up enemy types and spawn locations with each playthrough, the surprises keep coming even when you think you know an area like the back of your hand.
While I did not spend much time playing the original Vermintide, I was struck by how gorgeous each of the levels in the sequel looked. Claustrophobic city streets, an underground dwarven karak, snowy fields and dense forests are just a few of the locations you’ll traverse, all standing out both visually and in the gameplay. A personal favourite of mine is Athel Yenlui, a mission set in an elven forest that features a spectacular romp through the woods and plenty of memorable imagery thanks to the hordes of enemies that charge through it. And more than just being simple strolls with plenty of killing, missions often feature puzzles, objectives and climactic finales that keep things from becoming too repetitive and straightforward.
Of course, none of the levels would be great if the basic gameplay didn’t hold up. In that respect, Vermintide 2 succeeds in spades. While the game features the same five heroes from the first Vermintide, different skill paths and specializations are unlocked as you level up that serve to encourage experimentation in order to find your own playstyle. For me, that means picking the wood elf Kerillian and scoring headshot after headshot with bow and arrow in hand, switching to dual daggers when I really feel like cutting a swathe through a horde. Characters come with multiple different kinds of weapons, and while each has their own attacks and differences that require getting used to, it’s a matter of preference which one you choose.
Don’t come into this game expecting a lot of tactical choices, however. Combat is of the hack-and-slash flavour, and much of your time with the game will consist of smashing through hordes of enemies repeatedly. There are still dodges, parries, and other abilities which serve to complement your basic slashing and crushing. Learning these take some time, despite the entertaining tutorial the game presents you, but it becomes an absolutely necessity at higher difficulties, where a single enemy is more than capable of taking you down by themselves. By and large, the moment to moment fighting is thrilling.
In addition to levelling up your character, Vermintide 2 includes loot that you gain after each mission that consists of new equipment for your characters. Unfortunately, these come in the form of loot boxes. While there are no microtransactions, upgrading your equipment felt unsatisfying to me, as most of the loot you earn consists of a new piece of equipment with slightly higher numbers. You can’t also choose what you earn, resulting in a degree of randomness that doesn’t fit in well with the rest of the game. At least a fairly robust crafting system lets you break down items to upgrade or replace new ones, which provides some degree of control over your equipment.
Of course, this is offset by the unwieldy inventory screen that is a pain to use. The information that is displayed is not useful, and switching and equipping items for each character takes far more time and effort than it should. This confusion extends into viewing your characters statistics, as there is no dedicated menu to see your health or other base statistics. Some information is hidden away behind hard to find tooltips, and it
As a primarily multiplayer game (You can play single-player, it’s just not as fun as online co-op), Vermintide 2 works well, for the most part. One of the most frustrating aspects in the game is when the host of a match quits or disconnects because then it’s game over for the other players. Loot isn’t awarded until a match is finished, which means that you’ll over waste plenty of time-fighting Skaven only for that progress to be rendered moot after someone quits.
As frustrating as though issues are, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 otherwise succeeds in creating an intense, difficult co-op game. The Warhammer Fantasy setting is put to excellent use here, and exploring the world and killing Skaven and Chaos remains compelling hours after I started playing. No matter how many rats I gut or trolls I burn to ashes, I still want keep coming back for more.