Hey, get up. We’re leaving to go cleaving, so you better get your skull cracking glaive, or you’re getting left behind. It’s rat season, boy, and my trophy collection is looking mighty dusty. The only solutions are goin’ huntin’ or purging the vermin filth from Sigmar’s holy land. I know which one I’m about, and if you’re not hopping on the Vermintide 2 train with me, don’t blame me when you get branded a heretic. Of course, if you’re a man of faith, then you already know why Vermintide is so good, and boy, VT2 ain’t straying from Sigmar’s light. Though it could open a couple of windows, I guess.
If you missed Vermintide when it originally released, you may as well tie yourself to a crucifix and burn yourself at the stake. The game is Left 4 Dead in the Warhammer End Times, which marks the death of the old Warhammer world into the Age of Sigmar. You play as one of the five heroes of Reikland from the first game, each with distinct personalities and weapons. VT2 is, for lack of a better term, the same game with some extra stuff in it. There’s new missions, new enemies, but at its heart, this is still a game about killing hordes of enemies, and man, does it feel good.
It’s not until you cleave through lines of Skaven slave rats that you remember what happiness is. VT2 retains the satisfying feeling of carving through lines of enemies that the first game nailed. Whether it be slave rats desperately trying to surround you or Northerners hoping to axe you a question, the combat always feels tight and gratifying. There’s enough variety in the mechanics alone to keep things interesting, including shields, dodging, explosives and blocking. Of course, if you wanted to play a particular character a different way, VT2 has you covered.
Instead of just choosing a character to play, you can now select a hero and their career. You could play Victor Saltzpyre as a witch hunter or a bounty hunter, and each career comes with its own perks, talent trees and abilities. Careers are a great way to keep things fresh when you still want to level up the same hero, and any variety in a game like Vermintide is a good thing. No two careers play quite the same, so you can experiment for a long time against the new troops of Chaos faction.
The most significant addition to VT2 is the introduction of Chaos into the mix. Since the game straddles the line between Warhammer and Age of Sigmar, the Allegiance of Chaos finds its feet right here in The End Times. What this means for the player is that there are new enemies, like hordes of Northerners, Chaos warriors or a tremendous tentacle-wielding Spawn of Chaos. There are also new Skaven fellows to look out for, such as Stormfiends, that take more from Sigmar than old-school Warhammer. While I will curse bile trolls until the day I die, the new units are a welcome addition to the game, and the same could be said for the overhauled progression system.
Where once there was loot dice, there are now loot boxes. Instead of rolling dice to see what loot you’d get (which was a nice touch considering Warhammer’s tabletop roots), you acquire loot boxes at the end of each mission. You can collect loot dice, tomes and grimoires to upgrade the level of the chest, which yields items with better passive buffs. The power of the items themselves depends on the difficulty of the mission, so while you might have rad buffs, it will be a slightly weaker item. There’s also a crafting system that’s good enough to get by without being a core mechanic, and most of your items will come from loot anyway. All of the above and more make Vermintide 2 an excellent game for some horde splattering fun, but it suffers many of the same problems as its predecessor.
The first few missions I played felt unreasonably difficult. As it turns out, your starting equipment is garbage, so trying to get through a mission can be obnoxiously difficult. Once you start acquiring better gear and realise that pinged enemies take more damage, things become a lot easier, and I’m now at a point where the game feels too easy. I tried moving up a difficulty step, but it felt like what happened when I first started the game all over again. The progression of loot feels great now, but the horrific difficulty spikes are still present from VT1. Perhaps the trick is merely to git gud, but that’s easier said than done when the game bugs out on you.
90% of the time, VT2 works great, but it’s the other 10% that bugged me. I once thought I was still alive when I’d died, and when I was revived, my arms were floating down the stairs I’d just climbed. It took a good five minutes for my arms to reattach, and that only happened because I died and got revived again. The lag can get pretty beefy when playing with randos too, though not nearly to the extent of For Honor’s embarrassing debut. For the most part, the game works fine, and when it does, it’s a hell of a time.
With new enemies, new careers and new missions to check out, Vermintide 2 is a fantastic sequel to an already phenomenal game. It’s not perfect, with a difficulty spike so sharp that scientists could study it to make better laser pointers, but it’s great once you get into it. With satisfying combat in a vivid imagining of the Warhammer End Times, VT2 is almost a no-brainer. The real no-brainer is our undying faith in Sigmar, which should never wane even in the face of bile trolls.