Has Fatshark created another Warhammer-flavored hit? Find out in our Vermintide 2 review for PS4.
For close to forty years Warhammer has continued to combine horror and fantasy, its now iconic setting becoming more than just a backdrop for the original tabletop wargame. Although heavily inspired by Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, there has always been a darker, more bombacious streak running throughout the Warhammer universe, no doubt due to the flare of its creators. Take one look at some of the artwork being produced for the game back in the 80s and you’d assume they were album covers for a slew of forgotten metal bands.
There’s definitely more of that flare in Vermintide 2 than its predecessor. Where the 2015 co-op slasher had you battling against endless swarms of the rodent-like Skaven, this time they’ve banded together with a Chaos Warband calling themselves the Rotbloods. Where the ratmen attack in droves and harness the destructive powers of Warpstone, these Chaos warriors pose a more physical threat, each one devoted to Nurgle, the dark god of pestilence and disease.
As Warhammer buffs will know, Vermintide is set during a cataclysmic era known as the End Times in which strange alliances are brokered. With large swathes of The Empire either in ruin or on the brink thereof, hope rests on the shoulders of five unlikely heroes. From Bardin the dwarf and the enigmatic wood elf, Kerillian, to Sienna the battle wizard, there are five playable characters as before, each with their own unique loadout of weapons and abilities.
At a glance, it may not look like much has changed since that first game. You’ll still spend most of your time mashing away at the attack buttons, turning dozens of incoming enemies into a motionless pile of bodies. There’s still that dual sense of morbid satisfaction and exhausting repetition in doing so, but at least Vermintide 2 has more gameplay variety on offer.
Buddying up with the Rotbloods means that you’ll be fighting both the nimble Skaven and their bulkier bedfellows across a wide spread of combat scenarios. Vermintide 2 is also more liberal and inventive when it comes to special and elite enemy types, occasionally throwing larger monsters such as Stormfiends, Bile Trolls, and Chaos Spawns into the mix. Bump up the difficulty, strap in with friends, and it becomes a much more engaging multiplayer experience.
The five main characters and how they gradually develop is something developer Fatshark has also improved. Each of them can now specialize in a certain career, unlocking powers and weapon types that hone their individual playstyles. For example, Bardin can either be a veteran ranger, a heavily armored “Ironbreaker”, or become a death-seeking dwarf slayer, each influencing his role in combat. Refinements made to Vermintide’s crafting add even more ways to customize though not everyone will be a fan of the sequel’s new loot system.
There’s now a much stronger link between character progression and the gear you unlock after each mission. Aside from stats such as weapon damage and other bonuses, they each have a power rating that, when combined, gives you a total score indicating which difficulty tiers you are able to run. The tougher the fight, the better your chances are at earning more advanced loot boxes and unlocks. However, their inherently random nature – paired with the slow trickle of experience points – means that progress in Vermintide 2 never comes fast.
Re-running the same missions over and over may not sound like fun yet this grind is a key part of co-op focused games and raid shooters, including Payday 2, Destiny, and just about any MMO you can think of. Fatshark at least tries to spice things up with what it calls “Heroic Deeds” – modified versions of each mission tied to a consumable item. Although these promise some of the best in-game rewards, you only have one shot and typically they’re much more challenging. As in the original game, tomes and grimoires are stashed throughout each stage, collecting them boosting your chances at better loot chests.
With Vermintide 2 having already launched on PC in early 2018, followed by an Xbox One release in summer, PlayStation fans may be late to the party though Fatshark’s work on this version is solid throughout. Even with the sheer number of enemies and effects on screen, Vermintide 2 never chugs while also being the best-looking Warhammer game to date. From sprawling cities and decrepit dungeons to the untamed woodland realm, every locale helps bring this popular fantasy world to life, albeit tinged with the gore and decay one might expect from The End Times.
If grindy loot-fests aren’t your idea of a good time then the Vermintide series really isn’t for you, even if you find its melee-focused combat more appealing than the run n’ gunning of co-op shooters. That said, Vermintide 2 is a great sequel, and although there are still some niggling issues Fatshark has yet to stamp out, it’s a gloriously over-the-top, sword-swinging, spell-slinging romp packed with content and a perfect representation of this much-loved setting.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2 review code provided by the publisher for PS4.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is out now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.