Hordes of Skaven, rampaging Chaos monsters, feathered hats, and pantaloons? Must be Warhammer: Vermintide 2. The beta recently went live for the game and I got to try FatShark’s newest instalment to the Warhammer game franchise. I also had the opportunity to speak with Mat Andersson, one of the developers for the game at the PC Gamer Weekender event for a few minutes, and it was great to see the energy and passion that is being put into Vermintide 2. It is a game being made for the fans by the fans.
The co-op, fantasy, action game features the return of the original characters from the first game. Markus Kruber, the feathered hat pole-arm wielding mercenary who is capable of bolstering the parties health and cleaving through hordes of enemies. The Dwarven ranger Bardin Goreksson brings sharpshooting and support to the group, his passive ability allows him to find ammo from slain foes that all party members can collect and his special ability has him disappear into a smoke cloud to escape tricky situations. Kerillian, the lass with the most sass and resident archer, is able to fire off volleys of arrows and she can regenerate health over time. Victor Saltzpyre is a Witch Hunter who approaches each situation with finesse and class, he is able to boost the parties critical hit chance with his special and brings burst damage in the form of quick firing pistols. Finally, Sienna Fuegonasus brings some much needed crowd control in the form of fire, she can ignite the ground and toss fireballs in abundance but she must manage her core temperature or risk exploding and taking a lot of damage.
Players are able to tailor each character to their own playstyle by equipping different gear and weapons, which can drastically change how a character is played. Victor, for example, begins with dual flintlock pistols that he can rapidly fire. This is great at clearing a large group of enemies at mid range, however, it eats his ammo supply and you may as well be throwing confetti at armoured enemies. By changing out his weapon to a much heavier ranged weapon such as the crossbow, it is able to penetrate armour and packs more of a punch to a single target. In addition to gear there are talent trees that can be unlocked by levelling up, once unlocked they can be selected freely before entering a mission. These talents provide passive bonuses to improve survivability or increase damage output.To add even more customisation, it is possible to unlock entirely new ability loadouts for each character. If you love Kerillian but aren't a fan of the bow you, can raise her level to unlock two more loadouts that will change how she functions entirely. Her first unlock changes her into a spear wielding damage dealer with increased dodge and her final unlock transforms her into an assassin-like backstabber with increased critical chance and stealth abilities.
Mat explained that the reason there are no new characters is because the team wanted to focus on the relationships that exist between them. To begin with there is a lot of animosity between the characters (especially Kerillian, seriously she is mean). As players progress through the story so too does the bond of friendship between the group, insults become compliments, it is very much a bond forged in the fire of war.
The core gameplay involves entering a mission and proceeding from point A to point B and defending the final point, sounds simple enough but between the points is an army of Skaven, Northmen and monsters that, honestly, I don’t even want to begin describing. There is a lot of satisfaction to cutting through hordes of enemies, especially when it is possible to cut off every single limb and even cleave bodies in two. This is not a game for the kids, there is gore aplenty here. I favoured the Witch Hunter during my time with the beta and got the chance to experiment with a multitude of melee and ranged weapons. Two handed swords and polearms have very wide attack arc, making standing at the front line and cutting a path through enemies as easy as cutting through butter and the heavily armoured enemies are easier to stagger and deal damage to. One handed weapons are best used with balancing dodging and attacking weak points, I especially enjoyed the rapier because of its ability to parry attacks. By holding right mouse button with a melee weapon the character will block incoming attacks, each enemy strike depletes a block resource which is demonstrated by shield icons. The amount of blocks a character has is determined by their stamina . Depending on the weapon, enemy attacks will either take away a block icon or a portion of one. Once each icon is gone the player is vulnerable to attacks. It is possible to sacrifice one of these blocks to perform a shove that will stagger enemies, perfect for heavily armoured targets to create an opening or to stun a group of smaller enemies and to keep enemies at arms length. Ranged weapons have drawn the short straw in the early game, ammo is scarce and the amount a character can hold is very limited. This is remedied as players begin to collect new gear and weapons that can increase the amount of ammo reserves available, making a ranged character more viable in the later levels.
My favourite feature in the game is the variety in enemies. Titles such as Left For Dead generally have two types: the normal horde enemy type and a special type that is designed to target individual characters or, have a ton of health points and damage output. In Vermintide 2 there are so many enemy types that I will not list them all down but they can be categorised as normal, armoured, shield users, special and monstrous enemies with high health and damage output. Almost any enemy can spawn at any time and each will require a different approach to defeat them. This means that every party member will need to utilise every tool at their disposal in order to defeat the nightmarish monsters and creatures of chaos.
The beta ran exceptionally well,and I did not experience any major bugs and aside from enemies occasionally popping into existence in front of me there, is not much wrong with Vermintide 2. Characters that rely on ranged weapons, such as Kerillian, suffer with limited ammo reserves that will force them into a melee roll as it takes several hours of play in order to get equipment that will remedy the issue. During our livestream on Twitch, one of our group made note of a way to exploit the games reward system. For completing a mission players are awarded 400 points and an extra 25 for each surviving character, making a total of 500. On failure players are only awarded 75, which we tested and discovered that it is possible to fail a mission in about 2 minutes. A normal run was taking us on average 20 minutes, meaning that in just over half the time it takes to play normally it is possible to exploit the game into giving more experience by repeatedly failing and restarting a mission. These issues did not overly impact the enjoyment of the game and despite there being a high difficulty wall until players start gaining equipment, Vermintide 2 is a game I am very excited about.
Don't forget to check out GameGrin's Twitch channel for more Vermintide 2 shenanigans. Warhammer: Vermintide 2 releases on the 8th March on Steam, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.