Since launching Warhammer: End Time – Vermintide, Swedish developer Fatshark hasn’t looked back. Building on the success of their breakout hit, the team immediately went to work on a bigger, bolder sequel that had us chopping away at more than hordes of ratmen. Vermintide 2 recently celebrated its fourth anniversary and still enjoys a fervent fanbase, gobbling up each major update and expansion. So, what’s so special about this Warhammer adaptation and what’s changed since it launched back in 2018?
When it comes to video games based on the Warhammer Fantasy licence, there has been no shortage of strategic and tactical warfare titles, yet very few that dabble elsewhere, especially not in the first person action genre. There have also been few games to successfully riff on Left 4 Dead’s winning template, throwing a squad of misfits into a gauntlet overrun with nasty creatures. It’s through this combination that Vermintide 2 excels. It’s at its most satisfying when you work in concert with your squadmates, feeling the heft of melee weapons as they send your foes crashing, or nailing an elite before they can trigger their unique ability.
Although not quite as compelling as the loot systems found in some other multiplayer games, the prospect of unlocking new weapons, outfits, and abilities for your heroes provides a nice hook that keeps you coming back. Speaking of heroes, Vermintide’s ragtag cast are a surprisingly likeable bunch. The game is pumped with contextual voice lines and on-the-fly dialogue between characters, fleshing them out without the need for excessive exposition. United in their vengeance, they hail from different parts of the Warhammer world and have access to numerous professions. For instance, the gaunt Victor Saltzpyre can swap between Witch Hunter, Zealot, Bounty Hunter, or Warrior Priest, each offering their own unique playstyles.
The Warrior Priest is an interesting one – a hammer-wielding worshipper clad in plate armour. He helms the latest Vermintide 2 DLC pack, Fatshark continuing to layer on new mechanics for players to experiment with. This is one of four “Premium Careers” available to buy, including the aforementioned Warrior Priest (Victor), the Grail Knight (Markus), Outcast Engineer (Bardin), and Sister of the Thorn (Kerillian). A fifth career is on the way with fans currently speculating what Sienna’s fiery new profession will be.
One nice touch is how the game handles character progression. Levelling up heroes will impact all careers, regardless of which one you currently have active, which helps eliminate some potential grind. On the flipside, if there’s one aspect of Vermintide 2 we’re still not keen on, it’s Tomes and Grimoires. At the end of each mission you’ll be rewarded with a loot box, it’s rarity increasing if you’ve managed to tick off certain milestones. To get the highest rarity, you’ll need to find and carry collectables to the extraction point. This adds a risk/reward layer as they take up valuable slots that usually hold healing items, though needing to remember their locations within each level isn’t so fun.
The levels themselves will take you on a visceral tour of The Old World, routing Chaos worshippers and mowing down Skaven wherever you go. While Total War: Warhammer 3 does a grand job of conveying the scale of this setting, Vermintide 2 zooms right in as you scout burning villages, abandoned castles, and dense forests, virtualising a fantasy world that had once born from tabletop gaming.
Post-launch expansions – both free and paid – have taken us far beyond the sequel’s original saga. The first of these, Shadows over Bögenhafen, brings you to a plague-ridden city where our heroes must search for the source of this corruption. Soon after, Fatshark invited players back to Ubersreik, remastering three levels from the first game, though its next expansion was much bigger in scope. Winds of Magic not only introduced new levels, gear, and challenges, it also unleashed the Beastmen – a new enemy faction with its own grunts, elites, and Minotaur monsters.
Following the free release of more remastered maps via The Curse of Drachenfels, 2021 opened a portal to The Chaos Wastes where, instead of new missions, an entirely new game mode was added. These Expeditions are single-session campaigns in which you and your squad move from map to map, carrying over equipment and perks. They demand considerably more time, though your efforts will be rewarded with multiple loot chests upon completion.
Overall, Vermintide 2 offers a brilliant core game bolstered by years of updates, content, and support from its developers. That kind of passion hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Warhammer community, who eagerly await what may be coming next for the series. That said, those hoping to see Vermintide 3 in the near future may have a long wait ahead of them with Fatshark currently focusing its efforts on taking their four player co-op formula to the far future in Warhammer 40,000: Darktide. The team is no doubt hoping lightning will strike twice as they leave the fantasy world behind for this grimdark sci-fi setting.