Warhammer: Vermintide 2 Review: Ebb and Flow

Players looking for fast-paced co-op action will be swept away in the current of Fatshark's latest blood-soaked adventure.

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The words ebb and flow are most commonly attributed to the two phases of the tides, but taken figuratively, they can also refer to the swelling and receding of just about any element of life. In the gaming world, it's fair to say that the Warhammer series has had its ups and downs: for fans, one of the high points was the 2015 release of Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide, a first-person co-op adventure that saw players fighting through legions of the Skaven army. Other Warhammer games have come and gone since its release, but Vermintide has ever remained close to players' hearts, and that's exactly why developer Fatshark has decided to return to the formula with the release of Warhammer: Vermintide 2. Just like its predecessor, this new game has its high points and low points, but the fast-paced, team-based experience has a lot to offer for players eager for first-person, action-oriented gameplay — particularly those willing to overlook a few technical hiccups.

The Vermintide Rises Again

Those unfamiliar with the Warhammer franchise may not know the name Vermintide. Fortunately, its meaning is fairly literal: Vermintide 2, like the Vermintide release before it, sends players into sprawling environments with the explicit goal of cutting into a veritable tide of incoming rodent-like opponents known as the Skaven. Unlike the previous game, Vermintide 2 has also introduced enemies from the Chaos army, meaning there are more than just hideous rat men to cut down: new opponents from the Warp show up in the form of smaller, easily-dispatched Chaos Warriors all the way up to massive mission-halting Chaos Spawn.

As in the previous release, Vermintide 2's action takes place from a first-person perspective, and players are able to make use of a number of different characters, careers, weapons, and skills, the likes of which can be customized and upgraded as the player sees fit. The options on offer aren't exactly staggering in scale or quantity, but there are plenty of skills and items that players can use to figure out new and interesting strategies, especially when it comes to higher-level equipment.

More Adequate Acquisitions

Like with other games in the genre, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 players will spend a fair amount of time seeking out newer, more powerful loot. Considering the feedback given by players concerning the previous Vermintide release, Fatshark has approached Vermintide 2's loot system in a slightly different way. Players new to the series likely won't notice anything out of line, but players familiar with the previous game should feel like Vermintide 2 presents a more balanced loot delivery system.

Weapons and items mainly appear in Vermintide 2 through chests, be them overt end-mission loot chests or Commendation chests that appear when players hit certain level milestones. When opened, they provide players with a random batch of items that are either scaled by in-mission rewards or the player's overall Hero power. Like before, weapons can have different rarity levels, and rarer weapons will carry higher stats and more potent abilities. More important than equipment's scaling and various abilities are the individual items' drop rates, which flow in at a steady rate, giving players consistent rewards for every mission cleared.

Meat On These Bones

By far the most important quality to Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is its first-person gameplay. Loot and leveling would count for nothing if the fighting itself wasn't enjoyable, but I'm happy to report that it is. Actions like walking, jumping, swinging a sword or axe, even casting huge fireballs from runes placed under crowds of enemies all feel properly weighted, relatively smooth, and pleasingly immersive. Mowing down crowds of Skaven with area-of-effect attacks feels just as good as crushing their skulls with a massive hammer, and each stab and slice is presented with the sort of gory fidelity that should put a smile on players' faces.

Vermintide 2 also creates its own sort of pleasing rhythm: missions start in a quiet, secluded area, and traveling down the natural path inevitably spawns floods of enemies from a number of different directions. Strangely, the moments between hoards of monsters are those that often feel most tense, as players make their searches for items or come to terms with the challenges that lay ahead.

Unfortunately, not everything is quite spic-and-span. Though battles might feel frenetic and furious, occasional technical slips will send enemies flying or twitching in unusual ways. In at least one instance a glitched enemy became a game-breaking bug, as a Bile Troll got stuck on a bridge in such a way as to where it couldn't move or be killed. Without being able to vanquish the foe, my team was never able to get beyond the invisible barrier blocking access to the end of the mission.

Swept Out To Sea

Even with a few minor and infrequent hiccups, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 serves as an excellent platform for players keen on first-person cooperative action. The number of missions and environments, to say nothing of the different characters and classes, should provide enough content and customization to keep fans happy for the foreseeable future. As for cutting through the rising and falling ranks of the vicious Vermintide; well, it just feels good.


This review is based on a Steam download code provided by the publisher. Warhammer: Vermintide 2 available in on digital storefronts for $29.99.

Guides Editor

Kevin Tucker is a core component of Shacknews' powerful guide development team. For questions, concerns, tips, or to share constructive criticism, he can be reached on Twitter @dukeofgnar or through e-mail at kevin.tucker@shacknews.com.

Pros

  • Intense, gory first-person action
  • Plenty of strategic depth and character customization
  • Loads of different loot
  • Tense cooperative gameplay

Cons

  • Minor technical issues
  • Not all weapons and skills feel balanced
  • Action sometimes feels chaotic
  • Higher difficulty levels can be very challenging

From The Chatty

  • reply
    March 20, 2018 4:30 PM

    Kevin Tucker posted a new article, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 Review: Ebb and Flow

    • reply
      March 20, 2018 5:35 PM

      How are "Action sometimes feels chaotic" and "Higher difficulty levels can be very challenging" considered to be negatives for this type of game?

      • reply
        March 20, 2018 6:14 PM

        Friendly fire is enabled at higher difficulties, making it difficult for allies to fight against crowds without damaging one another. Considering how chaotic battles can be, and especially considering that the game is often played with groups of strangers, the challenge could easily outpace the actual fun factor.

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          March 20, 2018 6:33 PM

          Does it seem like it would be more fun if battles were less frantic? I think part of playing at those difficulty levels is being careful how you use ranged attacks.

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            March 20, 2018 6:46 PM

            I think so. I had more fun with the boss battles where everyone has to coordinate against one big foe. Taking out crowds doesn't usually require much teamwork — not on lower difficulties, anyway — so fighting numerous enemies feels kind of like a button-mashing melee, whereas bosses made the game feel more strategic and placed more emphasis on careful use of skills and abilities.

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              March 20, 2018 7:18 PM

              I don't agree, but that's fine. In my experience, coordination during the frantic bits is the best. Someone is CC'ing the wave, while a couple of us try to kill the swarm while holding the flanks. Someone biffs a block and goes down to an elite enemy's heavy attack. Now someone else has to deal with (CC or kill) the elite so someone else can revive the fallen teammate. Now a special spawns and we have to kill it before to disables another one of us, all the while dealing with a ton of weak enemies clogging the area. I think it's great.

              I feel the same way when I watch really good players on Twitch or Youtube. Watching j_sat play Twitch mode where audience chooses how to fuck over the heroes (or help them), the best part is when there's real drama about whether they'll be able to barely hold it all together just long enough to get to the end of the mission.

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          March 20, 2018 6:36 PM

          So... the downside is that higher difficulties are more difficult and require more skill? Uhhhhhhhh

        • reply
          March 20, 2018 6:50 PM

          I know about the friendly fire at higher difficulties, I still don't think the negatives listed in the review are actually negatives.

          • reply
            March 20, 2018 6:58 PM

            It's almost like we're two different people with two different opinions.

            • reply
              March 20, 2018 7:10 PM

              Dawries, I think this game was reviewed by a lumberfoot and a mayfly.

      • reply
        March 21, 2018 5:34 AM

        By "very challenging" he means "fucks you in the ass with anti-lube". The game has severe difficulty spikes. It can be a negative a lot of the time.

        • reply
          March 21, 2018 8:37 AM

          Playing recruit with a lvl 7 character and still getting the crap kicked out of me even with a good group.

          • reply
            March 21, 2018 8:45 AM

            I've been playing Champion with randoms. Something like 75% of my runs fail either due to us being overwhelmed or because of a random-spawn boss softlock bug.

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              March 21, 2018 8:51 AM

              dude, champion with randoms is supposed to be really hard. I’ve only tried it once, barely done with veteran. I imagine champion takes real teamwork and care with friendly fire. No wonder you’re having such a hard time... you’ve already blown through recruit and veteran!

              • reply
                March 21, 2018 8:58 AM

                Well the characters I'm running it with are level 20-30, not much reason to stay in Veteran at that point. I might need to though, only having 1-2 good runs a day is getting frustrating.

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                  March 21, 2018 9:01 AM

                  are all their items level 195+? I’ve been vet farming to cap out vet loot box levels, before moving up to champ.

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                    March 21, 2018 10:38 AM

                    The two I run in Champion (Sienna and Kerillian) are 400+ at this point. I have like 65 hours so far.

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      March 21, 2018 7:20 AM

      hooray for games