Warhammer: Vermintide is a situation that just wouldn’t work if things were going well. The Left 4 Dead-style hack ‘n slash set in the grim fantasy-fiction world of Warhammer needs to have a hefty supply of horrible creatures of all shapes and sizes to throw at you at all times. Fortunately, the Skaven, Chaos Warriors, and Beastmen make for near eternally good fodder, but developer Fatshark wants to give you a new type of challenge with its latest Chaos Wastes DLC for Vermintide 2. It wants to pit you and your team against the random malice of the Chaos gods, each journey will start from scratch, and your path to success or failure will never be the same. And what’s more, this particular DLC is free.
Expeditions into the Wastes
With the world in turmoil (as usual), Chaos Wastes finds the Vermintide 2 characters seeking a new means to turn back the darkness of the world and the constant scourge of the rat-like Skaven, Chaos Warrior, and Beastman hordes. To this end, religiously fanatic witch hunter Victor Saltzpyre recalls a legend of the Citadel of Eternity which lays hidden in the Northlands beyond the Chaos Wastes. The Citadel will provide power and salvation to those who find it, but only the pure of heart and strong of will can discover its whereabouts. To this end, the party must shed their collected treasures and go on expeditions for the Citadel with only the basic means of survival and their skill to guide them.
To that end, the main new feature of Chaos Wastes is roguelike Expeditions. Either solo with bots or with friends, you’ll take only a basic ranged and melee weapon (any weapon type available to your character class) and that’s it. No trinkets, no special armor buffed legendary gear - just white text common forms of your ranged and melee weapon, your class skills and passives, and your level perks to rely on.
Evolving arms for the battle ahead
On each Expedition, you will be set on a grid of randomized levels out of which you often have a choice between two options. Each level has different dangers and perks associated with it, as well as a boon you can earn for conquering it. A level might feature increased encounters of special enemies like Assassins, Life Leeches, or Minotaurs while featuring less instances of horde swarms. You might also earn either a stamina recovery percentage bonus for completing the former level or an attack speed bonus for the latter.
More importantly, strewn throughout the levels are a collectible currency called Pilgrim’s Coins and a grand slew of chance-based opportunities, which often require spending them. You might find an upgrade station that will allow you to upgrade your current melee or ranged weapon to the next tier of rarity with perks and overall power that come with it, but it costs a lot of Pilgrim’s Coins to do so. Meanwhile, another type of upgrade station will cost less, but swap your melee or ranged weapon with a random weapon type of the next rarity tier. You might lose Bardin’s hammer and shield for a two-handed axe less suited to your style. That’s an interesting risk you take for less coins.
Speaking of risks, there are also other chances you can take in each level like the Chests of Trials. If you activate these chests, a miniboss like a Bile Troll or an Chaos Abomination will spawn and you must kill it (alongside whatever other hordes of enemies you’re dealing with). Doing so will offer the party the right to claim the contents of the chest: a random unique perk that will help increase your ability to survive, such as throwing two bombs instead of one or reducing cooldown on your skills with critical strike and headshot kills.
As you conquer levels and traverse the grid of the Expedition, you will also occasionally be given the option to use Shrines. These are freebie areas that act as Pilgrim’s Coin shops that will offer you a selection of further boons if you’ve stored up your Coins so far. On the flipside, some levels are cursed by the Chaos Gods and feature particularly deadly challenges alongside the level's usual fare. For instance, if a level is cursed by Tzeentch, a target might periodically deploy on the ground in which a lightning bolt comes down, damaging you if you’re caught in it and upgrading regular enemies into special units if they are struck. Meanwhile, a level cursed by Nurgle will feature a miasma that will poison characaters unless they’re within the protective bubble of a torch that must be carried (equipped as a weapon no less) by one character to the end of the level. It’s all kind of deviously challenging to adapt to both these curses and the regular randomized encounters that can be found in these levels.
The whole point of this is to scour for Pilgrim’s Coins, build your strength up, manage your risks, collect boons, and survive the levels until you can make it to an extra challenging level at the end of the Expedition. Clear that and you’ll get one step closer to solving the mystery of the Citadel of Eternity. Fail or quit before the end and you’ll have to start the Expedition over from scratch. There are four Expeditions to complete, each with the focus of a different Chaos God, and though progress is persistent in unlocking the second, third, and fourth Expedition, you must complete each single Expedition in one go.
A unique way to thwart the gods
Chaos Wastes is an interesting kind of challenge from what we’ve seen in Vermintide up to this point. It’s not unlike Weaves from the Winds of Magic DLC. However, instead of just challenging you with chunks of familiar maps with the same conditions applied to them each time, it tasks you to go barebones against a choice-driven, randomized gauntlet. You must do your best to survive any unique predicament the game throws at you and move the narrative forward on skills alone with a little luck to help along the way. The best way I can think to describe it is if you took the map grid traversal of FTL: Faster Than Light with all of its fortunate and unfortunate situations and applied them to Vermintide levels for each decision.
Ultimately, if you’re just looking to grow your gear stash and use it to its fullest, then the core component of Vermintide 2’s Chaos Wastes DLC might not be your jam. However, it is again worth mentioning that this particular DLC is free to play if you have Vermintide 2 already. If you want a series of challenges that will put you to the test in unique ways each time - sometimes for better and sometimes for worse - Chaos Wastes is an interesting approach to our usual expectations of the game and will leave you begging the RNG gods to be merciful as you seek glory and recognition from the mysterious Citadel of Eternity. And it’s a rather generous new option to play without cost.
This preview is based on an early version of the DLC supplied by the publisher. Warhammer: Vermintide 2 - Chaos Wastes will be available for free to Vermintide 2 PC players on April 20, 2021.