Aside from Vermintide 2 being a medieval Left 4 Dead, the replay-ability and accessibility of this game make it a great pick n’ play experience. Whether you’re crushing rats under the weight of a 2-handed Claymore, or exploding a group of them with fireballs, the shear number of options available to you for taking out countless waves of vermin is immensely satisfying.
Vermintide 2 is a game that isn’t afraid to show where it got it’s inspiration from. The similarities to Left 4 Dead are blatantly clear. However, while the nod to Valve’s co-op zombie shooter is apparent, Vermintide 2 can absolutely stand on its own; offering a number of options and experiences that still make the game feel unique. The basis of the game will feel rather familiar. You and your merry band of friends, or random allies, join together to progress through linear levels. On your way you’ll encounter, and slay, a multitude of rats, known as Skaven, and zombie-ish Chaos Soliders. These make up the majority of enemies you’ll fight, with “Elite” groups or enemies thrown in every now and again to add an additional challenge. Some grab you or your friends and drag you out of the fight, some throw poison smoke bombs, and some just prefer a good ole automatic weapon to unload on you and your party. Where Vermintide 2 differs is in its progression and loot based systems.
To start, the environments are absolutely gorgeous and extremely varied. From snow-covered camps to sprawling castle walls, to pitch black caves and murky swamps; there is no lack of creativity. Each of the 13 missions you randomly get assigned come with their own tasks that need to be completed before you can leave. One involves escorting a mine cart through completely dark tunnels, while another required my team to solve a puzzle and align three rings while simultaneously being berated with hordes of enemies. These unique quests, or requirements, are a great way of breaking up each level and making them feel extremely unique, on top of no two levels looking even remotely the same.
What makes Vermintide 2 feel so good though is the weapons themselves. While most of what you receive through the loot system isn’t anything game changing, swinging your hammer down on a group of Skaven has never felt so satisfying. The time taken to make you feel like you’re actually swinging around these absurdly large weapons is beyond gratifying. When you make a horizontal slash into a group of rats with an over-sized long sword, which in turn sends them flying across the field, it’s hard to not grow a smile on your face.
Practically every weapon feels like you’re slugging your enemies with a ton of bricks, add the fantastic sound effects on top of this and you feel like you possess the power of a god. Killing blows are more obvious thanks to added little details that let you know your opponents won’t be getting back up. 2-handed blades lop off body parts, hammers send their limp bodies into the crowds and your fireballs disintegrate them before your eyes. There were some times when it was hard to not laugh out loud as I watched a horde of rats become decimated in a matter of seconds from me and my team.
Most weapons in Vermintide 2 are evenly balanced enough where it doesn’t feel like you need to choose a weapon you don’t want to use just because it’s stronger. EVERYTHING hits hard in this game, so feel free to go on a hunt with whatever weapon feels right for you!
Whats nice is there is just as many ranged weapons as there are melee ones. From single shot pistols, to bows, to crossbows, to fucking gatling guns, it’s possible to build a character solely around ranged weapons, if that is what you prefer. Bows are obviously quicker than cross bows, but that faster firing means you sacrifice agility over raw power. It was nice to see ranged options getting their due, instead of just being thrown in for a backed into a corner option.
While the variety of weapons is comforting, don’t expect to go into Vermintide 2 with the ability to pull off any intricate manoeuvres. When it comes down to combat, things become pretty straight forward. You run into a horde of Skaven and swing your weapons around until your enemies stop moving. Head shots obviously deal more damage, but aside from that and scoping out prime vantage points or choke points, Vermintide 2 doesn’t put any emphasis on tactics. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in this case, because as I’ve been going on about, the combat is incredibly fun. That being said, it wouldn’t have hurt to add in little things like luring a group back so you can pull a lever and have them crushed by something in the environment. Little added nuances like this would’ve really brought this game to the next level (pun intended). While the harder areas do require more of a group effort versus an every man for himself mentality, when it boils down to it, this is just a fun hack n’ slash kind of game; so as long as you’re not going into it thinking it’ll involve much strategy, you won’t be disappointed.
Speaking of team work, the Elite enemies, or mini bosses, throughout each level are a nice way to break up the monotony of just swinging your sword into a group of soldiers. These foes can vary from fast and sly assassins that feed off the players that stray too far from the group, to hulking, terrifying ogres that require constant cooperation and movement to take down. Yes, at the end of the day you’re still just unloading as much damage into these guys as you can until they go down, but they do require more of a finessed approach rather than just mindlessly mashing buttons.
One of the greatest things about Vermintide 2 is the progression system. While the game starts you out with only five character classes to choose from, each of those five characters has the potential to become one of 2 alternate classes. Meaning, you could eventually have the choice between 15 different characters and play styles! The way this works is each character starts at what you could call a base class. From here, moving them through their skill tree, which grants them their own collection of usable weapons and abilities, will eventually unlock the chance to take on a new “career”. Think of the job system from Final Fantasy tactics. These careers completely change your character, their potential usable weapons and abilities, and essentially, their complete play-style!
For example, the tank of the group, Markus, starts with just basic two-handed weapons. He comes pre-equipped with the Mercenary Career, which grants him increased attack speed after he hits 3 enemies at once. Progressing him through his skill tree however, eventually gives you the option to change his Mercenary career to a Huntsman, which takes this tank, close combat character and makes him a completely ranged adversary! This career path then allows him to pick up extra ammo on headshots. This mix and match play style means that you could essentially build a tank character that is a formidable opponent from close and far away. The best part is, while the progression can eventually take some time to reach the higher abilities, you can reallocate your skill points at ANY time. Basically, Vermintide 2 wants you, the player, to explore and play around with your characters to see what you can create, putting all the control in your hands and allowing you to make a character that suits every one of your Skaven slaying needs.
While all of this was a welcome surprise as I continued my adventure through the remarkable locations. It was rather disappointing that not as much thought seemed to be put into the loot system. Don’t get me wrong, the whole 0 micro-transactions thing is great, but the loot you get from these random boxes is usually disappointing. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t eager to try out a new weapon when I stumbled upon one, but the unorganized randomness of these boxes make it hard to work towards a goal when you’re not sure what that end weapon is.
Thankfully, it’s not all a let down, thanks to the freedom you get in crafting. While I usually just equipped the highest number item, and scrapped the rest, it was nice to see that I could use all this scrap to make meaningful enhancements to items I might have grown fond of. Vermintide might not give you control over what you get in rewards, but it makes up for most of that by allowing you to have freedom in making weapons your own, much like your characters. Where skill points were necessary for class improvements, being mindful of what weapons allowed me to roll over their stats and perks into my own weapon made me more cautious of what I was throwing away or how I was going to use these “useless” items.
Loot boxes are controlled by random items picked up throughout the level, and this is where things get interesting, and maybe confusing. There are 3 tomes and 2 grimoire books that players can carry to the end of the mission. However, this means that carrying these sacrifices the ability to carry healing items with you, and carrying the books will lower your party’s overall health. This idea of risk and reward is something I’ve always appreciated when executed properly. The only thing is that the game doesn’t really tell you any of this. Which is a shame because a co-op game like Vermintide 2 really needs to make every player aware of the consequences for taking these items to the finish line. While it wasn’t always a frustrating endeavour, trying to bring these items home really depends on the party you’re with.
Luckily I was usually paired up with others, who for the most part knew what they were doing; but there was always a match or two that lumped me in with a crew that was not prepared for the consequences of carrying these items. On top of this, unless you do a quick online search, you’re most likely going to miss out on even finding these items. Most of which require a quick puzzle-pull this lever-action or a brief platforming section. Both of these are camouflaged though, so unless you ask Siri or stumble upon them, odds are you won’t be getting the best loot boxes at the end of your run.
While the loot system in Vermintide 2 doesn’t feel nearly as horrendous as Star Wars Battlefront 2, it just doesn’t feel necessary to the over all experience. Yes, its a way to craft personalized weapons, but overall it just missed it’s mark. I would have been just as happy getting set loot at the end of every level, knowing the higher difficulty levels would guarantee me better rewards.
Overall, though, Vermintide 2 is a fantastic pick up n’ play title. While the loot system holds it back, the shear variety in every other aspect of this game is just remarkable. Whether you prefer laying into enemy hordes with an over-sized hammer, or lighting their asses up with a flurry of bullets, Vermintide 2 offers each and every player the ability to play how they want, which is never a bad thing.