Thanks to PR for the code for this one, we're sorry it took so long, but we were deep into the game and wanted to ensure we had the best possible review of it.

Getting Hammered, Again!

Warhammer the End Times: Vermintide was the fantasy version of Left 4 Dead that I always wanted, in many ways it took the L4D formula and improved on it. Fatshark (one of the best named developers) wasted no time listening to a lot of community feedback, working on various issues and presenting a Grim and Perilous take upon the Old World of Warhammer, set during the terrifying End Times.

DLC followed and numerous tweaks, but they couldn't quite tune the A.I when playing solo - which was always an issue that I felt was more down to the current limitations of their first engine than their ability as developers.

So when they announced Warhammer: Vermintide 2, otherwise known from now on as Vermintide 2, I was pretty excited since I really enjoyed the first game and I was totally looking forward to seeing how they could improve on the solid foundation of Vermintide.

I am glad to report, for those folks who don't really want to read the review that they did just what I hoped they'd do. They improved on the formula a lot, polished the game and crafted a new experience that is better than the first by a long shot when it comes to the actual core gameplay.

The Gang is Back

There's a little reward waiting for anyone who comes back to Vermintide 2 from the first game, you'll get some nifty cosmetics for your heroes and unlock those via a Vermintide save. I'm not sure if you have to complete the game, or just have the save, since we finished Vermintide co-op and had a blast.

Regardless, the gang are back and they're bolstered by new powers and abilities as well as a fleshed-out inventory/character/talent/crafting/ and career system that ensures you get to play the incarnation of hero you really want - as long as you're willing to put the time and effort to unlock the extra careers that is.

Each career (3 for each of the game's main characters), has their own unique talent tree, and to this has been added one active and one passive talent to further customise and enhance your chosen character.

The characters and their new careers are story driven, since this is set some time after the first game, thus there's been a progression of the actual character's lives that's translated into game mechanics thusly.

Bardin Goreksson, the dwarf, who has since his Ubershreik adventure taken on the mantle of Ranger Veteran. He can also choose from: Ironbreaker, a melee focused career from Vermintide, and the Slayer, a favourite of Warhammer Fantasy veterans and a career I really wanted to see in the game.

Kerillian, the elf, who became a Waystalker, an evolution of Waywatcher who is even more deadly with a bow, can also now choose from the assassin-like Shade, and the melee focused Handmaiden that favours a stout spear to keep her enemies at bay.

Victor Saltzpyre, human, once Witch Hunter and now promoted to Witch Hunter: Captain, is a mix of melee and range, with devout powers that bolster himself and his allies. In the name of Sigmar, the God of the Empire, he does all he does to purge heresy and darkness. Now, Victor can choose to join the Bounty Hunters - heavy armoured, ranged combatants who take down foes for a price, or the furious Sigmar-driven Zealot that smashes enemies with a holy rage via his maces and flails.

Sienna Fuegonasus, human, Battle Wizard: mistress of fire and flame. Sienna has a match-trigger temper and a love of the flame. She can now choose to walk the path of the Pyromancer, a more efficient weapon against a single target, capable of incinerating foes quickly and with deadly force. Or she may choose the Unchained, a magically enhanced melee-focused warrior that throws caution to the Winds of Magic and unleashes a deadly combination of fire and fury.

Markus Kruber, human, Mercenary: A man who has fought alongside Saltzpyre since Ubershreik and hopes to one day lead his own Mercenary Company, as a Mercenary Captain. He is a versatile melee and ranged warrior, who can choose to take the career of Huntsman: A deadly ranged combatant, who can single out a powerful foe, or can switch tactics to level the field of waves of enemies. He can also choose to don the heavy armour of the Foot Knight and become a bastion of steel against Skaven and Chaos alike.

These careers (tweaked from the first game), and the new careers are extremely fun to play as and they provide a longevity to the game since you must reach a particular level to unlock the new roles. This is just one way that the sequel improves and polishes the concepts of the first game.

Getting into the thick of battle!

There's a new story, it's a follow on from the first game, and I'm not going to go any deeper than that - apart from to say that there's also a solid prologue that serves as a decent and fun tutorial into the new aspects of the game for old and new fans alike.

Brutal and visceral melee/ranged combat is the order of the day in this first person hack and slash, with inspiration from Left 4 Dead firmly front and centre including the speciality enemies and horde waves that come after you when the game thinks you're bored. The waves of enemies, the relentless hordes of Chaos and Skaven are a great crowd pleaser and there's nothing quite like tooling up with some more powerful weapons to rip through dozens of rat-bastard foes as Markus or Victor.

Then you have the addition of Chaos, which come in many forms, servants of the vile Ruinous Powers - some of these enemies are stronger than their Skaven counterparts and the truly deadly combatants are the Chaos Warriors, able to withstand a punishing amount of damage and inflict just the same.

Fortunately the game appears to be well balanced and Fatshark are always listening to community feedback, this shows in the full release of the game compared to the Game Preview version which suffered from a little too much enemy damage compared to player damage in the early stages of development.

Each of the game's chapters is broken into several parts and the missions range in the terms of their objectives, objectives that are more varied than the first game, and story-driven as well. It all boils down to murdering your way through the enemies of what's right and good in the Old World and enjoying the feel of rebalanced and re-imagined combat. The great news too is that you can play this incarnation solo and not feel overwhelmed, since the AI companions hold their own much better than in Vermintide.

You can also choose different difficulty levels, though you must unlock them through the Hero Power of your character. This rises as you level up and gain new gear/equipment/loot.

Shiny Shiny Shiny!

Vermintide 2 is full of loot, unlike the first game, now it might not be fantastic loot, but even the weakest loot crate (don't worry, these are just random reward boxes, and there's not a loot box mechanic per-se in the game.) rewarded for your challenge progress and heroic deeds per day gives you something that you can potentially use. One of my favourite new things is Okri's Challenge book, which rewards and tracks the various rewards and how you can get them.

You can also take loot you don't need or want and break it down into parts, parts that are useable in the more complex crafting system.

This should be immediately familiar to anyone who's spent time with a game like Diablo 3 or titles like it. Random loot and rewards, rewards this time that keep you going and make you want to replay the missions to see if you can't get some more cool loot out of a run.

New weapons, new trinkets, new charms and more await you as you chip away at the various missions in the game, replay things, and continue to chew through the content as you can chew through an army of Skaven in the streets of the Old World.

The risk/reward loop is solid, and the game keeps you coming back for more.

The Art of Making Stuff

Stuff is good, better stuff is better, and epic loot is well, epic. You can use the new crafting system to do a bewildering number of things - we've mostly used it to break stuff down and give us a better upgrade to the current gear after 'several' loot runs on a level to get more and more common loot to break down.

Sometimes we get lucky and we're treated to a really cool item that replaces the current one we're using, but for the most part, since we're playing with other folks who're lower level, we're just helping them and having fun with randoms.

Yeah, fun with randoms is entirely possible in this game.

I could spend a long time talking about the crafting in Vermintide 2, but we don't have that long on the review.

Better Alone or with Allies?

The 18 Quintillion Gold Crown question, is the game fun on your own, or with friends/random strangers via match-making?

Yes, yes, and yes.

You can play Online, which requires a constant net connection, uploads your character progress to the servers (nothing is stored client side) and lets you play with others who are either friends or through match-making which brings in randoms.

Or you can transfer your online progress to Offline Mode and play like that if you want to shut out every single person.

We played with a full group of us, and with a pair of us with two randoms across the first chapter of the game and had a total blast. The one random guy wandered off a lot and did his own thing, it was obvious that he was a vet of the game and didn't need the noobs holding him back. But he still wasn't able to spoil things in that regard; we revived each other, helped him out when he got caught by the hook-rat and had a great time.

The next few sessions were fantastic though. We clicked for two players who wanted to play with us as a team, they stopped, they led us when we got lost, they helped us if we got overwhelmed and when the elf went down... as Victor I went up against a Rat Ogre to get her back on her feet and out of danger - even sacrificing my own medicine to bring her back to full health.

I did the same for the Markus Kruber player who got gassed half to death by a poison globe lobbin' rat bugger.

It's moments like this where Vermintide 2 really shines; showcasing that there's people out there who really do embrace the concept of team play and cooperation.

It helps that the net-code on this game is silky for the most part, runs beautifully and doesn't suffer from any random disconnections or strange animation artefacts.

The Old World Aesthetic

I've talked a lot about the gameplay mechanics, how it's basically hack and slash in the Old World crossed with Left 4 Dead. What I haven't touched on is just how great this game looks and feels in terms of Warhammer. I'm a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay nut, I've GM'd first ed, second ed, revised, and ignored third edition.

I've played a lot of Warhammer video games, and Vermintide 1 and 2 are the first games to really NAIL the atmosphere, and aesthetic of the Warhammer's Old World. The game looks great on an Xbox One X and it runs at a silky smooth frame-rate even when there are hordes of Skaven and Chaos pouring onto the screen.

Bringing the Sound of Battle to Life

Again, not only does this game nail the aesthetics in terms of visual appeal and animation, but it really pushes the boat out in terms of sound design and audio work in general. There's something grand about hearing the great sword slap through the thick neck of a Skaven Stormvermin, after you've spent a while being shoved and pummelled by the thing's relentless armoured attacks. The clash of swords and the scream of Skaven have never sounded so good.

The Music of Chaos

The soundtrack is really good to Vermintide 2, it knows when to back off, and when to rise to a brilliant frenetic crescendo as the battle gets more and more intense. It evokes the atmosphere of Warhammer as well, matching the on-screen visuals and general aesthetic perfectly.

Speaking of the Old World

The dialogue and the voice delivery in the game is also worth mentioning, because the story is told a lot by the characters and their call-outs as you play help determine what's going on, what's about to happen, and where you might need to go.

Many a time as Victor I've had him yell out: "Take the stairs." Or some variant of that which is a nice audio pointer to where you can head to, to continue your adventure if you're somewhat lost.

Or to hear the dwarf speak the lines, "There's a rat scurrying about here." Knowing full well, he's talking about a Skaven Gutter Runner, an assassin rat that leaps on you in the dark.

Top quality job all round that really brings the characters and world to life around you.

The Final Cut

I loved Left 4 Dead back in the day, and L4D 2. I so wanted a third L4D but it never appeared, so when I first tried Vermintide it scratched that particular itch bigtime. Now the sequel takes that lovely formula and improves on it no end, with increased visuals, better animations, superb voice talent and a Warhammer aesthetic that's perfect for the Old World.

Fatshark have made a fantastic game that's been for me (and us) so far, pretty perfect, with no frame-drops or bugs to speak of. We've not had a single net drop, or any kind of weird stutter, and we've played this game a lot since release.

If you're looking for a great Warhammer Fantasy game, a hack and slasher, a truly fun experience solo or co-op, then you can't do worse than giving Vermintide 2 a shot.

For Sigmar, and the Empire!