Video Game Review: Vermintide II

I played Vermintide II over its free weekend. I highly recommend it if you’ve got some time to kill and some friends to play it with.

Vermintide II is, as you might guess, the sequel to Vermintide. Both games are set in the Warhammer fantasy universe as the world is actually really coming to an end. No seriously, Games Workshop blew it up at the conclusion of the arc.  I played Vermintide some time ago on PC, and I was very terrible but I enjoyed it. I played the sequel on the Xbox and did much better but still not really great. Once again, I enjoy video games, but I am not good at them.

Vermintide II’s gameplay is exactly like that of its predecessor with some tweaks here and there. The vile Skaven, mutant steampunk rats, are attacking civilization in vast hordes. You take the role of one five very different heroes and hack your way through parts of this horde in an effort to save the land.

You’re going to fail in the long run, because it is the End Times, but it’s a great time. Blood, body parts, witty quips, lots of hacked up body parts, plenty of mini-bosses and special enemies when you really don’t need them…there are worse apocalypses.

Ideally the Vermintide games are coop games you play with friends. I only had one other person to join me on this journey of wanton slaughter. There are four characters on a mission at a time. If a person does not play one, a fairly competent bot will. Only bots is boring and I would not recommend this game if you don’t have people to play it with.

The Skaven this time around are joined by the Norsca– Chaotic with a capital-c evil Vikings. They add some twists to gameplay, but not an absolute ton, but it’s still a welcome addition to the rodent line-up, which had some additions of its own.

The gameplay is fun, but the thing I really like about this game are the characters. They are not just classes, but honest-to-God characters. They are: Victor Saltzpyre, religiously sanctioned Witch Hunter; Sienna Fuegonasus, fugitive fire mage (Bright Wizard, in cotnext); Markus Kruber, farmboy grown into veteran soldier; Bardin Goreksson, happy drunken dwarf; Kierellan, arrogant and honestly mean elf.

They talk a lot and they all have distinctive personalities. Most of them have reasons to hate each other and the tension comes through as it did in the first game. They’ve got a unique comradery, however, and thanks to some great voice acting you can tell that none of them is a simple person.

Also, the class paths are a unique way to explore possible character development. They make sense as three paths per character that could be taken depending on how they dealt with the events of the previous game. For all of the characters except Kruber, the last class unlocked is basically the “lost it completely” path, for instance. These paths are also mechanically different enough for you to notice. You can switch between them fairly freely.

I do have my gripes with the game. For one, it is too short. The recently released DLC is two missions, which is fine for $10, but the story also seems to be a late-stage draft. I have read the Vermintide reddit, which has a lot of complaining, and I do agree that the developers (Fat Shark) seem to have fallen down on a lot of things.

One of the reasons could be the Games Workshop…attitude….towards its IPs. I know more about Warhammer and the more popular Warhammer 40k than anyone who doesn’t play miniature games has a right to (curiosity, really) and let me tell you Games Workshop is something special. They tried to trademark ‘Space Marine’ at one point and even got Amazon to pull books that used the phrase in the title briefly. I believe that they still have not put any of the books based on their IPs on Kindle yet. One of the reasons they may have blown up their own world is to get better control of their IP, because you can’t copyright words like ‘elf’.

Fat Shark has stated that Games Workshop meticulously reviews everything in the game before it can be implemented. I imagine this adds another stage to the development cycle of any and every asset, one that is very much externally controlled and absolutely vital. If you’re on a timeline, I can see signing off on something to send it over if it seems like it might get a go-ahead. Can’t get people to pay for DLC that hasn’t been made. Well, not ethically.

Also, I don’t know what Fat Shark’s funding is. It’s evident that there are Quality Assurance issues in the game, though rarely game breaking ones. You can’t do QA forever, because you do have to, you know, release the game and make money off of it. A glut of not-very-different cosmetic skins in the recent DLC is not very impressive content, but it does have the advantage of being cheap and quick to produce. Timelines and money, ladies and gentlemen, are the sources of many issues in video games.

These have been the ramblings of a business grad student. We now return you to your review.

All in all, I conditionally recommend Vermintide II. If you have friends to play it with, it will be a lot of fun. It’s short and it has its QA issues, no doubt, but patches are ever-ongoing and hopefully so is DLC. I admit that I am not going to purchase it unless more missions are added.

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