Game Reviews

‘Vermintide 2’ – The World is Ending; Time to Fight Back


It’s the end of the Old World as we know it. The Empire of Man lies in flames, overrun with hordes of ravenous ratmen and berserking Nords. Light fades on the mortal races, who claw desperately for survival. But hold fast, brave citizen of the Empire! In this grim and dire apocalypse of the End Times, five heroes lead the charge against darkness.

These unlikely allies come from vastly different walks of life, united in their singular goal of kicking ass and smashing rats. Vermintide 2 puts you in their blood-soaked boots as you crawl through the grit and grime of a dying world. Where the original Vermintide showed players the beginning of the end, the sequel puts them squarely in the middle of it.

The apocalypse is here. Stop crying. Start fighting.

Vermintide 2 veers back from the grimdark tones of the first game by focusing on Warhammer Fantasy’s uniquely dark humor and over-the-top warfare. Players embark on an adventure of swashbuckling heroism in order to hold back the encroaching darkness. It’s a story we know the ending to: beat the bad guys and save the day. 

But that doesn’t make it any less fun. Vermintide 2 focuses on the journey, not the destination. It takes you across a broad expanse of the Reikland, filling you with a vengeance for the fallen that can only be quenched with Skaven and Chaos blood.

Slayer Bardin facing down soldiers of Chaos
“Shoddy armor, these kazaki’dum, just like I told you!” – Bardin Gorekkson

So Long and Thanks for All the Grimdark

The world sucks. Moreso than it usually does. Demons from another dimension and crazy, skittering rat-men add onto an already hefty pile of despair and dismay. Warhammer Fantasy has an established reputation as an uncaring universe where no one is safe.

Warhammer is about peasants living in shit, dying in shit, and the thousands of perils that befall them. Which are often covered in shit. It is not a fun place to be. (“Warhammer Fantasy Battle”, 1d4chan)

Vermintide 1 tipped the scales into grimdark territory by painting a foreboding picture of futility and hopelessness in the form of the apocalyptic End Times. No matter what the players did, all signs pointed to an eventual demise of the Empire.

But Sigmar be praised, the Empire stands tall! What seemed direly impossible in Vermintide 1 has become a natural part of life. Humanity and its allies have survived to fight another day, and fight they will. They fight because they must.

Vermintide 2 brings it back to the Warhammer basics of constant warfare and victory (albeit at great cost). Five heroes have banded together to take the fight back to the enemy. Forged in the fires of the first game, the Ubersreik Five return with a bloody vengeance. Legions of Chaos and Skaven may batter at the gates, but our champions are more than eager to meet them with a ready smile and a sharp blade.

From the minute you first boot up the game, Vermintide 2 clearly sets the tone: a perilous adventure fighting back hordes of unadulterated evil. You awaken to find yourself a prisoner, helpless as you watch wave after wave of Chaos and Skaven assemble. Through a stroke of good fortune, you manage to break free and rescue your allies. Together, you cut a bloody swathe through the enemy, throwing sarcastic quips and powerful blows in equal measure. Evil may rear its ugly head, but you’re ready to punch its teeth out.

Kruber locked in battle with a Chaos Warrior
“We’re the bloody Ubersreik Five! Or ‘Four’, doesn’t matter.” – Markus Kruber

Get In the Wagon Loser, We’re Going Rat-Smashing

In my article on Vermintide 1‘s grimdark tones, I outlined how many of the missions end with a palpable sense of despair. The game tells you that your accomplishments rally the people and rouse the Empire. Yet, you can’t help but feel that your efforts are meaningless. So what if you sounded the Horn of Magnus and lit the signal beacons at Karak-Az-Garaz? The call echoes out across a city in shambles and the fires look pitiful against a dreary night sky. Are we supposed to take solace in these hail-marys?

By keeping the story (mostly) confined to the city of Ubersreik, Vermintide 1 did an excellent job of creating a claustrophobic sense dread. The walls and fortresses of the Empire did little to stop a foe that could simply burrow under them.

Your enemies fight on your terms now, not theirs. If the Empire is to fall, it will do so in a righteous blaze of glory.

In the sequel, however, the five heroes journey across the Reikland. By opening up the geography beyond a single city, Vermintide 2 creates a greater sense of depth and agency. The heroes are not simply reacting anymore. They’re actively pursuing the enemy and making significant gains: prisoners freed, weapons destroyed, and sieges broken. The Ubersreik Five travel from noxious swamps to Elven Ruins to quiet farmlands, smashing Skaven and Chaos wherever they go.

And oh, the many different ways they do that. Vermintide 2 adds careers for each hero, three unique specializations with vastly different playstyles. Not only do they serve a functional purpose, these careers delve deeper into the Warhammer lore and give players a palpable sense of power. You have so many different ways to smash, slice, burn, skewer, and pulverize your enemy.  Whatever you choose, you’re sure to leave vengeful destruction in your wake.

View of a Chaos encampment in a swamp
“The crime is your foul existence, the sentence is death!” – Victor Saltzpyre

This is the End Times

So you’ve done it. You’ve beaten back wave after wave of seething ratmen. Chaos Warriors and Stormvermin alike fall to your mighty weapons. But that’s not enough. These are the monsters that burned Ubersreik, the selfsame scoundrels who threaten to topple the glorious Empire of Man. You need to show these Chaos and Skaven scum that you mean business. You need to hit them where it hurts.

As with careers and locations, Vermintide 2‘s inclusion of more bosses gives players a greater sense of impact on a much wider world. In Vermintide 1, players would only fight rat ogres, with one stage dedicated to the Skaven leader, Grey Seer Rasknitt.

Now, in the sequel, the heroes come face to face with Bile Trolls, Spawns of Chaos, and all manner of elite monstrous horrors. Even high-ranking figures in the Skaven and Chaos chains of command take up arms against the Ubersreik Five. Yet, one after another, these “great” warriors and generals die like the rest.

Ultimately, these actions may only stem the oncoming tired. However, that spark of hope and rebellion dispels the dreary cloud of grimdark that hung over the first game. Your enemies fight on your terms now, not theirs. If the Empire is to fall, it will do so in a righteous blaze of glory.

The Bloody Ubersreik Five stands against a horde of enemies
“What would you prefer, darlings, Northlanders or ratmen?” – Sienna Fuegonasus

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