Vermintide II Training Dummy
Two (awesome) players testing out different combat strategies the training dummies.
(Vermintide II Beta)

Should you be excited for the upcoming Warhammer game? We discuss all the reasons why Vermintide 2 will be great in this extensive preview. 

Vermintide: End Times is a game set in the Warhammer universe, developed by Fatshark, designed for a team of up to four human players who travel throughout the various 13+ maps whilst killing massive amounts of humanoid rats (known as ‘Skaven’).

Vermintide: End Times is one of my favourite games. The sequel promises to be even better. Here are five reasons why I’m looking forward to Warhammer: Vermintide 2 (which I will be calling Vermintide 2 from here on), and why you should be too.

Another elven player bursts onto the scene
Statistically, this is the very first thing you’ll see when you start the game. I’m saying there’s a lot of elf players, is what I’m saying. (Vermintide 2 Beta)

5. I already have fond memories of Vermintide 2

“OH BUT CHARLES,” I hear you say, calling me by somebody else’s name for some reason. “It’s not even out yet.”

I have access to the Beta Version (i.e. the pre-release test version) because I have the game pre-ordered. I’d like to point out that I was gifted it, because the gifter didn’t want to play it without me and knew of my anti-Steam (please note – not anti-Valve) stance, and hey look at that I worked in this link organically. Nailed it.

The very first thing I ever did in Vermintide 2 was literally ‘get stuck in the architecture’. Although my friend and I knew it was clearly a glitch, we still tried to find a workaround. We restarted the game, we went to our own lobbies (more on that later), we tried a whole bunch of stuff.

I can’t remember what workaround we used but I know it became a puzzle game for a while, until we solved it.

Every time I start the Vermintide 2 Beta I’m reminded of that moment where we ‘made our own fun’. I think this is why games like PUBG and Minecraft remain popular despite being quite simple: Because they’re easy ways that you can make your own fun.

SHIELDPUNCH
See that red banner near the skull on the wall? That’s proof that I completed all maps on the hardest setting because I’m really good at the game, and most certainly not proof that I was carried by one particularly skilled elf player.
(Vermintide: End Times)

4. The combat is easy to pick up, but hard to master.

A game that relies on combat as the main way to interact with the world had better have good combat (I’m looking directly at you, The Witcher 3FIGHT ME, INTERNET).

I’m happy to report that I think Vermintide 2 has the most satisfying melee combat of any game I’ve ever played, and I’m including fighting games such as Mortal Kombat II (the last good one in the series – FIGHT ME, TIME-TRAVELLING ’90s KIDS).

The combat slightly differs from Vermintide: End Times. It’s more complex but still remains true to the spirit of the original.

For example: I mainly play the Dwarf character named Bardin in both games, usually equipped with an axe and shield. In Vermintide: End Times, if you charge your attack (i.e. hold down the attack button down for a moment before releasing it) then you do what I’m going to call a ‘shieldpunch’, purely because I can. Shieldpunches don’t do much damage, but they stagger the enemies, giving the other team members more breathing room.

A very large percentage of my time playing Bardin has been spent shieldpunching the enemies by following this pattern:

  1. Hit an enemy with a charged attack.
  2. Repeat the previous action.

This results in Bardin performing continuous shieldpunches, which is nowhere near as boring as it sounds, believe me. Especially during one of the many and constant waves of Skaven – Vermintide certainly delivers on the promise implied by the name.

However, if I do the same thing in Vermintide 2, he performs a triple-combo:

  1. Shieldpunch
  2. Vertical axe attack (great for melee headshots against armored enemies)
  3. Horizontal axe attack (which should be good for closely-grouped enemies)
SHIELDPUNCH
How do I slay thee? Let me count the ways…(Vermintide 2 Beta)

This means that I can’t just shieldpunch over and over anymore. I mean, I can – I can cancel the combo by pressing the ‘block’ button and then shieldpunching again, but frankly that feels like it’s even more of a hassle than just learning to use the normal shieldpunch triple-combo.

Bardin also has a shield push, which (unsurprisingly) pushes enemies away from him. This is handy for the other team members because it removes some enemies from the fight for a few seconds (which can make all the difference in these games). It’s also very annoying for the other team members because it can be hard to kill Skaven when they’re literally flying in all directions.

So you have a whole skillset of useful moves at your disposal, most of which have clear contextual usages.

But how exactly do you know when to use which combat technique?

And that’s where the actual game is, in my opinion.

See, I really do wish I could answer that question for you but after hundreds of hours of play since release, I still struggle to know which move is the most efficient in any given situation because every game is different and I have the intelligence of a…uh…I can’t think of a metaphor right now. And the combat’s only gotten tougher in Vermintide 2. But I like that it gives me new combat dynamics to learn, and that’s the core of the game, really.

By enhancing the old combat system (as opposed to simply replacing it), Fatshark Studios have created a strong sequel to an already great game.

Bardin Careers
Bardin has three different careers: Veteran Ranger, Ironbreaker, and Slayer. (Vermintide 2 Beta)

3. There are new classes to play with

Vermintide: End Times had five characters, only four of which could be in play at any time. Vermintide 2 offers identical player mechanics, but gives you the option of different careers as well. These are unlocked by raising your character level.

I really like the way they’ve done it. While I’m not well-versed in Warhammer lore yet, I’ve picked up a little by playing Vermintide and Total Warhammer (or Total War: Warhammer if you’re a title nerd), so it’s very interesting for me to read the Reddit posts about how the third elf class (the Shade) is technically not possible given that she’s a wood elf, because ‘lore’.

Me, I just thought she looked like a cool dark ninja. She even has the Batman gauntlets to go with it.

I can list all the Star Trek captains off the top of my head (Protip: start with Archer, not April – FIGHT ME, OTHER STAR TREK FANS), so I know a thing or two about ‘fandom’, and I feel as though games such as Vermintide really enhance the brand awareness of a franchise. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t know a Dawri from a Dawi, which is one of the worst situations a Dwarf can be in.

Dawi means ‘Dwarf’ and Dawri means ‘non-dwarf traveling companion or whatever’. Also, I’m not a nerd, you’re the nerd.

Anyway, one of Bardin’s lines is “It’s this way, Dawri!”, and hearing it spoken (and not seeing the word written down because I never use subtitles the first time I play a game), I genuinely thought it was a Disney reference the first time I heard it.

Can you imagine it?

Finding Dawri
Keep on slaying, keep on slaying… (Vermintide: End Times)

2. There are lots of little things to discover and customise in your personal Vermintide 2 lobby

In Vermintide: End Times, the game lobby (the part where your team groups together before starting a match) was an inn, a room where you could all meet and plan your attack or show off your hard-earned equipment or practice moves (why don’t more games let me do this?) or even just chat if you wanted to.

There was a whole bunch of stuff there, too. Crafting, a lorebook (you have the option to collect the lost pages scattered throughout the levels to learn the backstory if you wish), quests and contracts (a chance to earn certain gear, which offsets the horrendous and frankly offensive ‘reward’ system which mars an otherwise solid experience). Plus, my favourite part of all: Each character had their own room, with decorations befitting the character they were playing.

That was the best lobby I’ve ever experienced. I don’t know what other games are like, but everything else I’ve ever played in my life had a text-based list for a lobby.

It was the best lobby I’ve ever experienced.

The lobby in Vermintide 2 is a tower. Literally. Like, you get an entire keep to explore in-between missions.

REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE
“Everything the light touches will one day be yours.” – Darth Vader, speaking to his son Ferris Bueller.

Crafting and the like can now be done via your inventory, but there are many other things to play around with and examine all throughout the keep.

When I started Vermintide 2, I looked for my room and found my sleeping area in the main area. After I hit a certain level, it wasn’t there. I suspected there was a good reason for that, and further exploration showed this to be true: I’d unlocked my actual bedroom by being a certain character level.

There are also training dummies which show the amount of damage that you do to them, making it easier to formulate strategies (because you can practice your attacks on a target without the risk of dying). You can even move them around, so you can practice your moves in a location of your choosing.

There are also picture frames that you can use to select pictures to show, to further customise your lobby.

And the list goes on.

Goofing Off In Vermintide II
Movable training dummies make strange beamfellows. (Vermintide 2 Beta)

1. Ethical business practices in Vermintide 2

I understand that many people don’t care about this, one only has to look to the success of EA or Activision to see that. Which is fine for those people, horses for courses and all that.

But this is a topic that I’m passionate about (you can tell because I won’t shut up about it). I was very worried that Vermintide 2 would introduce microtransactions or lootboxes, or something of that nature. Based on the many hours I’ve played so far, the only boxes you get are the ‘reward’ boxes that you get for completing a mission. I have since renamed them ‘junkboxes’ because I don’t seem to have much luck with them.

But to their credit, FatShark appear to want to get more money out of their gamers exactly like a game developer should – with cosmetics (weapon and player skins, not blush and mascara) and extra content, and nothing else at all.

Vermintide: End Times even had quite a bit of free DLC, and I see no reason to think things will be different for Vermintide 2.

STILL A BETTER LOVE STORY THAN TWILIGHT
Vermintide 2 features a subplot involving the forbidden love of a training dummy and a scarecrow.
Well, it does in my head at least. (Vermintide 2 Beta)

Ultimately, the main reason I’m looking forward to this game is that I can get behind the business decisions that the developers made, which is a very rare thing for me. I wish it didn’t matter, but I think we’ve long gone past the point that we can afford most developers (indie or otherwise) any trust without them earning it.

I’ve been very disappointed in many of the design choices in the series, particularly the loathsome ‘reward’ system in Vermintide: End Times, which often felt more like a punishment than a reward. Imagine winning an endurance race (such as a marathon) and getting a wet paper crayon drawing of a gumboot as a reward. That’s how it often feels.

I said earlier that I call the Vermintide 2 rewards junkboxes. That’s not strictly an insult – salvage junk is quite handy in this game. You can use it to make your own items based on what character you’re currently playing.

Once you collect enough salvage junk items you can make your own weapons, meaning that the issue about the ‘rewards’ from Vermintide: End Times is deftly sidestepped (much like enemy attacks on my elf-playing buddy) in Vermintide 2. The randomness is no longer in which weapon you get, it’s in how many of them you can make for yourself. That – THAT I can work with, thank you very much.

And you can’t buy salvage junk (or any in-game inventory items) for real-world currency. It’s simply not possible.

And if that alone doesn’t give us the measure of the developers, then I don’t know what does.

I might be disappointed in some of their design choices, but their business choices appear to be completely inline with my desires as a consumer. And so few developers offer that to me that I find myself appreciating this aspect of the game more than any other.

Chandi
This chandelier is well loved among the Vermintide community. Seriously. Look it up. I love Chandi as well. Hey, don’t judge me. (Vermintide: End Times)

Although…

Is there some other game where you can use twin axes to tear into zombies while teaming up with an elf who looks like Batman?

NO.

NO THERE IS NOT.

So, you know – maybe that might be a factor, too.

And hey – if you particularly enjoyed this easy-to-read format, then why not check out some similarly formatted articles? Go on. You know you want to.

Don’t worry, I’ve got your back with my trusty axe and shield.

SHIELDPUNCH!

Special thanks to Squeaking Pie Sneak and Kirb for helping me get some great screenshots – you guys rock!

Vermintide 2 will release worldwide on 8th March 2018 – by which I obviously mean ‘some time during the 9th March 2018 in Australia’.

Liam Padmore, sometimes referred to as the duck-billed platypus, is a semiaquatic egg-laying mammal endemic to eastern Australia, including Tasmania.