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Warhammer Vermintide 2’s Necromancer skeletons are surprisingly smart

With the Warhammer Vermintide 2 Necromancer just around the corner, the design team at Fatshark explains its new skeleton tech and the careful balancing act.

Warhammer Vermintide 2 Necromancer skeletons - A skeletal figure with glowing eye sockets.

The Warhammer Vermintide 2 Necromancer is right about to burst forth her minions from the earth, unleashing the undead hordes against the forces of Chaos and the Skaven. With the new Sienna career set to launch in a Warhammer Vermintide 2 update next week, developer Fatshark gives us some insight into how the skeletons came to be, and the potential created by its new tech developed for the feature.

You can’t be a Necromancer worth their salt without a skeleton army, of course, and the newest Warhammer Vermintide 2 career is no different. Transforming spell-slinger Sienna into a Necromancer is perhaps one of the most unique tool sets yet introduced to the popular co-op game, and gives you an ideal way to distract your foes while you unleash devastation with her new Warhammer Vermintide 2 Necromancer weapons.

“The idea of a Necromancer has been kicking around for a long time,” Vermintide design director Joakim Setterberg explains. “It was already in the back of our skulls when starting work on the Grail Knight.” He says the team was eager to step away from Sienna’s reliance on fire magic, so as to find “a gameplay role that didn’t cannibalize her regular careers.” It also wanted to build the tech for a pet-style class that could summon minions and control enemies, making the Necromancer a perfect fit.

The skeletons, as it turned out, required their own unique AI design separate from that used for bot players. “Sienna’s skeletons are actually rather like a friendly faction of their own, sharing behavior and movement with Vermintide’s enemies,” Setterberg says. “That meant a lot of work, both from a pure visual and combat behavior perspective but also balancing their presence and relative player positioning so that they didn’t end up being too noisy or obtrusive.”

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In the test footage shared by Fatshark, you can see how the skeletal minions will carefully spread out around the player, forming into smart formations to ensure you have enough space to see and target your enemies. It means they can act as a defensive wall to protect you from incoming attacks from the flanks, while still leaving space for you to see ahead and target enemies in front of you.

That development process has actually opened up new avenues for Fatshark’s design process, Setterberg says. “Having done the groundwork we now have a bit of tech in place for enemies fighting enemies – we’re pretty excited toying around with that for the future.” Ever since the original Doom, I’ve always been a fan of anything where enemies can fight each other while you watch, so I’m fascinated to see what that means for the future of Vermintide (and perhaps its 40k counterpart Darktide also).

“It’s all about finding that sweet spot between gameplay balance, performance targets, and sheer fun,” Setterberg concludes. “Some ideas didn’t make it,” he says, showing off a chain reaction of rats exploding like a string of meat dominoes, “but the team sure had fun exploring them.” The Warhammer Vermintide 2 Necromancer career releases Thursday October 19, 2023.

If you’re busily sorting out your team composition to complement Sienna’s newfound abilities, take a look through the best Warhammer Vermintide 2 careers to figure out what your ideal squad looks like. We’ve also rounded up the very best Warhammer games for those of you desperate for even more digital Chaos-crunching action, of which there’s increasingly plenty.