The Skaven are back for Warhammer: Vermintide 2 - how could they not be with a title like that? But for their second assault they are being joined by Games Workshop’s other incredibly popular band of bastards: Chaos.
Discover all of the game's new features in our Vermintide 2 everything we know guide.
Yes, the rats and demons have combined forces. It’s the challenges posed by their interlinked forces that will provide the sequel with not only a distinct flavour from the first game,, but also aid to further distinguish it from its most obvious muse, Left 4 Dead.
From tooth and claw to Nurgles and Spawn
“The new Chaos faction is a step away from Left 4 Dead because a lot of them have heavy armour,” producer Martin Wahlund tells us. “They're a bit tougher than the Skaven in the first game. They will be something different in terms of the minute-to-minute gameplay.”
The fleshy Skaven are clear analogues to Left 4 Dead’s zombies; while each individual rat can be cleaved apart with ease, their pack-fighting nature makes them challenging to overcome. Chaos are entirely different, being unnaturally tall and strong warriors clad in terrifying plate armour. We never saw enemies like these in Valve’s horde shooter, and it is with them that developers Fatshark hope to develop Vermintide 2’s own sense of pace.
The balance between Chaos and Skaven wasn’t an instant decision from the design team, though. “From the beginning we felt like [Chaos] should be very much similar to the Skaven,” game designer Mats Andersson explains. “But after a while we realised that facing Chaos will be a different experience because they are tougher. If you compare a horde of Chaos Marauders, or Chaos in general, they are fewer because each of them are tougher.”
“Now we can diversify the runs and introduce different segments,” Wahlund explains. “Each run will be different because we have a bigger palette of enemies to throw at you. One of the biggest challenges is making the combat feel distinctly different when you're fighting a Skaven group or Chaos group. Mixing those together in different kinds of combinations makes for very interesting scenarios that the player has to solve.”
The level of unpredictable variety that Fatshark have created excites Andersson: “We have built the systems so that when you play a level you don't know which factions you'll meet. You won't know which areas will contain a certain type of enemy,” he says. “Given how many new enemies we have, I think you can probably play eight levels without facing all the enemies, depending on RNG.”
Rat-hunter heroes are back in business
Good villains are useless without a band of heroes, though. Vermintide 2 sees the return of the first game’s five roles - Witch Hunter, Waywatcher, Empire Soldier, Dwarf Ranger, and Bright Wizard - but introduces a new multi-path progression system to help further define them.
“As this is the End Times [the heroes] can take many shapes, so each of them can pick three different careers,” Andersson explains.
“We allow the players to explore three different fates of their favourite character,” Wahlund adds. “We had a hard time deciding which [careers] we should do. How should we continue the story? How can we introduce as many different Warhammer favourites? There are a lot of them.”
This new system is explored via a talent tree that branches in three different directions. In combination with your weapon loadout, you will be able to put together a hero that not only suits your playstyle, but fulfils Warhammer fantasies pulled directly from the tabletop. There is also a bit of modern videogame magic in there, too, in the form of abilities.
“We also have activated abilities; a long cooldown ultimate thing that you can do specific cool stuff with,” Andersson reveals. “It ties into the talent trees as well. There's two specialised talents per career.”
Along with passive buffs, the new active abilities and progression paths provide a far more RPG-flavoured experience for Vermintide 2. The overall aim is to provide a broader perspective on characters beyond ‘what weapon is right for me?’. It is a logical evolution considering Vermintide’s roots in HeroQuest; a tabletop game with its own links to games like Dungeons & Dragons. It also aids in further divorcing Vermintide 2 from Left 4 Dead.
Nothing’s easy in the End Times
“For everything we add, we move further away from Left 4 Dead,” Andersson says. “But I still think it is really important to keep some of Left 4 Dead in there.” He points out Vermintide 2’s pacing system, which draws large inspiration from Left 4 Dead’s AI Director, and ensures that players are challenged at all times. “The way we want completing a level in Vermintide to be is that you failed the first time, or even the second time, and only just managed the third one.”
As you can infer from that, Vermintide 2 does not feature an easy mode, which is not a decision born from the creators’ cruelty. “The game shines when it is a bit difficult, when it is a challenge,” Wahlund tells us. “When we try a non-challenging run people tend to end up not feeling as satisfied. We do a lot of work to ensure that it should be peaking the difficulty levels at the right spot.”
Vermintide 2 may be forging its own path away from Left 4 Dead, but do not be concerned about it being unrecognisable. “My biggest concern was that we were changing too much,” Andersson says. “It's all about finding the right balance because we know that people loved a lot of things about Vermintide. We needed to make sure that what people love should still be there, but at the same time offer new challenges and experiences.”
With Chaos Warriors, a multitude of character development options, and a new approach to combat thanks to active abilities, it seems certain that Vermintide 2 will offer those new challenges and experiences. And if that remains built on the tsunami of rats that formed the core of the first game, then this should prove to be a sequel worth paying attention to.