Wot I Think – Warhammer: Vermintide 2


I don’t tend to think about how many things I murder in a murder-related videogame. I just remove whatever obstacles are in the way and move on, in the time-honoured tradition of solving problems in action games. In co-op online stabber-shooter Warhammer: Vermintide 2, I’m unusually conscious of the body count. It is, if you’ll forgive a little early-90s melodrama, extreme. That’s just one reason why Vermintide 2 successfully escapes the shadow of ‘it’s just Left 4 Dead but with Games Workshop’ faint-praise damning that its predecessor stood within.

I have, for the record, zero remorse or guilt about how many dismembered ratman carcasses or lily-white, headless trunks of Chaos warriors I and my e’er-bragging comrades leave in our first-person, co-operative wake. It’s just that I really noticed how thick the streets ran with gore whenever we had survived another swarm of Skaven or onslaught of Northmen, which is really saying something given how expansive Vermintide’s maps can be.

‘Pretty’ probably isn’t the right terminology for a game whose aesthetic is large-scale slaughter as a war-torn fantasy world begins its final descent into Armageddon. ‘I hammered the screenshot key like there was no tomorrow’ isn’t as snappy, however.


It’s not like Vermintide 1 had suffered a particularly vicious beating from the ugly stick, but it could feel cramped and oppressively funneled. Vermintide 2 accomplishes the impressive trick of moving the walls (and ceilings) orders of magnitude further out while still being set up to coax its four players down a prescribed path. Yeah, there are not entirely infrequent moments where the assortments of elves, dwarfs, mages and Witch-hunters who make up its playable characters are futilely bunny-hopping or spinning on the spot in search of the one small wall or limb-strewn cul-de-sac that leads to the next part of the map. I will absolutely take that passingly-irritating trade-off for how gloriously dramatic the environments are though.

It really sells its particular apocalypse, which is to say the old Warhammer world (in Games Workshop’s own fiction, its dark-darker-darkest Tolkienscape has been recently destroyed and divisively replaced by something rather more cosmic) pitched as a rat’n’mutant-infested wasteland. I suspect, with some dour awareness of writing words that could end up on a bus stop somewhere, that this is the best-looking Warhammer game to date, what with its dead-world tour of shattered but still magnificent and towering High Elf ruins, sprawling cornfields and dark age cities on fire. These are, perhaps, all familiar sights from the fantasy pantheon, but V2 really bloody goes for it.

The dense forests have sunlight-flecked trees to make Dale Cooper swoon, the distant cityscapes remind me of Dishonored 2’s dramatic horizons (though there that comparison ends), and on several occasions I’ve been so smitten by the deadly-beautiful sight of rats swarming towards me across an impossibly wide swamp that I violate the cardinal rule of Left 4 Deadlikes – never split up the party. Or, at least, that’s my excuse for routinely being the most-murdered member of whatever party is unlucky enough to have me.


Glorious graphics or not, a sneering voice at the back of my head keeps trying to convince me that I shouldn’t enjoy Vermintide 2. Its debt to Left 4 Dead is so heavy, its success so much to do with the commercially unwise absence of a 2018-era sequel to Valve’s co-op zombie-basher, that part of me is constantly sniffing for cynicism even when it’s not there.

The levelling and crafting systems, meanwhile, are the cruftiest cruft since Crufts 2017 winner Miami the cocker spaniel gazed blankly at a sea of applauding faces and wondered when he’d get his next freeze-dried bull penis to gnaw upon. It does everything it can to tick loot box boxes while (thankfully) not actually having any microtransactions, turning its post-match buzz into a dull orgy of randomly-allocated minor gear boosts and using an overly-functional interface to turn unwanted items into building supplies for better ones.

On the one hand, it feels so needless – like a vote of no confidence against the ongoing entertainment of the core combat loops – but on the other it does function, even for me, as a spur to keep on playing even after I’ve seen every map and survived every boss and made my first, faltering steps into coping with the stunning but (potentially) satisfying cruelty of its harder difficulty settings. I dug Left 4 Dead and its sequel enormously, but it’s fair to say that, without ongoing novelty, I did drift away after a while, and, in the modern paradigm, unlocks are an effective antidote to that. If I get better stuff, I can survive tougher situations, my lizard-brain screeches at me, but auto-matchmaking and enemy scaling means that’s not really true.

Still, gear upgrades do go hand-in-hand with my own gradual improvement. It’s temptingly easy to scan V2 as a frenzied festival of spam, clobbering anything that moves with wild abandon and surviving more from attrition than skill, but its somewhat poorly-explained systems do blossom into something more tactical.


A vaguely Dark Soulsy block system is critical for instance, and requires actively refusing the temptation to just keep on twatting things with your blade, while effective communication with your team about the use of bombs, special abilities and healing can transform a messy wipe-out at the hands of a Rat Ogre or Bile Troll into bruised and battered just-about-survival. It’s definitely a game you improve at, in a more fundamental way than finding or making a sword that does +8% damage vs Chaos.

The aforementioned bosses, the hulking Rat Ogres, Bile Trolls, Stormfiends and more, I oddly found to be the least interesting part of the action. They work well in terms of flow, these titanic threats parachuted in to an already frenetic situation, but I thought their execution as massive hitpoint sponges with an excess of knockback attacks made fighting them twice as long as it needed to be, a slog often spent running grimly betwixt boss and whatever wall he’d hurled me into rather than seat-of-the-pants tension.

However, Matt told me he’d had a whale of a time watching his mates get sent flying by them, as people he knew well laboured and giggled and blamed and aligned, whereas billy no-mates here played predominantly with randoms. My unknown colleagues’ goal was the completion of the challenge, rather than having a laugh together, which made getting hurled thirty metres away for the ninetieth time a drag rather than a hoot. I guess cackling ‘oh you idiot’ at a stranger has a very different timbre than when said to a friend.


Me, I love the swarms. When a quiet street or tranquil glade suddenly seems to quake with the rumble of an oncoming storm, and then suddenly Skaven are everywhere, a sea of gruesomely balding fur, arterial-red eyes glinting and no quarter given no matter how high their rapidly-severed limbs are stacked. It’s a glorious nightmare, even if – forgive the pun – the chaos of it robs one of Warhammer’s most delightfully twisted races of any sense of being beyond ‘mad horde.’

The Left 4 Dead comparisons are absolute – like its predecessor, it borrows concepts like ‘the one that drags away a dawdling party member’ and ‘the one that sprays poison vomit everywhere’ and ‘the one that’s just, like, really really big’ wholesale from Valve’s game. But, to its credit, this feels how I would want a 2018 L4D to feel, in terms of scale and onslaught, rather than just going through the cloning motions with a Warhammer skin. It’s a heckuva sight, with disgustingly meaty slice’n’dice combat and sound design, and I feel the constant siren call to return to it in a way I did not with Vermintide the first.


The major dampener to that is the characters. Left 4 Dead rightfully spawned a thousand memes and Deviant Art pages, and V2 ties hard to plough a similar furrow of bickering opposites who love each other really. It does land a few blows, like the imperious Witch Hunter whose pinched nostrils and sky-high septum you can practically hear, and I’ll never object to the Twin Peaks reference in the mage’s ‘Flame, walk with me’ but most of it is depressingly banal.

There are characters whose endless pitter-patter of toothless put-downs I can’t even tell apart, while a potion-brewing NPC, back at the base where you worry about unlocks between missions, assaults you with a screenful of flabby lore every time you forget not to click on her. It’s not awful but it’s incidental at best, annoying at worst.

The characters are stuck in a bland Groundhog Day of mocking each other’s perceived lack of ability and admitting grudging respect, and it never really makes the crucial step of establishing a sense of – forgive me – fellowship between them. It’s a bit too much like competitive executives playing squash, but with exaggerated Northern English accents.

Importantly, it’s thin enough to be very easily ignored, which means I am free to, quite frankly, have a really good time inflicting an eye-watering degree of carnage. Vermintide 2 might be shameless about its inspiration, but, critically, it recreates it really, really well, at a spectacular scale. I can’t speak to whether I’ll still be showering the land with rat legs a few months from now, but I fully expect to happily spend the next few weeks, at least, knee-deep in the rodent dead.

Vermintide 2 is available now on Steam for £23/€28/$30.


  1. Rogerio Martins says:

    “and V2 ties hard to plough”


  2. Seafoam says:

    I don’t know much about the game, but I do love it’s Twitch integration because it always makes the chat roleplay as a horde of rats.
    The solidarity brings me great joy.

    • Viral Frog says:

      Eh, it’s a cool concept, but it’s more annoying than entertaining. Unless you’re in the chat, I guess. I don’t particularly enjoy getting steamrolled and wasting all my time because chat bombards us with stupid crap.

      • Viral Frog says:

        I’m not a streamer myself, though. The people I play with the most are, however.

      • Seafoam says:

        The entity known as chat is already a ravenous horde, a tide of chaos hellbent on anarchy.

        The role of the rat horde is pleasantly fitting don’t you think? As our heroes play the game a screaming horde tries to tear them to pieces. Belting praise to the horned rat and calls for the heroes downfall. Brings me great joy.

  3. MrEvilGuy says:

    This will be the first Vermintide game I play. Too bad there’s no versus mode. A contemporary versus mode for a L4D-style game with proper matchmaking would be excellent.

    I also hope someone creates a new Helm’s Deep modded map for this–I’ve recently poured countless hours into the L4D2 Helm’s Deep map with my friends, until we finally beat it.

  4. latedave says:

    Good review, I do think it’s one of those games that benefits most from being played with friends though, it’s always awkward when you get strangers killed!

  5. aircool says:

    So is it anything like L4D but with Warhammer?

    • Captain Narol says:

      That’s exactly that.

    • DeepFried says:

      Its the same genre, i.e. its 4 player coop vs hordes, running from one end of a map to the other. But thats really were the similarities end. Vermintide is heavily melee focused, and it has an RPG style detailed persistent loot mechanic, it also has a higher skill ceiling and just way more weapons.

      But bottom line… if you didn’t like L4D, you probably wont like vermintide.

      • LexW1 says:

        No, that is not where the similarities end. The similarities continue for a considerable distance. It could basically have been a very ambitious L4D mod, if there had been an L4D3. Even the majority of the enemy-types are the same as L4D, just expressed in Warhammer terms (which is not what merely being “in the same genre” would entail). It’s an “L4D clone” in the sense that various ARPGs were/are “Diablo clones”, because they maintain pretty much all the basic concepts, even if they add to them or iterate on them.

        That’s not a criticism, in fact it’s part of what makes it great.

        It’s certainly true that if you don’t like L4D, you won’t like Vermintide (well, unless you have an amazing Warhammer fetish).

  6. Doug Exeter says:

    It’s a fun game and it’s well done! But as you’re playing it, you can’t help but feel it would have been a bit more relevant back in 2010. I enjoy my time with it but I’m already feeling like it’s just Left for Dead with more customization and subsequently getting bored with it.

    Good: Fun bosses and all feel unique. The characters do have wildly different styles. The levels all have a individual feel to em. The combat at its core is still fun and competent.

    Bad: It still just feels like a extremely well done Left for Dead mod so the feeling of deja vu sets in kinda quick. Some bad luck with boss spawning location. Unless you’ve got a ton of hours and experience, it’ll drop one in a narrow set of hallways and you may as well just resign yourself to the party getting wiped. Also as someone who usually doesn’t run in to toxic gamers much, man are there a fucking lot of them in public games. If you dont have friends to play with (like i dont) prepare to mute voice chat

    That said, it’s still worth checking out of you’re a big L4D fan and there’s plenty here, but your mileage may vary.

    • DarkFenix says:

      The fact that Vermintide (unlike L4D) has a melee focus compensates a lot for unlucky boss placement. Once you know the bosses they can be tanked face to face remarkably well, even if you’re not a tanky class.

    • DeepFried says:

      Vermintide is the same as L4D only in the way that Wolfenstein is the same as Doom. Same genre, some similar mechanics, very different games. If you don’t enjoy the genre, move on.

  7. thekelvingreen says:

    It does seem like the opponents in this should be goblins and orcs rather than Skaven, in part because the greenskins are a better fit for the ravening hordes concept, but also because the Skaven are just a myth.

  8. mcnostril says:

    I was hoping that you’d go into the technical things a bit more, because while I am enjoying the game a lot, there’s a lot of issues at the moment (and they’re aware, apparently they’re on a patch-a-day schedule if they can make it).

    For example, the last map (Skittergate) is incredibly buggy. It will disable talents for players and has a large number of collision problems and other issues (someone’s compiled them all on the vermintide reddit).
    A lot of the talents aren’t quite working correctly, and there is a lot of obfuscation in what does work (it doesn’t help that the training dummies you’re supposed to test things on are also incredibly glitchy), and the UI itself needs a lot of work still (the salvage and crafting menus are… not great).
    Bosses can get very glitchy during certain attacks (charging through walls, etc…) and a lot of geometry in levels isn’t particularly consistent so you can get shot or grabbed through walls (at least in some cases you can shoot back through said walls).
    Then there’s the more infuriating things like being dropped if the host disconnects as opposed to migrating the host and keeping your progress.
    I’m sure they’ll eventually get around to fixing stuff and no game like this is entirely glitch-free, but be aware that there’s a fair amount of wonky stuff.

    I was personally rather disappointed with the dialogue in this game, having really enjoyed the characters in the original. Before, there were many ‘story’ conversations that advanced the characters and their relationship to one another (hell, two years later there’s still a bunch of banter I haven’t heard), but this game seems to have no such thing.
    Every elevator ride used to have some banter that was generally quite entertaining (the “is cousin okri even real?” bit still cracks me up), but here I have yet to see anything similar – the closest we get in this game is when using healing items to top off health, but most of the time it’s just the elf insulting people without any of the camaraderie you got in the last one.
    There also don’t seem to be nearly as many voice prompts as there used to be while navigating levels. Getting lost in the previous game was rather unlikely since there’d always be at least one character shouting where to go and what to do, but there is a lot less of that now, which is surprising considering how much more outlandish stuff we see in this game. I’d expect these characters to have a lot more to say about it, but nope, most of the time it’s one short line or nothing at all except the generic horde dialogues.

    Despite all that I’m enjoying the game a lot, but I do play with a dedicated group so I don’t have to put up with some of the more toxic bits of the game (ie: Slayer is very hard to play correctly and people might often try to kick a dwarf player who is playing it).

    • Blacksilver65 says:

      If this game has less banter I would have hated the first one. Can’t wait for a mod that just strips it all out.

  9. Bozilas says:

    I need adderall to focus well enough to read this review… not because it’s not well written, but maybe cuz I’m stoopid. :(

  10. Kefren says:

    It is compared to L4D, but does Vermintide 2 have an offline single-player mode like L4D and L4D2? I don’t play multiplayer or online games, but enjoyed L4D and L4D2. In both of them I would play a mission as a character; if I died, I had to start again with a new character; if I ran out of characters I had to leave the game for a week, then try again. It felt like an epic story. Now and again I reinstall them and do it again. Just because games are built one way, doesn’t mean people won’t want to play it a different way, with their own rules and stories. If I could do that with Vermintide 2 then I may well be interested. Thanks!

    • Doug Exeter says:

      You can actually! Though you just have to make a custom private game but it provides bots to run with. Some people actually recommend running solo games to get the hang of it when you first start because A)The first 5 character levels until you get some equipment are brutal. If nothing else to just get a handle on the mechanics and get a idea on the bosses B) The bots are actually more competent than most of the other newbie randos you’ll get paired with at least starting out.

      • DeepFried says:

        The truth is that the bots are easier to play with right up to nightmare difficulty. So if you want a quick efficient run, run with bots. But running with people is just more fun.

  11. Asurmen says:

    If I hear the bloody elf call me a mayfly one more time

  12. akaks says:

    i ale you were a wish!!

  13. suibhne says:

    It’s strange to read an entire review (or, er, WOT) with basically no reference to the first Vermintide, which would equally deserve most of the criticisms above. If anything, this go-around seems to make its formula a little less like L4D and more like its own thing.

    • DeepFried says:

      Vermintide has always been entirely its own thing. I don’t get why people seem to think innovative games have to be absolutely unique but at the same time don’t bat an eye-lid when the 15th CoD clone comes out.

  14. popej says:

    How does it play with 2 or 3 people and 1 or 2 bots? Is it still fun?

    • cpt_freakout says:

      I used to play V1 with a couple of friends and a bot (usually, sometimes another friend joined, but for the most part we played with a bot) and it was an OK experience. I hope they made a better AI for this one, but just like in L4D, the moment you get even a little good at the game you’re gonna have to carry that bot all the time, but not so much that it’s horrible. It can get annoying, but it’s not a deal-breaker for sure.

    • Couchfighter says:

      For the most part, the bots do a good enough job at dealing with enemies. You can’t rely on them to carry end of mission reward increasing tomes/grimoires though. They’re also perfectly happy to engage a nasty boss in the worst possible spot to fight it in forcing you to either join in, or just let the bot die.

      That said, I’ve had a bot or two in my coop sessions a few nights now when the full 4 player team hasn’t been available, and it mostly works out pretty well. I prefer to play with a mate or two and bots to fill the last spots, rather than opening the lobby up to random players.

      I don’t think I would find playing with a full team of coop bots too enjoyable, though.

  15. Crowbar says:

    Honestly all the comparisons to L4D are really shallow and obvious observations that don’t really give you an idea of the much greater depth this game has over L4D.

    I never enjoyed L4D, but this is definitely one of my favourite co-op games along with the first one. The melee combat alone makes it worth trying.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Curare says:

    Is RPS still giving out its “RPS Recommended” badge? Both this review and Nothgard’s seemed quite positive but neither got the fancy badge. Just curious if that was a conscious decision not to award it or if there were other reasons.

  17. Vasily R says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed it Alec. I’ve really been wanting to pick this game up, but had to wait for the reviews.

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