Vermintide 2: Chaos Wastes screenshot of the logo and artwork

[Update]: The Chaos Wastes expansion has now finally arrived, and as expected, it's a pretty good one!

Once it arrives this April 20th, Vermintide 2's newest free expansion Chaos Wastes will have you brave the corrupted northlands in search of ancient and supremely powerful artifacts. Given that reality tends to take a back seat whenever the Chaos gods are involved, it should come as little surprise that these expeditions into the Chaos Wastes will have you venture across a variety of strange and surreal lands, consort with whatever benevolent gods will even listen to you, and naturally, explode thousands upon thousands upon thousands of rats and Chaos cultists.

Over the past few days I had a chance to explore pretty much everything Chaos Wastes have to offer, so if you're curious how all of this madness translates into actual gameplay, as well as how the rogue-lite Expeditions compare to the dreaded Weaves, allow me to share my thoughts now that I've managed to finally scrub the smell of charred Beastmen off my clothes.

Video version of this preview (~13 minutes)

The way the new Expeditions game mode works is very simple. You start with an unfinished map of the Chaos Wastes detailing some of the immediate threats you'll encounter and what sort of benefits you'll receive should you manage to best them. After a brief round of voting, you and your party will select one of the paths and get sent into what is essentially a mini Vermintide 2 adventure. Once you complete it you will be granted the aforementioned prizes, and then do another round of voting to decide on which path to take next.

Naturally, things do get a bit more complicated as certain areas will be harder than others, but also offer much greater rewards. This goes doubly so for areas that are under the gaze of a specific Chaos god as these will have considerable negative modifiers you'll need to contend with. For example, Khorne will either make certain enemies explode shortly after death or summon fast-moving blood tornadoes to disrupt your team.

The deadliest of modifiers I ran into was the one where Tzeentch spawned numerous crystalline eggs throughout the level, eggs that would spawn a very, very angry boss if left unchecked. Unfortunately for you, there is no way to know when the eggs will become active, so at some point during the level you'll just get a warning that you have about a minute to push through wave after wave of Norsemen in order to prevent a certain catastrophe. Quite stressful to be sure, but also a nice way to occasionally mix up the usual flow of a level.

Vermintide 2: Chaos Wastes screenshot of a Tzeentch egg

Thankfully, the eggs crack really well when you bonk them with a spikey mace

Speaking of which, Expeditions also make things a bit more interesting by essentially stripping away all gear from you and leaving you with only the very basics. In order to power up you'll need to scour the levels and pick up as many Pilgrim’s Coins as you can since this will be your main currency throughout the Chaos Wastes. And don't worry about ninja looting - the coins are given to everyone equally!

These coins can then be used in either shrines on the world map that function as shops, or in numerous altars you'll find throughout the levels. Both of these will give you the ability to either slightly upgrade your current weapon or purchase a random weapon of a much higher quality, or more excitingly, buy some additional talents. These talents can range from familiar things like class-specific traits you haven't picked up to ultra-powerful effects like an enchantment that makes you go berserk whenever you score multiple headshots in a row.

You can also activate special challenge chests found throughout the levels in order to fight a boss and their entourage, with the end reward being a choice between three talents! However, even if you hit every single chest you find, the sheer amount of upgrades and the fact that your characters reset between each Expedition means that you will have to think on the fly and try to create builds that are outside your usual comfort zone. After all, this is a rogue-lite mode, so randomness is the name of the game!

Vermintide 2 Chaos Wastes screenshot of the new Expedition system

The harder the level, the juicer the rewards!

Since one of my favorite things in a rogue-like game is concocting a build that uses a bunch of strange interactions to create something monstrously overpowered, I'm pleased to report that despite all the randomness I've managed to achieve this lofty goal a few times during my travels throughout the Chaos Wastes. My favorite of these builds revolved around a talent that lets me duplicate a random item whenever I use my ultimate, a talent that reduces my ultimate cooldown whenever I avoid damage, and a talent that lets me recharge my ultimate whenever I burn an enemy as Sienna, all topped off with a humble lifesteal potion.

The end result, as you might imagine, was so much carnage that even Khorne would flinch! I would use my ultimate to burn down a few dozen rats, chug a lifesteal potion which would essentially render me invincible thanks to the constant burn damage, and then wildly spam my abilities in order to rack up even more fire damage and refresh my ultimate as quickly as possible. Then once that was back I'd explode some more rats, chug some more potions, and basically just bulldoze my way through literally anything Chaos Wastes could throw at me. It was ridiculous, it was horribly unfair for the poor ratties, and I loved absolutely every second of it!

Vermintide 2 Winds of Magic Sienna on fire

This is pretty much how I felt!

Naturally, you can't expect every single run to go this swimmingly. In fact, expect quite a difficulty spike compared to normal Vermintide 2 as some of the later levels can have nearly endless swarms of rats thrown at you, more so than even the notorious pre-nerf version of Engines of War.

While I consider this to be a positive thing, especially since the increased difficulty is accompanied by increased player power, there is one major problem - you won't be able to do higher difficulty Expeditions with bots. They are simply ill-equipped to deal with the endless stream of enemies that will surround them on all sides, and even if they do manage to survive, they'll likely run face-first into an exploding skull during Khorne-influenced events and die immediately anyway.

So if you are planning to make Expeditions your focus, I'd highly recommend doing so alongside friends, or at very least random players you find online. But if you truly want to channel your inner Kerillian and do things on your own, Veteran or Champion difficulty is probably what you should stick to. This will still give you a nice challenge as you'll need to do most of the work yourself, but without some of the irritation that comes with having to rescue the bots time and time again.

Vermintide 2 Chaos Wastes screenshot of the AI falling over

The AI konga line of doom is 'alive' and well in Expeditions

Chasing the bots around wasn't all in vain, however, as it did give me ample opportunity to explore the fifteen new levels. While none of them are as big as the stuff you'll see in the standard Vermintide 2 campaign, they are all well crafted and full of little details. My personal favorite is the Chaos-twisted version of a snowy Norsca level where the mountains look like they have been smashed together, while the Chaos raiding ships are littered throughout the landscape as if some giant child had just grown tired of playing with them and thus simply chucked them away. So while they might not be 'proper' maps, they are still fun to run around in and provide a nice bit of variety.

Each of these maps will take you between ten and twenty minutes to finish, more or less depending on your difficulty setting, with each Expedition usually having you visit three to four levels before the finale. All in all, each Expedition took me about an hour to complete, which while significantly more than a standard Vermintide 2 map, still felt quite good as the challenge ramped up nicely as I went from level to level.

What I didn't find quite as enticing were the rewards. After struggling for an hour and barely inching my way to victory, I was rewarded with two Emperor-grade chests and a pat on the back. While certainly better than a Gutter Runner to the face, I can't help but feel like this is a missed opportunity. The beautiful Weave weapons are already created and present in-game, so why not repurpose those and give Expeditions a bit of extra flare?

However, I've only had access to a preview build and the in-game shop was closed throughout all of it. As such, I cannot with 100% certainty say that there will be no non-portrait cosmetic rewards present in the Chaos Wastes. So for now take all of this with a grain of salt, though don't be too surprised if it ends up being correct. Fatshark sadly has a bit of a habit with skimping out on shiny rewards for new content.

Vermintide 2: Chaos Wastes screenshot of a bizarre location in Norsca

That's not something you see every day!

Besides the free Chaos Wastes expansion, April 20th will also bring with it a brand new weapon DLC - Forgotten Relics. As is tradition, there will be five weapons in total to play around with, one reserved for each of the heroes.

Bardin is getting the mighty Trollhammer Torpedo which is about as obscenely powerful as it sounds. It deals a great deal of impact damage, its explosions decimate everything in the blast zone, and it looks pretty snazzy to boot! The only downside is that it has very, very limited ammo, so make sure you're actually using it to hunt Trolls rather than farm kills on Clanrats!

Kerillian is getting the Moonfire Bow which doesn't use standard ammunition, but rather energy that regenerates when you're not shooting. The Moonfire Bow deals a considerable amount of damage on direct hits, though the obvious draw is the fact that it also sets the target and everyone around them on fire! A nice alternative to the Hagbane bow and pretty good fun to use, especially on the Waystalker since you can double your shots!

Vermintide 2 screenshot of Kerillian's Moonfire Bow from Chaos Wastes

The moon-dust is really pretty and it also sets everything on fire. Win-win!

Sienna is getting the Coruscation Staff which not only deals a great deal of fire damage in a large circle, but also leaves behind a patch of burning ground for a long period of time. It essentially functions as an alternative to the Conflagration Staff that trades raw damage for area denial and damage-over-time potential. It's a bit tricky to use, but once you figure out how to create an impromptu chokepoint its usefulness really starts to shine.

Saltzpyre is getting the Griffonfoot Pistols which are probably the most ridiculous weapon I've ever seen in my life. They're essentially a bandoleer of three-barreled shotguns that can wreak havoc to anything unarmored in front of you. This also includes your allies, so you might want to watch out where you shoot!

Kruber is getting a spear & shield combo which is honestly a bit disappointing since it's exactly what it sounds like. You have a pokey stick and you poke people with it. Highly useful, especially since you can poke while holding up your block by using alt-fire, yet nowhere near as exciting as a Trollhamer Torpedo or a staff that sets literally everything on fire! An unfortunate miss in an otherwise awesome pack of weapons.

Vermintide 2 Chaos Wastes screenshot of Kruber's Spear and Shield

It's an awesome pokey stick, but sadly it's still just a stick

Closing Thoughts

After playing it religiously for the past few days, I have to say that the I'm more than pleased with the Chaos Wastes. Even if you ignore the paid DLC and focus purely on the free stuff, there is still enough interesting new ideas present to make Vermintide 2 feel fresh and exciting once again, even for an old veteran like me.

If Fatshark can keep updating the Expeditions with new content and mutators, ideally alongside some proper rewards as well, I can definitely see Expeditions becoming the seasonal game mode Weaves tried so hard at being. But even if this is all we get, it's still a good time and well worth the low, low price of free!