Warhammer: Vermintide 2 screenshot of Sienna the Bright Wizard burning her enemies

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is set to arrive in a mere few days, bringing with it three new specializations for all of our heroes, a whole host of new enemies to endlessly slaughter, as well as a variety of new maps to comb over for secrets. Perhaps most importantly, it will also bring with it the same emphasis on teamwork and player skill as the original!

A little while ago I had a chance to try out a very early demo which left me highly optimistic, albeit slightly worried about a couple of issues. Now that I've managed to get a good chunk of hours into the much more modern and complete Closed Beta, however, I am delighted to say that I'm even more eager to get my hands on the final version, though I must admit I'm not exactly thrilled to see some of the long-standing problems still alive and kicking.

So if you're interested in seeing what Vermintide 2 is all about, and what exactly I feel is still in need of changing, allow me to give you my thoughts after spending a considerable amount of time with the Closed Beta.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 screenshot of Kerillian's Shade specialization

The enemies may be different, but the combat is still superb

I found the combat to be extremely solid even in the earliest demo, so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to hear that it has remained extremely solid in the Closed Beta as well. Much like how it worked in the original Vermintide, it's all about teamwork and knowing when to strike, dodge or block. All of these are simple and easy to understand mechanics, but the ability to use them to their full potential is something that will likely take you dozens of hours to master. Combine this with weapons that feel really meaty to swing and enemies that split apart with every impact, and you've got yourself a combat system that somehow lets you feel like a demigod while simultaneously punishing all of your mistakes with utterly merciless efficiency.

My goal 'walking' into the Closed Beta was to try out all of the new specializations as they each offer a unique twist on the gameplay, but unfortunately due to the leveling restrictions I only had the time to unlock a couple of them. I can understand why it takes a little bit of time to unlock new specializations, after all the developers want people to learn how to play the game before getting overwhelmed with options, but having to unlock every single one of them individually is a bit excessive. It's probably too late to change now, but it would be nice if you could use your main character to help level up the rest, so that way you don't have to play around in the lower difficulties if you don't want to.

That complaint aside, the new specializations really are a nice addition since they offer drastically different playstyles within the same hero. For example, Kerillian's Waystalker specialization turns her into a ranged powerhouse that is insanely difficult to bring down, the Handmaiden gives her the ability to stand toe-to-toe with hordes of ratmen without flinching, while the Shade career forsakes defense for absolutely insane burst damage.

They all use the same mechanics and share a lot of the same weapons, but I still found them to be vastly different when it comes to playstyle, and that is a very good thing indeed. There are still some balance issues here and there, but once those are resolved the specializations and their various combinations are going to be an excellent tool for keeping Vermintide 2's combat fresh and interesting for months and months to come.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 screenshot of the Skaven Warpfire Thrower

It also helps that the enemies have now brought out the really big guns!

During the previous demo I only had a chance to fight against a couple of the new enemies, while this time around I'm pretty sure I saw the vast majority of them. Like before, I am extremely pleased with their addition as they don't change the core gameplay in any major way, but rather add new and interesting challenges to overcome. This goes doubly so for all of the special enemies as they greatly compliment the ones from the original Vermintide. The poor ol' Packmaster is easy to deal with nowadays, but mix him in with a couple of Warpstorm Sorcerers that throw the team around and suddenly he's back to being as threatening as he was during the early days of the original!

Because of all the new additions there is a bit of an increase in difficulty, but it very rarely feels unfair so I can't complain too much. That said, I can still complain a little, mostly about how often the damnable sorcerers can teleport around! I can only imagine this is a bug, but in the Closed Beta the Warpstorm Sorcerer has an annoying habit of starting up his big spell and then simply vanishing to safety. So instead of being able to shoot his stupid face off and cancel the spell, my whole team would frequently get stuck spinning around in the air until the sorcerer finally decided we had enough and came back. Somewhat hilarious if you're not the one caught in the vortex, but still something I would like to see fixed by the time the launch date rolls around.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 screenshot of the leech enemy

The fatties are great enemies, but they need to grow a spine and stop running away!

In terms of visuals Vermintide 2 is a marked improvement over the original, though as I mentioned even in my earliest preview, the raw graphical fidelity isn't comparable to most modern AAA games. That might be an issue to some, but I personally don't mind since Vermintide 2's art direction and atmosphere are what carries the whole experience, not the quality of the rock textures. After all, if slightly muddy textures are the price I have to pay to roam around a rather faithful recreation of the Warhammer world, I'd say that's a price worth paying.

Unfortunately, the lighting issue I noted in the previous demo has returned with a vengeance. One would expect enemies to be easily seen in a brightly lit field in the middle of the day, but in Vermintide 2 the more light sources there are on screen the darker the game becomes. As you'll see in the screenshot below, areas can become almost pitch black despite everything around them being bathed in glorious sunlight. Not exactly ideal given that Vermintide 2 lets you play as a Bright Wizard - an entire class based around fire effects!

Out of all the problems I've mentioned so far, and ones that are still coming up, this is by far the biggest and most annoying one. I can only hope the developers will give us the ability to disable the whole light compensation system altogether, because being able to actually see who you're fighting tends to be kinda important in games that revolve around precise timing.

Warhammer Vermintide 2 screenshot of the HDR lighting problem

The Sun is shining yet this random part of the map is shrouded in pure darkness

As for the map design itself, it's great to see that it has continued on with Vermintide's best qualities. In other words, all of the maps I've seen so far are open enough to encourage exploration and the search for extra consumables, but tight enough to keep things moving at a decent pace. That last part might not sound like a big deal, but given how large the maps are it is truly important to keep the players constantly moving forward, always changing the battlefield in order to prevent things from becoming stale.

Given the size of the maps I was slightly worried there were going to be performance issues throughout the whole Closed Beta, but thankfully that was not the case. Outside of ridiculously large enemy hordes I've rarely dipped below 60 FPS, which considering I was playing with everything on Extreme is quite an admirable feat. Besides the aforementioned hordes, the only other time I encountered FPS drops is while staring at fires in the Helmgart map. I can only imagine this is related to the lighting issue I mentioned before since there is no reason a couple of fires should be more taxing on my system than surveying an absolutely massive city all at once. I've seen other people report the same issue as well, so chances are the developers will be able to sort it out by the time Vermintide 2 launches, or at the very least reduce the amount of fires in the starting area.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 screenshot of Helmgart's Temple of Sigmar

Helmgart has some impressive visuals, so hopefully the FPS drops will soon be resolved

The final thing worth mentioning is that the newly reworked loot system is seemingly well done, albeit a bit of a mess. Much like how it worked in the original, you gain better loot at the end of the map depending on how many secret items you picked up, what difficulty you played on, and how many of your teammates were left alive. This was and still is a great system, but Vermintide 2 has managed to further improve it by putting all of the items inside of a loot box which can then be opened on any character in order to receive items tailored to them alone. And don't worry, you cannot buy these loot boxes in any way, not even with in-game currency! If you want more loot you'll have to earn it the same way as everyone else: by successfully hacking and slashing your way through a whole menagerie of Chaos Warriors and ratmen.

While I don't have an issue with how the loot is distributed, I do have a massive problem with trying to figure out what exactly each item does. The original Vermintide had some fairly lackluster item descriptions, so I was hoping that Vermintide 2 will take inspiration from community mods and improve upon the system, but unfortunately that's not the case. If anything, Vermintide 2 has managed to regress even further as the only thing you see is a couple of bonus attributes and the bland "Hero Power". There is no information on the attack speed or damage of your weapon, which attacks breaks armor and which simply tickle enemies, how much range a weapon has and whether it cleaves through multiple opponents, and the list goes on. It also doesn't help that most items have either identical or similar icons so it's damn near impossible to tell them apart at a glance, thus further adding to the chaos that is the inventory system.

Right now it's probably too late to fix, but hopefully this is going to be addressed in the first major patch because messing around with vast quantities of loot is one of the most enjoyable parts of an RPG, and as such it should never be this tedious or confusing. On the positive side, these issues only appear while you're safe and sound within your private castle, so while they are truly annoying, they won't do much harm to the actual gameplay.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 screenshot of the lacking item descriptions

So, which one is better?

Closing Thoughts

All that I've seen throughout this Closed Beta has further cemented my opinion that Vermintide 2 is going to be an excellent sequel. It might not shake the world's foundations with its originally, but it successfully manages to improve upon the already enjoyable Vermintide formula in nearly every way, and that alone is more than enough in my eyes. Naturally, there are still some noticeable flaws that will need to be ironed out, but despite their presence I am currently eagerly awaiting March 8th so I can finally get my hands on the full version!