Warhammer: Vermintide

VT2 – Swings vs. Attrition, or: Why the pacing of the game is all wrong

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It really baffles me how the gameplay morphs into something truly abominable as you unlock more talents and climb to higher difficulties in VT2 compared to VT1. In VT1 the game felt consistent from your first game 'til cata white rat. No matter what difficulty you were on or what your gear was. Sure, some trinkets could drastically change an aspect of gameplay, but not to the point of totally shifting the dynamic of how the game flows.

VT2 started off feeling very much like "Vermintide, but more of it", which is fine and I think exactly what most people wanted. However, the more I played and observed the more I notice a growing trend of games ending only two ways; a victory screen or an immediate wipe. In fact there's been practically no in-between since my first few games on normal.

In VT1 it was not uncommon to lose as a result of being worn down; taking too many avoidable pokes, missing too many special snipes, etc. On the other side of the coin, you would often get to a point where defeat felt right around the corner and then turn it around, recovering after multiple downs or deaths, picking up a heal at just the right time to save a grim holder from bleeding out, etc.

On the higher difficulty levels in VT2 with high level heroes using appropriate talents this never feels like the case to me. You end up with so many options for restoring health that attrition is not even consequential. It's still totally possible to lose – I'd go as far as to say Lord as it stands now will have a substantially higher failure rate than Cata – but it absolutely never feels like you lose due to mistakes adding up over time, because that is simply no longer possible. Your health bar is always full. It might be full with grey HP, but it's still full, and the "temporary" health does not trickle down nearly fast enough to ever feel temporary, even ignoring the myriad ways of getting back permanent health.

Instead of losing due to mistakes adding up over the course of a mission, you lose by making a few mistakes in a short period of time. This may seem like a small difference – you're still losing because you fu*ked up, so it's still fair, there were still things you could've done to avoid it, etc. – but in practice it effects the game's pacing so drastically that it kind of completely ruins it for me. You can be playing perfectly, everything is going great, and then things just immediately go to shit and you wipe. Or you can make a ton of mistakes all throughout the mission and still finish it just fine, because you never quite fu*ked up bad enough to lose, and you can immediately recover from those little mistakes no matter how frequent they are.

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I'm not saying this never happened in VT1, or that it's even necessarily a bad thing, it's just that in VT2 it happens more frequently and seems to really be the only way you ever lose. It's like Fatshark realized the healing talents made attrition meaningless and instead of fixing them they just said "Throw more shit at the players". This is an effective way of making the player die more, but in my opinion it is not an effective way of making the game more enjoyable.

The worst thing about it is that it completely kills the tension. When your party is low health and out of supplies in VT1, it feels tense. Death's knocking at the door and you're desperately searching for a window to crawl out of and hoping you can outrun him. Your next mistake could be the end of the run. Can you make it through the finale with a sliver of health left, are you going to reach the dead dwarf and rescue him before the rest of the party is wiped out? This tension is a big part of what made the game so enjoyable.

When you make it deep into a mission with most of your health bar intact and health items to spare, it's a very different kind of feeling — but still a good one. It means you've been playing well, and you know it. Finishing a mission when you know you played almost perfectly, or coming back from near defeat to pull through by the skin of your teeth, it's an excellent feeling either way.

I'm sorry to say I rarely feel that in VT2. When you can recover from all but the gravest mistakes without any real penalty, every encounter starts to feel meaningless. Yes, you could just get some bad spawns and make a few misplays and lose then and there, but there's no build up to it. You're just playing until you win or lose, and whether your health bar is green or grey doesn't matter. You are basically as likely to wipe if you've been taking damage the entire mission and bloodlusting it back as you are if you played perfectly and didn't get hit once. It's the opposite of the tension of being close to wiping in VT1, where every encounter felt more meaningful because there was the chance of defeat, but also the chance of pushing through and recovering from a bad spot. In 2 you are essentially in the same position no matter what until the moment you lose (or win) and it just makes the conclusion of every game feel anticlimactic to me.

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I know that was a lot of words I just typed, but I feel that a claim as big as "the pacing of the game is all wrong" demands an equally big explanation to back it up. Even if you disagree, I hope that you can understand where I'm coming from and tell me why I'm wrong and that the drastic shift is actually a good thing. As it stands I just don't see VT2 holding my attention for as long as the first game did without some drastic changes to the way health pool management is balanced.


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