The fact that we've spent almost 500 hours slaughtering rats in Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is a fairly clear sign that Fatshark's hit game has entertained us most royally. We've already had some fresh content in the form of DLC and new levels. Now the studio has shown off Winds of Magic for the first time, an upcoming expansion which is crammed with new weapons, enemies and game modes. And so we visited Fatshark's HQ to get an early look at the expansion and talk a little with the developers.
Winds of Magic is without a doubt the biggest addition we've seen to Vermintide 2 and the title reflects what's on the horizon. Anyone who knows their Warhammer lore will certainly rub their hands in glee because there is certainly a lot to look forward to. Fatshark CEO Martin Wahlund explained that "we have already released two DLC packages and where the focus has been more on an adventure with new levels, new enemies, new weapons, and so on. Now we have Winds of Magic, which is a new game mode. Closest we can compare it to is Diablo III's Greater Rifts, but we have our own version of it."
Winds of Magic is a new game mode and it's one that has almost infinite replay value, and straight away it becomes clear that this is going to be a perfect fit for Vermintide 2. Throwing yourself into challenges with three equally hot-headed friends in order to slay hordes of enemies, well, there aren't many better ways of spending your time if you ask us, and this expansion is going to introduce new elements to keep that routine feeling fresh. The different 'winds' in Warhammer represent various magic types, and each has its own colour. That being the case, there are eight different magical winds in total, and they define the challenges the Vermintide 2 heroes will face.
The winds significantly change the atmosphere of the levels, in fact, they change things to such a degree that at times it's hard to tell it's actually the same area seen differently. The eight winds are: Light, Metal, Life, Heavens, Shadows, Death, Fire and Beasts. The ones we saw playable were Metal and Life and they were distinctly different. Metal filled the game with a harsher atmosphere accentuated by lead and gold colouring, while Life felt more like a dreamy fantasy forest. The levels included in the new game mode are considerably smaller than those we're used to seeing in the base game, however, and they consist of a mix of old and new environments.
The older levels that are utilised work more like mini-versions of the originals. Instead of moving the heroes from point A to B, a certain goal must be achieved instead. This might mean there's an area that has to be defended until the final challenge appears, although this setup can also mean spending a lot of time killing enemies that have little to do with the actual objective, and it's key that players work together and have an understanding of what should be prioritised. Exactly how many challenges the new game mode will contain isn't quite decided yet, but there will be a lot of them according to Fatshark.
In Winds of Magic, the studio is also adding a new enemy type, the Beastmen, which have emerged from Reikwald forest after a meteor crash. Like the other enemy factions, they come in different shapes and sizes and each class fights in their own unique way. This includes beasts with horns that literally charge headfirst into battle, which definitely brings a different tempo to the combat compared to, for example, the Skaven. They also use spears and crossbows, which will make the distance between hero and foe different from what we're used to seeing.
"The big thing that the Beastmen add to the general gameplay of Vermintide 2 is the way they toss themselves into combat and by doing so interrupt the players," game designer Mats Andersson told us. "That also makes us move the rest of the enemies back a bit, in comparison to how the rest of the badges worked inside the game. It's a small change technically, for us, but it impacts the game in a huge way."
In the demo we got to play, a goatman came at us with full force and threw both our character and the other enemies in-between us around like ragdolls. This took us out of the fight very effectively and we had to regroup at a new point on the battlefield. We reckon this change will only add to the overall gameplay, and the Beastmen should be a superb addition to Skaven and Chaos Warriors.
Besides the brand new game mode in Winds of Magic and the very angry Beastmen that we'll be fighting, the expansion also comes with a lot of other new features. One example is the weapons, as every playable character has a new one and Andersson was particularly excited when he was showing off Bardin's new throwing axe. Of course, there is something incredibly satisfying about throwing an axe at an enemy, then running over to the fallen beast to pick it up so you can throw it at the next enemy to cross your path.
The other new weapon types include Kerillian finally getting a shield, Kruber getting a spear, Saltzpyre will be able to wield a billhook (and he'll be able to use it to pull enemies towards him), and Sienna is getting a burning flail (or slaga, if you prefer). More weapon types obviously mean greater opportunities for different characters to fill specific roles and complement each other in more ways than before.
There's also a new maximum level for increased progression (exactly what the new max level will be was not decided at the time of our visit) and new difficulty settings, as well as leaderboards for the challenges included as part of Winds of Magic. Just as with the max level, Fatshark has not fully determined how the new difficulties will work, and how they will affect the experience, but it is something that they are constantly working on during development.
Based on what we saw it seems that Winds of Magic will add a lot of replay value to Warhammer: Vermintide 2 as well as plenty of challenge, and competing against friends and others on different leaderboards and constantly improving how you face a certain challenge sounds like a lot of fun. It's also impressive to see just how much the different winds can affect a level from an aesthetic point of view. This expansion seems to be packed with content and it could well cause us to spend another 500 hours in the Warhammer world, but when that will be we can't say for sure. Right now there's no set release date, but when we asked Martin Wahlund if he could confirm 2019 he told us that the studio is aiming for the summer.