A Look at Warhammer: Vermintide 2 – Chaos Wastes

I was quite excited to hear that content was still coming for Warhammer: Vermintide 2, since Fatshark, the developers for the still popular title, could have easily dropped support to focus solely on Warhammer 40,000: Darktide, their next cooperative first-person action game set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Vermintide 2 is one of those titles inspired by the popularity of Left 4 Dead, but one of the few where I feel it holds up well to Valve’s great zombie game, even surpassing certain elements of it. Since its release back in March of 2018, the game has received plenty of paid updates adding new maps, weapons, classes, modes, and even a new enemy race to fight. Now Fatshark are dropping a new update to the game on April 20th, 2021, called Chaos Waste, a free update that brings with it a new mode inspired by the growing popularity of rogue-lites. I simply had to check this out to see what this free mode brings to the already content filled game.

Access to this new mode is situated to the right of the central area of the hub. Chaos Wastes has its own section where in the middle of the room sits a map to initiate a session. This mode is once again for up to four players, with AI bots taking over if the player count is less. One important thing to note is that Chaos Wastes is taken as a new experience compared to the game’s campaign or its Weaves mode. What this means is that equipment from characters does not carry over into this mode, as each start of Chaos Wastes gives the characters a base starting weapon that will switch and improve over the course of a session. The main thing that matters is the talent trees, as these are still active in the new mode so having characters levelled up enough to access the top talents will be beneficial, especially when trying Legend or higher difficulties.

The lore behind Chaos Wastes is that The Citadel of Eternity is a place most have only heard of through rumours. It is said to be located in a region influenced by the Chaos Gods. Many warriors have tried to make the pilgrimage to the Citadel of Eternity, so now the route is littered with the remains and possessions of those who have attempted the journey before, meaning free loot for all to pick up as progression is made towards reaching The Citadel of Eternity.

A session (expedition as the game calls it) involves trying to get from left to right of the map through a series of levels that join together to make a pathway to the end. These levels are smaller than the standard campaign missions, so 15 unique locations have been used to build up content here, some completely fresh and others looking familiar to already existing themes in the game’s campaign. Each expedition of Chaos Wastes is filled randomly from this 15 location pool, with each one having modifiers that alter how the level will be populated, and will probably take between 45-60 minutes to beat depending on the route taken. The game does occasionally offer a fork in its pathway that enables the player to pick from two different levels to progress forward, allowing slight choices to the outcome. This is important because each level feeds the player information about its content. It will inform the player what race are within (Skaven, Chaos, Beastmen), modifications to the level and what rewards are handed out for beating it.

To give an example, one level, dubbed “The Foetid Gorge” was filled with Skaven and Chaos and had less amount of Elite monsters spawning, but instead the spawning of special monsters was increased. The reward for beating this level was 5% extra movement speed, which sticks with the party members all the way until death or until the expedition has been completed by reaching the end of the map and beating the final level to earn all the rewards, which is often a few chests to open up that will give you more gear to equip in the main game. On top of those level mods, a curse might also be applied by one of the Chaos Gods to make things more challenging and require a slight change to your gameplay tactics. Cursed by Nurgle’s Misasma of Pestilence was one I saw a couple of times that made the party require to be close together with a protective dome created by the purifying torch. A player must continue to carry this to the end otherwise the poisonous area will give increased curse effect which shrinks down the health bar. Curse of Tzeentch’s Crystal Egg is another that spawns eggs into the level that must be destroyed before the timer reaches zero otherwise a boss monster will spawn.

By the time the ending is near the team should have improved their gear and gained many buffs along the way. The core to success in the Chaos Wastes is not only gaining the buffs for beating levels, but managing the Pilgrim’s Coins collected along the way. These coins are found scattered in boxes and are used to purchase new weapons at the altars within the levels. Weapons get better the further the level is on the map towards the right, and so rarity and power increases, past the campaign’s maximum 300 power to more than double that strength. The altar will only give the player information on the power and rarity of the weapon and if it is range or melee, but not what the weapon actually is, so if one does not like Bardin’s throwing axes and you get it, well it’s tough until you find another altar that offers a replacement weapon type.

Additional mechanics are in play to gain more buffs for the expedition. A big one is the large variety of new potions scattered all over the place. Some have serious fun benefits – who doesn’t love throwing unlimited bombs for a short period of time, gaining life steal or having extra push back. Another way to acquire buffs is through the Chest of Trials, which will spawn a boss monster when activated. Defeat the boss and a buff can be gained from it. Another is that on the map there is often a path to an uncorrupted shrine that will exchange Pilgim’s Coins for additional buffs or traits in the form of Miracles and Boons, the latter also features as an altar in levels that can be purchased with the same coins. Miracles are usually level based modifiers – gaining 50% more Pilgrim’s Coins in the next level at the cost of taking 20% more damage or Elites and Specials have a chance to drop pickups on death. Boons are permanent and could offer something like enemies exploding after killing, auto parry on block (fantastic boon for those pesky frenzied rats), 15 seconds health generation after reviving a team mate, or tagging enemies increases attack speed.

Not much is carried on for another expedition apart from a percentage of Pilgrim’s Coins, which helps the player buy more boons and gear earlier on within a new expedition. The reward for beating an expedition is not all that exciting – it’s just a chest to gain more gear for your character – but the experience itself is a blast, and the constant evolving twists to the gameplay through the level modifications keeps it exciting. What’s more, the way it has been built means the developers can easily throw in a few more boons, curses, potions, and miracles into the mixture to give the mode more longevity.

Chaos Wastes inserts itself into Vermintide 2 as a great fun supplement to the rest of the game’s content. The solid foundations of the main game’s co-op survival gameplay, its melee combat and enemy design merge well with the rogue-lite elements. It might not be the most randomly procedurally generated rogue-lite content on the market – I did see a few similar modifications on maps repeat – but the mode is well built and supplies plenty of entertainment and challenge when going for those higher difficulty runs. It spices up the Vermintide 2 gameplay with its randomness and new buffs and potions. It has the addictiveness to be a mode that will always have a portion of the fans playing it.

This download could have easily been paid content, but the developers have decided to give it to the players for free, which is generous of them due to the size of the content here – you can get a few hours from this mode. There is another launch on the say day as Chaos Wastes, the Forgotten Relics DLC, a pack of five new weapons (one for each of the heroes), The Trollhammer Torpedo for Bardin, a new Spear & Shield for Kruber, a Moonfire Bow for Kerillian, the Griffonfoot Pistol for Saltzpyre, and the Coruscation Staff for Sienna, that will be paid DLC, so that is probably making up for the free release of Chaos Wastes.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2 – Chaos Wastes is out 20th April 2021 and costs nothing but a bit of internet bandwidth to download.