I believe that a lot of expert craftsmanship and attention to detail went into the design behind this new content, and I absolutely adore it. The Beastmen are fantastic, and the absolute best addition they have ever made to the game. I feel people aren’t talking enough about how amazing it is to have an entirely new enemy faction post launch, that provides interesting dynamics and new engaging tactics. I feel overall this expansion is a good step forward for the game, but criticism should be made as well.
The animations, voice acting, and mechanical uniqueness of the Beastmen make them stand out from the other enemies to me, and I greatly appreciate that they provide unique challenges to the game. I love how the Ungors dodge, duck and weave around their allies and display some rather intelligent behaviour, I love the tribal bestial fighting style of the Gors, and how they go all in and fight dirty, kicking, punching and ramming.
The Banners provide a really fun new counter dynamic, and are a really unique special unit that encourages teamwork and counter play, very different from any other special in the game. Bestigors are a really fun elite to fight against, and the Minotaurs design is gorgeous (I do feel the turning animations to hit players behind it needs tuning however). Archers are probably my favourite addition enemy wise, as they add an entirely new gameplay dynamic. They are vulnerable to attacks, but simply by being a good distance away, and the risk of the heavy damage of arrows, they require another form of counter play. They provide a use for high clip, medium ranged weapons, which is fantastic, as those weapons previously struggled to find use other the specialized special snipers.
I would love to see the archers and other special Beastmen units integrated into the spawning systems of the Chaos and Skaven factions, to shake up the challenges aimed at the player, or even cooler, more low tier ranged enemies, such as axe throwing Norscan, to supplement the new gameplay dynamic.
The only thing I’m rather sad about is that there isn’t a huge variety of elites and specials, but I can understand that to some extent, considering the Skaven had two games to get new units, and their unit variety is fairly comparable to the Chaos faction.
I love that the hordes are primarily composed of the tougher Gors, having a faction that provides menacing hordes is fantastic (I hate that for a long while, hordes were no threat and used for temp health).
I feel that making enemies overall tougher was the right call, before the update, it felt like the enemies lacked physical weight and were made of jello. They would split apart and die effortlessly on Legend, and didn’t feel like the real, fearsome fighters they were meant to be.
I’m sure more fine tuning will be done, but I love the idea of smarter enemies with improved reaction times, and having to carefully balance a usage of block, push and dodge is a lot more interesting than the originally overpowered dodge mechanic overwrought through the entire game. The stagger count system I feel adds another layer of mechanical depth to the game, and makes weapons that originally struggled to find use (for a very long time, people talked about how shields would never be good in a dodge meta), now are much more fun to use.
I am sad about some talents being removed, and feel some classes like Unchained and Ranger Veteran need some special fine tuning, but overall I am beginning to use different talent builds for the same class, depending on the weapon and playstyle, instead of merely having a must pick. I overall feel talents are moving in the right direction, and I’m enjoying delving into new builds, even if there are still some useless talents. I wouldn’t mind seeing the return of some old talents, or the creation of more unique playstyles in each class.
I really like the new stagger talents, because each has weapons that work extremely well with them (Smiter for single target, Bulwark for high stagger low damage, Mainstay for high damage high stagger, assassin for weapons like the Rapier and dual daggers), and they further enhance playstyles for every single class, making weapons that used to struggle more effective on classes they may not have originally used them.
World Design and Polish
I greatly appreciate the optimization to the game thus far, impressively making the game even smaller in file size despite the huge chunk of new content. I am unsure if a i7-4790K is beefy enough for this critique, but it does still feel like the game is unoptimized in regards to CPU performance, and I do hope that continues to improve. The option to manually adjust the soundscape is greatly appreciated for my virtual 7.1 headphones, since they didn’t work effectively in a stereo setting.
The new Dark Omen map is absolutely stunning, and the amount of secrets integrated into it is extremely well done. The Weaves are absolutely beautiful, and it barely feels like I am on the same map, due to how visually distinct they are. The attention to visual detail, whether it be close up details, gorgeous skyboxes, or Beastmen marching on the horizon, are a real treat. There are still visual issues that have been in the game since launch, such as the low res arm models, strange looking face models (especially Kerrilian and Bardin), stone weapons, broken looking skin shader settings and awful looking third person animations, which I do hope could be eventually addressed at some point.
The attention to detail in voice acting, and sheer amount added to the game, is as impressive as always.
Five new weapons is huge to me, especially considering the single weapons included within the original’s dlc. I feel some further balancing should be done, but thematically I love all the weapons, and feel they add to each class in a compelling way.
I’m not entirely sold on the Weaves, I really enjoy Diablo 3’s endgame, and feel that aspiring to add an end game to Vermintide 2 is an admirable goal, but I feel the complete disconnect in progression, lack of variety or unpredictability (especially without the Horde AI), lack of interesting end game loot, the completely separated matchmaking which could potentially greatly divide the community, and the excessive grind, hinder this mode greatly.
A part of why Diablo 3’s end game is so compelling is you are taking the progression the character already has, and pushing it to even greater, more exciting heights. With end game legendaries, you get entirely new mechanical systems built in, that greatly enhance your power and scale you for more difficult challenges, which provide exciting loot at an extremely rapid (and ever increasing) pace. Properties on Legendaries can dramatically change the way skills work, and some basically act as hotkey spells by themselves. You get a constant feed of cosmetics, gameplay changing mechanics introduced, and uniquely randomised challenges, along with seamless matchmaking that isn’t divided and cut up.
The point of the season system in Diablo 3 was to keep a healthy playerbase, by allowing new players to join in with old ones, with the reset progression (one that has very little grind to get to max level), along with providing account wide incentives (that come back periodically and aren’t permanently time locked, one of the things I hate the most about online games, not everyone can play every single summer for two weeks straight to get time exclusive content), with all progress you make being permanent, linked back to your main characters.
I can’t begin to imagine the work that went into this system, but I feel in its current state, earning what we already gained, is incredibly unsatisfying, we may be unlocking it in a unique way (one that arguably should be integrated into the archaic crafting system in the main game), but we are earning the same talents, same properties, same weapons and same traits, with nothing unique to compel us. And we get no rewards in the main game (along with the fact the end game of Diablo 3 is a part of the main progression, not entirely separate). A very small chunk of experience to get the already unrewarding commendation chests is not compelling.
I strongly feel Weaves should be integrated into the main game in some way, perhaps they could be unique modifiers or maps you can randomly find while playing? Then your team has to decide whether the greater reward is worth the risk halfway through a map with dwindling resources and a greater challenge ahead. Finding rifts while playing certainly could be fun.
Or maybe take another page out of Diablo 3’s book, build a bounty system into the main games maps (quickplay as to not divide the playerbase), that unlock Weaves, greater challenges with the potential for exciting end game loot and cosmetics.
That improves the main game, making it much more exciting, whilst providing a consistent feedback loop that feeds into both modes. New gear for the main game, more access to Weaves.
Whatever solution is used, great consideration should be put into not dividing the matchmaking too much, nor splitting the playerbase.
Pre Set challenges and leaderboards are not the way to go, leaderboards rarely reward actual skill or engaging challenges (almost always either cheating or cheesing), and I personally have zero desire to compare myself to others in a PVE game. I love challenging myself, and would love to consider myself able to take the hardest tasks the game can offer, and I’ll be sure to try high end Weaves, but if it’s not fun, there is no point. Not tying the high end challenges into the main game or Cataclysm seems odd to me, a split playerbase won’t be able to try high end weaves.
Overall, I feel very satisfied with this content as of now, and absolutely love a lot of the new additions. I do feel people are being unfair, giving a game you spent five hundred hours playing, for less than a triple A title, that has so many amazing things going for it, a negative review that will dissuade other people from experiencing it seems unhelpful. I do feel review bombs are important, and they are an clear signifier that consumers need a better way to make their voices heard (as a previous employee of Valve has brought up), but I feel hurting the game overall in this case is rather unfair, especially since I feel so many changes are for the better.
I don’t want to go back to effortless easy legend, dodge spam and weightless, floaty enemies, I love teamplay, I love smart AI, I love in depth game mechanics, I feel the combat changes are for the better.
I do feel the Weave system and talents need work, I would love to see work done on the Beastmen spawning system to integrate them more seamlessly with the other enemy types, and there are issues of polish and visual presentation that I feel would be better off fixed (beardless Bardin is Umgak and unacceptable).
I would also like to mention how incredible the music in the expansion is! It is absolutely superb, and I want to hear it play more often in the normal game. The finale of dark omen was made far more exciting due to the excellent track, and I hope that song and others like it play more often, whether it be during terror events, setpieces, hordes or bosses, it’s a huge shame songs like it only play once in a very specific scenario, especially ones that are this high quality and beautifully put together.