Every multiplayer game needs a continuous helping of post-release content to thrive. The original Warhammer: Vermintide received a number of free updates that added and refined features, whereas new levels came as paid DLC. The same now applies to Warhammer: Vermintide 2, which has just received its first paid DLC: Shadows over Bogenhafen. For ten bucks, players get two highly replayable levels and cool new features. But game stability has taken a turn for the worse, a problem made worse by some of the main game’s peculiar design decisions.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2, you’ll recall, is a Left 4 Dead-style cooperative first-person action game in which a team of heroes struggles to ward of an impending apocalypse in the Warhammer fantasy universe. Replayability is integral to this style of game, since the whole game is built around teaming up with other players to complete missions and hunt for loot. Thus, new missions like the ones included in ‘Shadow over Bogenhafen’ are a big selling point.
Shadows over Bogenhafen includes the first two missions of a new campaign set within the sprawling city of Bogenhafen and surrounding areas. Neither of the new missions includes any new enemies or bosses, but they’re long, extremely replayable, and filled with memorable moments.
One highlight is a section in which the heroes must burn a poisoned food supply in a vast storehouse and then defend against a swarming hordes of monsters while they search for a means of escape. This section introduces a new mechanic in which players can board up windows to prevent enemies from coming through, just like the Zombies modes in the Call of Duty games. Other fun portions include a trip through a dark series of tunnels (which players to light torches in order to see) and a journey through Bogenhafen’s incredibly steep mountainside streets.
‘Shadows over Bogenhafen also introduces a new feature that bolsters the game’s overall Replayability: weekly quests. The base game already features daily quests, but weekly quests are exclusive to the DLC. Completing them requires a fair amount of dedication. Rewards include cosmetic gear and exclusive weapon skins. Steam reviewers seem to find the skins disappointing, but working towards completing weekly quests is still fun enough on its own. Separate from weekly quests, the DLC level-specific challenges ask players to do things like collect dozens of hidden bottles in a single run. These challenges are more tedious than fun.
The new DLC coincides with a free update that finally brings one of my long-requested features to the game: a voiceless communication system! PC players, obviously, have long been able to type messages to each other. Now console players can access a radial communications wheel by holding the button used for marking targets (Right Bumper on Xbox One). This makes marking targets slightly less convenient, but the trade-off is worth it.
These text shortcuts appear on the right side of the screen (away from where you’re likely to look during intense moments), so their implementation is less than perfect. Perhaps the developers could relocate them to a better spot or also have messages show up above player characters in addition to the periphery of the screen. Even as-is, a chat wheel is a step in the right direction.
Where Vermintide 2 fumbles with the recent update is stability. Both Vermintide games suffer from the terrible design decision to not support host migration, which means that when the host player quits a game or crashes, everyone is booted out of the game. Worse, when this happens, no one gets any experience or progress – the entire mission will have been wasted. And since the update and release of Shadows over Bogenhafen; crashes and disconnects are far more common than before. Out of five attempts at playing these two DLC levels, my team and I experienced broken connections three times. These missions last over 30 minutes, and the game crashed near the end of a mission – twice! That’s a lot of wasted time, and all because developer Fat Shark refuses to allow host migration or to reward players with partial progress upon broken connections.
Rating DLC like Shadows over Bogenhafen is difficult. On the one hand, the new levels are pretty good, and anyone who plays a lot of Vermintide 2 will want them. The weekly challenges are decent (though I wish they weren’t restricted to DLC purchasers) and the new textless communication system improves the overall game. But the worsening stability of the game itself that coincides with this DLC’s release is simply inexcusable. In a month or two, the game might be playable again. But right now, trying to play Shadows over Bogenhafen is going to waste a lot of players’ time. And Fat Shark seriously needs to find a way to make disconnects and crashes less punishing to players. The game and its players deserve better.
Shadow over Bogenhafen is available now for $9.99 on Xbox One and Steam and requires the player owns the base game. The base game Warhammer: Vermintide 2 sells for $29.99 on Xbox One and Steam. An Xbox One review code was provided by the publisher.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2 - Shadows Over Bogenhafen
- Two new and challenging levels
- Weekly challenges encourage greater replay
- At last, a voiceless communication system!
- Broken connections abound and waste players’ time
- Rewards for DLC-exclusive weekly quests and challenges are underwhelming
- No new enemies or bosses