Warhammer: Vermintide 2 Shadows Over Bögenhafen

Shadows Over Bögenhafen is the new Downloadable Content (DLC) available for Warhammer: Vermintide 2 which came out more than a month ago. I stumbled across it when I saw a sale for the base game in my steam feed. Since I enjoyed the base game and the asking price (equivalent of $10) was reasonable I thought why not and bought it.

For a review of the base game you can go here, but suffice to say that the DLC doesn’t change the basic gameplay. It remains a co-op horde survival game with an emphasis on melee, an interesting loot and crafting system as well as plenty of character. I loved it the first time around and I still do. What the DLC itself adds are a couple of things that in hindsight should have been included before as well as a mini campaign.

The mini campaign takes place in the city of Bögenhafen where a powerful chaos artifact named the Blightreaper had been locked for safekeeping. When the Skaven and their Norscan allies, the Rotbloods, attack the city in order to take possession of the artifact, its up to the Ubersreik Five to stop them.

The mini campaign itself consists of two maps, each a sprawling district of the city. You start in the piers and go through the poor district before crossing over to the main city, traveling through the sewers and emerging into the upper levels. The map design itself feels a tad sloppy compared to the expertly crafted maps of the base game. I often found myself at dead ends forced to backtrack or going in circles. Another element that distinguishes these maps is visibility. In each map there is a part where due to circumstances (smoke or lack of light) visibility drops nearly to zero, making it harder to see incoming enemies or rely on ranged weapons. In particular the second map where in the first half you wade through pitch black sewers, forced to carry a torch which further diminishes your offensive and defensive capabilities.

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Enemy wise, its still the same deal. You have squishy hordes, tough elite enemies and bosses which can easily demolish a party if spawned in a tight claustrophobic room, which happens from time to time. In regards to the boss spawns, it seems like it was tweaked as in many maps I found myself fighting two bosses, sometimes even three.

Graphics still look gorgeous and the new maps have great visuals. Magnificent sky boxes, excellent lighting, sweeping vistas all contrasted by the grim mire of the unplanned urban sprawl and unkempt sewers. Echoing my words from the previous review, the art team has really gave it its all and it shows.

That said, the mini campaign only adds about an hour of gameplay in total. Thankfully, Fatshark, the game’s developers, were smart enough not to divide the community and allow all players to play the new maps in Quick Play mode. I also found out that you can select the new maps and play them even if the rest of your party doesn’t own the DLC, which is neat. Props where due.

The second major addition is Okri’s Challenges. An addition to the game that tracks and rewards players. There are 207 challenges in total, some as easy as finishing the campaign, leveling a character or killing a boss. Others require completing an insane number of missions on hard difficulty or killing a certain enemy in a certain way. Each challenge unlocks a reward, either cosmetic or a high level chest which will probably contain powerful gear. By the way Electronic Arts, this is how you instill in your playerbase a sense of accomplishment and pride. The fact that the cosmetic items cannot be bought and must be earned is really a throwback to better times in gaming when character appearances denoted skill.

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Like I said, this is something I feel should have been in the base game at launch. The fact however, that it was added with the DLC and even given access to the entire playerbase is commendable. It gives better purpose to grinding, as in the past it was just for better loot and completion’s sake (i.e. complete the game in every difficulty). It also helps retain players’ interest far better and incentivizes playing different characters and builds, something that was surely lacking before. This is evident in that fact that even though my main is Kerillian, I’ve been playing other characters in an attempt to level them up and complete challenges.

Another tool to help keep players’ engagement is the daily and weekly challenges. Daily challenges are available to all players while weekly ones are only available to DLC owners. The daily challenges often involve slaying 3 monsters as a party, or gathering 3 tomes or grimoires and so forth. They can be usually done under an hour with a full party or up to a couple of hours of solo play. They often reward the players with a valuable chest, thus helping weaker players gain good gear. The missions themselves reset at midnight GMT time. The weekly missions reward players with cosmetics chests (either weapon or character) and take significant more time. By myself it took around six to eight hours to complete the objectives. That said, since they reset only once a week, players have more time to finish them and once more, with a group they take significantly less time to clear.

This leads me to the final addition to the game, cosmetics. Though there were some alternate costumes before, the new DLC added a slew of them. A lot of them can be unlocked via challenges as stated before, each an indication of an accomplishments. Other varieties can be found in the Bögenhafen chests that are given by the weekly challenges. This includes hats, outfits and portrait frames. Also expanded upon were the weapon skins (also known as illusions) with new ones added. Whats more, now new weapons skins can be obtained via the same Bögenhafen chests. Thankfully, you can transfer weapon skins between weapons due to the game’s crafting system (thus you don’t feel like you wasted them, unlike another certain game *cough* Destiny 2 *cough*). Overall though, I found this aspect of the DLC the least interesting for me because the original look of the characters was already great (again, much credit goes to the art team) and I usually don’t bother much with character customization.

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Overall, the new DLC injects new vigor in the game. Thanks to it I’ve gone back to playing Warhammer: Vermintide 2 regularly and so have some of my friends. The fact that I still grind day in and day out so long after completing the main stories is both a testament to the game’s strength and the DLC’s additions.

If you can afford to buy the DLC, I highly recommend it, and even if you can’t, I suggest going back to Warhammer: Vermintide 2 to check on the free updates. I guarantee you’ll get hooked back.