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10/19/2017

"Warhammer: Vermintide 2" gameplay trailer is here! The hype is real!

Fatshark just dropped the brand new "Vermintide 2" trailer and it looks insanely good! Join me for a quick rundown and a wishlist from yours truly.


Now it's no big surprise that I love "Warhammer: Vermintide". I have more than 100 hours clocked in this game, bought every, single DLC and generally think that this is one of the better co-op titles, which arrived lately to PC's and consoles. Will its sequel be just as good, or even better?

First of all, the trailer showcases a completely new enemy in the sequel - the Northmen! Yes, Chaos comes to "Vermintide" in the form of Marauders and Chaos Warriors, dedicated to Nurgle! There will also be a Chaos Spawn mini-boss, akin to the Rat Ogres of Clan Fester. They will supposedly be able to grab the heroes, and throw them across the map. Awesome!

Chaos shall not be denied
Fans of the Skaven need not fret, since our murderous ratmen will also get new reinforcements. Stormfiends will bolster up the forces of the Under-Empire, and their array of terrible, death-dealing weapons will no doubt bring grief and tears to many a party of heroes. I'm personally still hoping for the Plague Monks to finally make their way into the game, as well as some Skryre snipers, armed with Warplock Jezzails. A man can dream, but Fatshark proved more than once, that they're able to deliver a truly fantastic content to their fans.

There will be also changes to our heroes. Sienna, Kruber, Saltzpyre, Karelian and Bardin are still fighting the good fight against the encroaching forces of the End Times, and... seems like they've decided not to let anyone else into their little club of misfits. Unfortunately that means no Warrior Priests, Shadow Warriors or Flagellants, at least for now. Fortunately Fatshark gave us a sort of bypass, for each of our heroes will be able to choose 3 unique careers. For example Goreksson will be playable either as a Ranger (his default career), Ironbreaker or a Slayer. Markus will get a chance to become a Knight... which is strange, to say the least. It was explicitly stated in the first "Vermintide", that our designated fighter is not a huge fan of nobility. Oh well, bigger variety is always welcome, so I don't mind.


Bardin-Slayer is about to open a can of whoopass on these marauders
All in all, the new careers will offer us, players, a much bigger variety, especially with the brand new Talent Tree and Heroic Deeds system. Now we're talking! Gaining both the active and passive skills, our heroes will be much more deadly in combat, and the game itself will undoubtedly feel like an action RPG, than just a "Left 4 Dead" Warhammer clone. I'm really excited for this innovation, for it'll surely bring more variety and complexity to the, otherwise pretty standard, FPP game. Good job Fatshark, it's nice to know that you guys listen to your fans.

Oh yeah, the devs most definitely did listen, for not only will "Vermintide 2" have better loot system, it will also get a mod support. Bam! Now that's what I'm talking about baby! Finally people will get the opportunity to create new skins, sound packs and models for the game. I was always a huge advocate of modding, growing up on games like Half-Life and Unreal. For me a game that allows mods is worth 10,000 times more, than a triple A title with no modding support. Again - kudos to Fatshark for working on their previous shortcomings and mistakes. You rock!

Another interesting thing is the setting of "Vermintide 2". It's only a guess, but I think that our fearless party will travel (undoubtedly with Olesya Pimenova) further to the north, where the End Times are finally in full swing. I think that the sequel will also have much, much darker thone, than the first "Vermintide", something that's always welcome in my book.

All in all, "Warhammer: Vermintide 2" looks like it's going to bring a lot of fun to our LCD monitors and TV sets. Its makers surely took into account all the criticism and wishes of their players, and decided to work upon fixing them, as well as to deliver some awesome, brand new content. Good for them and good for us to be able to play this, fantastic looking sequel (seriously, check out the graphics on this ALPHA footage). I can't wait for the premiere of "Vermintide 2", a game that will probably force me to finally upgrade my gaming rig. You know what tough? For a title like that I won't hesitate to do just that. The game itself will be available in the early 2018. You can also sign up for the beta, which I already did and advice all fans of Warhammer Fantasy to do the same.

It's going to be one hell of a ride!
There is also a brand new DLC, coming for "Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide". Its title is "Death on the Reik", which is obviously a reference to the legendary "The Enemy Within" campaign, which, together with my RPG group, we've managed to finish last week. Great game for sure, and a true milestone when it comes to role-playing scenarios. I will most definitely review the "Death on the Reik", when it'll be available on Steam.

As for this blog, there are more good things coming soon. Grimvember is upon us, and I have a mega-review in the works, about one of my favorite Warhammer Fantasy camapigns, ever made. There is also a brand new interview in the works, but for now I can't say anything more. Let's just say that one of the best of Black Library's authors, has agreed to answer a couple of questions about two, very distinctive characters, whom he had created.

In general, this blog will generally become much, much more focused on Warhammer Fantasy and role-playing in general. My dissapointment with Warhammer 40,000 and the direction in which it is currently taken by GW, means that I won't write much about it, if at all. However good things are coming, so stay tuned and... until next time!

Xathrodox86

10/11/2017

Xathrodox86 reviews: "Iron Company" by Chris Wraight

"The Empire Army" series is quickly becoming one of my favourite set of books from the Black Library, and "Iron Company" by Chris Wraight is a perfect reason why it is so.

Chris Wraight is a terrific writer, in my humble opinion. Although I mostly know him from the 40K and "Horus Heresy" series, he also did quite a lot of stuff for the venerable Warhammer Fantasy. Tales about Kurt Helborg and Ludwig Schwarzhelm, the arcane "Masters of Magic", and epic tales of Luthor Huss, are just some of his contributions to the Old World. Among them is the "Iron Company", book two in the "Empire Army" series, and one that I can't recommend enough, as it is that good.

"Three things make The Empire great - faith, steel and gunpowder!" - Magnus the Pious
Magnus Ironblood is an ex-engineer, who now finds solace at the bottom of a bottle. Living in the shadow of his legendary father, who was one of the most respected engineers in the history of the Empire, Magnus now wastes the last of his coins on cheap drink, while trying to feel as miserable as possible. From the very beginning I've felt an intense sympathy for this character. He's a middle-aged drunk, who's a weak shadow of his former self. I don't know about you, but the "invincible hero" type really bores me to death, as of late. For Wraight to essentially make his main hero an alcoholic, was a bold and risky move. However Chris managed to write this character splendidly and not only is he believable, but his condition also plays a major role throughout the whole book. It is also the first time, that I saw a person with such a dependency as a main hero of a story, set in the Warhammer universe. Sure, Gotrek and Felix used to drink a lot, but the reader never felt that they are actually balancing on the edge of addiction. Magnus Ironblood is an addict, and that fact truly brings a lot to the story.

Magnus gets hired by the Hochland army to help them crack open a fortress, which is used by rebels, who essentially want to take control of the whole province and already defeated one army, sent against them. He gets a high position in the expeditionary force, despite his harmful habit being widely known, recruits and old friend of his, and they both join the army of Count Ludenhof. Hochland is masterfully presented as a dank, miserable, forested province, which is inhospitable to the extreme and can be immensely dangerous to the unwary. Chris Wraight presents it as this almost primal, forested region, which can swallow whole armies, if they're not careful. Truly a great insight into this part of the Empire, which I always felt, was a little underplayed.

Interesting part about the engineers in the Empire, is that almost everyone distrust them and, in case of the clergy, even downright hate them. To the traditional, hidebound folk of the lands of Sigmar, the engineer are no better than the magicians of the Colleges. The author includes short snippets of lore and monologues at the beginning of each chapter, some of which clearly show just how mistrusted the learned men of the Imperial Colleges of science, really are. Truth be told,. before reading the "Iron Company", I've never looked at it in such a way. Kudos to the author, for showing the relations between common men and the learned men, in such a interesting way.

Aside from Magnus we have a pretty big cast of supporting characters, both for the Hochland army and the rebels. All of them are excellently written and colorful, with their own backstories and motivations, which is something rare in a book like this. Chris Wraight makes sure to differentiate each of his heroes, and so the reader never feels that two of them are almost identical. There's your cocky Tilean, grumbling dwarf, zealous Warrior Priest, young and inexperienced (but good-hearted) newbie and a no-nonsense general. The bad guys suffer a bit in this department, as two of them are rather comically evil, especially the main antagonist of the book. Without any spoilers, even his name sounds so evil and devilish, that it is obvious, that he must be the bad guy of the story. Still, he is an interesting character, and one that has a connection to the main hero, so I can only congratulate the author for making such obviously wicked bastard, interesting enough for me to care about, in a way at least. In the end however, I think that the loyalists are much better written, than the antagonists.

Since this is a military fiction, we have our fair share of battles and they are presented in a great, engaging manner. Wraight masterfully presents the reality of a prolonged siege, ambushes and even assaulting a heavily fortified citadel from beneath. The cannons and other machines of war, play a huge role in "Iron Company", and the reader really has a sense of just how much a single cannon is able to change the tide of battle. Not to mention other, more exotic weapons, of which there are lots, but again - no spoilers!

My one beef with the combat sections of this book, was actually Magnus himself. He's supposed to be a middle-aged drunk, who's not wearing any armor and whose hands probably shake so badly, that he wouldn't be able to load a pistol by himself, at least not easily. Meanwhile Herr Ironblood is a force to be reckoned with, when in combat, even against a substantial number of well trained, well equipped and determined opponents. I'm not saying that he should be a glasses-wearing nerd, who constantly mumbles about trajectories and points of impact, but at times I had to check twice, if I was following the right character. Dude is downright nasty with a blade, and later, with a pistol. I guess all that booze unlocked his inner warrior, or something.

"Iron Company" is a pretty long book, but the reader never feels like it is overstaying its welcome. The action is paced excellently, the dialogue is engaging, the characters feel alive and realistic, and all I can say is: read it. Seriously, grab this book and give it a go. It presents a fairly unknown part of the Emperor's armies, and how "normal" folk perceive the men of science and enlightenment. "Iron Company" is definitely worth a read, and not just one.

Pros:

- Great main character
- Most of the heroes and villains are realistic and interesting to follow
- Battle scenes and action is top notch
- Engineers finally received some love!
- Excellent pacing and length, make this tale a joy to read

Cons:

- Some of the villains are trying too hard to be the bad guys
- Magnus is way too good with a sword for someone who's essentially a middle-aged drunk

Another one of the "Empire Army" books done, now we can go back to the less thrilling stuff - like why Warhammer 40,000 turned to shit, lore-wise at least. But that is a tale for another post, or maybe two.

U Wot M8?
Until next time!

Xathrodox86