Having quite enjoyed Vermintide it was time to dive back in for the newest addition to this four player coop dungeon crawling hack and slash with Schluesselschloss. Adding in a whole new area and game mode, this new content can be accessed by both owners of the DLC and even for those that don’t if they join up with their friends. Staying true to the core concept of the Vermintide, Schluesselschloss and The Last Stand continue to beg the question of skill and survival against the unrelenting hordes that would see you dead.
If I could describe Vermintide in one word it would be that it was challenging. Two words would be fun and challenging as everything could go pear shaped in the blink of an eye with a giant beast of a rat coming at your group down a narrow passageway. Schluesselschloss ups that challenge as it changes the name of the game in the sense that your group no longer has a specific goal in order to reach. There’s no Wizard to make it up a tower to, there’s no barge in order to fill with casks of gunpowder, there’s no underground sewage passageways to open. There’s only one thing in mind and that’s survival for as long as you can.
The new mode being introduced can be accessed in the same manner as the original content from the table in the main room of the Inn that your party is using as its base of operations. Switching tabs at the table will reveal the new locations that can be entered. The first of the two is called the Town Meeting while the second is The Fall in which Schluesselschloss itself is explored and fought in. Both of these locations while having wholly different layouts play out in a wave based survival style. Being a little on the nicer side of things however is that the party (aka the players) can explore the area prior to sounding the horn and thus inviting the swarms that would see them dead where they stand. This preparation time was nice as it allowed for possible discussions on where may be defensible and where may be a deathtrap. Never failing however, as with all well laid out plans, things can go pear shaped in an instant and what was a good place to stand was actually a deathtrap in disguise on the other end of a gatling gun.
The new form of gameplay works out great as there’s no need on concentrating on reaching a goal but instead simply making sure that anything coming at you lies dead instead. It’s different but in a good way. This now meant that instead of worrying as the horns of the Skaven resounded in your ears if you could actually reach your goal, there was now a worry if there would be enough left for you if the others joining in happened to be better. There’s a bit of an exhilaration to this style as it really is a test of skill to see which side is left standing in the end.
As for the new locations themselves they are gorgeous and expansive which fit in very nice with the style chosen. Having these larger areas feels more like the arena approach with the waves of Skaven that come towards you. Town Meeting is a large open market like space with several ups and downs around the edges of the area but aside from that there is no real place to hide making places to “hide” near impossible as everything is out in the open. On the bright side however it means that regardless of the enemies approach vector you can see them coming from a mile away and begin to shoot them down one flintlock pistol at a time if there’s still ammo left.
Making it through the waves is not an easy task especially with the fact that these areas do not come in Easy or in Normal but instead start at a higher difficulty. Within these areas however are chests that unlock after a certain amount of waves have been completed providing players with more ammo, varieties of potions, and bombs in order to make things a bit easier or at least level the playing field for a moment or two. Between waves there is a bit of time in order to catch one's breath, stretch, crack knuckles, and so on. While not being very long it is a welcome reprieve.
Compared to the Town Meeting however, The Fall is intense in more ways than one. Built up in the mountains this one great looking bastion while run down is still in a visually gorgeous landscape. Unlike the flat landscape of the marketplace, this new area has many ups and downs with broken ridges and ledges that can either lead around the keep or simply stop dead in its own tracks due to either neglect or intentional sabotage. There are many places to run to but there’s nowhere to hide. Out on the front reaches making your way to water there is an open space with trees to fight through the Skaven Horde just as there are many tight passageways in which to filter your enemies through. Just don’t forget about poison bombs or gatling guns.
If the original content for Vermintide could be seen as a test of good planning, communication, and teamwork, Schluesselschloss takes it to a bit higher of a level as the main goal is truly to keep each other alive. The new game mode is great to play and the areas added are a pleasure to experience even with their more challenging nature. It’ll be quite interesting to see what comes next but in the meantime the only real goal is to do better than last time as each stage constantly reminds you exactly how long you managed to survive.
Article by Pierre-yves