All the chaos

“Chaos Wastes” borrows from the extremely popular genre of rogue-lite games — challenging games where players will gain skills and items on each playthrough and start over after everyone dies, carrying over a small amount of progress. 

One of the very first games I reviewed for this column was the brutally hectic and fun “Vermintide 2,” a four-player game where you and your friends battle against impossible hordes of bipedal rats, zombies and demons in the grimdark world of Warhammer: Age of Sigmar.

At the time, I found it to be a fantastic throwback to the sweaty days of piling together in a basement with friends to play computer games into the early mornings. But like those smelly days of LAN parties, “Vermintide 2” had lost quite a bit of its appeal in the three years since I reviewed it.

The promised expansions were lackluster and getting the items needed to battle the tougher levels became an unfun slog, but that’s until the latest free expansion in “Chaos Wastes.”

“Chaos Wastes” borrows from the extremely popular genre of rogue-lite games — challenging games where players will gain skills and items on each playthrough and start over after everyone dies, carrying over a small amount of progress — by setting you and your team on a branching path through the titular Chaos Wastes. It’s a surprisingly fresh take on what had become a largely stagnant series, turning it from a long-haul action game to a more arcade-like frenzy.

In each world, you’ll find coins that can be exchanged for weapon upgrades or new skills. There are also a few challenges littered around each map that will grant players new skills for beating a particularly hard enemy or group of enemies. Each playthrough is unique and offers new and interesting challenges.

Where “Vermintide 2” would push players to focus their time and energy into a few characters, a few classes and even a few weapons, the repeatable runs in “Chaos Wastes” encourages players to experiment with new classes and weapons throughout the playthrough. The disposable nature of each playthrough allows the game designers to gift players with plenty of extremely powerful abilities and weapons. It’s almost like turning on cheats in terms of how quickly you can ramp up into an unstoppable horde killing machine.

The length of each playthrough — about an hour — seems about right, making it for a fun pick-up-and-play game with some friends but not too long to be stuck with a character you don’t like.

In regular “Vermintide 2” I would almost exclusively play as mercenary Markus Kruber, a sturdy player with a sweeping halberd weapon handy for tackling big hordes. I’d try dipping my toes in other character or other weapons only to find myself frequently falling back to the security of knowing how to handle him. Thanks to Chaos Wastes, I’ve been able to experiment with several other weapons and been able to play with other characters with some success (though it turns out that I'm still not into the fire-powered Sienna Fuegonasus).

I doubt that I'll be dumping quite as much time into Chaos Wastes as I did the original game, but it'll make for an excellent pick-up-and-play game for whenever we're looking for some good ol' hack-n-slash goodness.

Matt Buxton is a freelance writer and gamer. He can be reached at matt.a.buxton@gmail.com.

If You Play

Game: Vermintide 2 Chaos Wastes

Rating: 4 our of 5

Platforms: PC

Price: $30, but on sale on Steam for $7.50 through May 4

Internet usage: Download around 37 GB, internet required for multiplayer

Release Date: April 20, 2021

ESRB Rating: Mature