Vermintide's Death on the Reik DLC is a fitting send-off for a great game

I'm looking forward to Vermintide 2 next year (it's on our official list of the most interesting indie games of 2018), but to tide me over I've been playing the original some more. Developers Fatshark just released one last bit of paid DLC called Death on the Reik, and it's given me a solid excuse to go back and set fire to skaven again.

It's a two-map pack set in the Reikwald Forest and on the River Reik itself, through and over which our heroes chase a thief who has nicked some books from the mysterious innkeeper who doles out Vermintide's quests. That innkeeper, Franz Lohner, has quite a collection of strange things in his inn, including a cavalry shield from the Grudgebringers behind the counter (a nod to the mercenaries from the Shadow of the Horned Rat and Dark Omen games). But his books are probably magical and definitely heretical, so it's off to the skaven-haunted wilderness to get them back before they fall into the wrong hands.

The first map's a pretty typical one, a jaunt through the woods and a burning village on the way to the water. Though familiar it's still fun, with plenty of places to stand on a ledge hacking at rats as they scramble upwards to their deaths like lemmings in reverse. A rat ogre showed up as we were putting out the fire in the village square, turning it into a gladiatorial arena lit by flames, and it takes all four of us to put the beast down.

It's the second map that's the star, though. After trudging across muddy riverbanks and smuggler's caves we finally got to take a barge down the river itself. We stood on the deck taunting a ratling gunner on the bank as the waters carried us away, but it stopped being funny when the skaven ships caught up to us.

The climax is a running battle across the decks as skaven hulkships bury grappling hooks in our boat, with ratfolk pouring out of their watercraft like clowns tumbling out of clown cars. I have no idea how anyone would survive against this many enemies on cataclysm difficulty, though I expect someone on YouTube's already got it figured out.

Like the map in the Drachenfels DLC with dungeon section so dark you have to carry torches through it, it's different enough to the regular Vermintide levels to be memorable. It's the kind of setpiece thing that everyone talks about breathlessly in the lobby afterwards, and I hope that Vermintide 2 (which Death on the Reik contains a small nod to) gives each of its maps hooks as good as this.

Death on the Reik is available now.