The Skaven live underground, they scurry about, almost forgotten by those on the surface. But things are changing, the world is ending and nothing will stop the Vermintide.
Genre(s): Co-Op, First Person, Action, Survival
Release Date: October 2015
Played (Died At) A fair few games.
Purchase At: Steam
Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide is an objective-based co-op game where you run through the streets of a Warhammer city cutting through legions of Skaven—read Rat-men. You take control of one of five characters and join three other adventurers on missions, doing your best to survive against both normal and special rats, picking up supplies and ammo along the way.
If in some form this sounds familiar, it should because it’s Left 4 Dead. The game is basically L4D with Warhammer painted on top. The UI is similar, the items work exactly the same and most of the special enemies are reskinned versions of those in Valve’s Zombie shooter. If not for a few new mechanics and items, the game would be completely and unforgivably derivative.
Every character has its own equipment. The Witch Hunter has twin guns and a saber, the Elf has two short swords and a bow, and the Bright Wizard has a sword and a staff. Unlike characters in Valve’s game, the heroes in Vermintide can only equip these items, meaning the Bright Wizard can’t use the bow for example. On the upside, it makes them unique in their playstyle. They all have ranged weapons, but their speed, range and area of effect are wildly different, making each character a completely different experience.
There’s a loot system, based on two things: Crafting and Rolling Dice. For the first one you “combine” items to create ones of higher quality. The second is straightforward, at the end of each level you roll a few dice. The more Hits you roll, the better the item quality. My issue with this system is that it’s general and not class-specific, meaning you can get items for the character you’re not using. For example, I kept getting Axes for the Dwarf while playing as the Fire Wizard.
Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide is a tough game, the toughest in the genre that I’ve played so far. Skavens come in hordes and while they’re easy to kill, the sheer number of them can overwhelm you. This is not a game where you can split up as you never know when a Packmaster (read Smoker) will pop up and drag someone away. Of the special Skaven, my favourites are the Rattling Gunner and the Stormvermin, because they’re the only new ones, not reskins or reformulations of those established in the Zombie game. The Stormvermin dress like Roman Legionaires—complete with armour to stop your attacks—so they take a beating and can dish it out. And the Rattling Gunner is just a rat with a gattling gun. It’s simple but oh man is it effective! It’s a lot of fun.
Now, I say Vermintide is derivative and that’s a bad thing in the creative sense, but it also means the controls, the mechanics and the enemies are tight and well executed. While I would’ve preferred other Special Rats, I have to say the ones we have are very effective. The Poison Wind Globadier and the Ratsassin are monumental pains in the butt, much like the Hunter, Spitter and Boomer were in Left 4 Dead, and above all, they work!
The game takes place all around Ubersreik, a city in the Warhammer Fantasy universe. There are towers, streets and gutters and once you’ve seen one, you’ve probably seen them all. The upside of using a single city as the core of your game is that it allows for consistent world building, but the downside is that environments feel samey and repetitive fairly quickly. Part of this isn’t only the city itself but the fact missions play at nighttime and in the shadows, everything looks the same.
That is my main gripe with the otherwise nice graphics, the fact that it’s all so dark. Part of it is atmosphere and in that, Vermintide succeeds, but it’s a dark city with dark enemies and darkened items that only highlight when you’re actually looking at them. In a game like this, consumables need to be easily noticeable, but in Vermintide they blend with the background too much, adding another unnecessary layer of challenge to it all, first surviving and then figuring where the items are.
Sound design on the other hand is pretty nice, with a variety of tense music that will drive you up the walls every time you hear a horn sound. I was almost certain the game was going to condition me in a Pavlovian sense to duck for cover every time I heard hat Horde horn. And I can only count that as a plus! Memorable music and sound effects are exactly what you want! Also, the chattering and chittering of the many Skaven is unnerving.
Voice acting is quite nice and it serves very well to give the characters personalities. What I like the most is that they reminded me of Mass Effect, with characters not only commenting on what was going on in the battle or which items were around but having conversations while ide. These characters aren’t working together because they want to, they’re banding together because they have no other choice, and their conversations reflect that. There’s a clash of ideologies and faith and their priorities in life and these help the characterisation in Vermintide, making up for the mostly absent plot.
Warhammer: End Times –Vermintide is not the most original game, but it’s a really good one. Who knew that slapping Warhammer on Left 4 Dead would be such a good idea, and why didn’t anyone think of it before?
4/5 – Exceptional!