Warhammer End Times – Vermintide officially dropped on Steam last week in its full glory. The 13-map, four-player cooperative game puts players in the fantasy setting of Ubersreik and tasks them with eradicating the Skaven incursion.
The game itself feels very reminiscent of Left 4 Dead in that it primarily revolves around staving off hordes of enemies while keeping to specific objectives. The way in which this formula is adapted however, is a nice refresher from the zombie style. The characters are all fantasy archetypes: Dwarf Ranger, Bright Wizard, Witch Hunter, Empire Soldier and Waywatcher. This cast provides a nice diverse range when it comes to weaponry to use on missions.
A dwarf, for example, can wield a shield and effectively bash enemies back to stun them. This is a stark and unique difference from the much weaker push back moves the wizard or templar have. This variety makes character picks and team composition all the more important, especially given that players cannot swap primary weapons on the fly in the middle of missions. Combat however, is clean and fun for many of the characters. Everyone gets some sort of ranged weapon and can perform a heavy attack, so their effectiveness is based more off of the quality of weapons and use of available defenses.
Missions themselves mostly are all about fulfilling objectives pertinent to the story. The unlikely crew of fighters are often tasked by the innkeeper to do things such as gather gunpowder, discover a Skaven war operation, ring a warning bell, rescue a powerful ally, etc. The maps cover a variety of locales and feel fresh from the next, but sometimes the objectives themselves feel arbitrary; such as gathering eight sacks of wheat to feed refugees. Once a team finished a mission though, they are rewarded with a chance to roll several loot dice (some bonuses can be added depending on collectibles you find), which can lead to higher grade weaponry.
The loot systems’ random generator sometimes feels a little one-sided. For example, finding extra dice during a mission seems to all but guarantee you will roll low. Alternately, players can use a forge to fuse together several low grade weapons and make them into a higher one. When one does get an upgraded weapon however, Vermintide is very good about making it feel like a real step up. Whether it be faster reload speed or more accurate impact, getting better weapons are reflected with each Skaven kill in the campaign.
The campaign itself is interesting, if a little thin. Ubersreik is set upon by an invasion of rat soldiers called Skaven. They come in nice varieties from poison-throwing Gas Rats and stealthy stabbing Gutter Runners, to squads of armored Stormvermin and gargantuan Rat Ogres. It’s up to the motley crew of defenders to fight them off and stem the invasion from its source. Vermintide does a great job of making you feel like you are really fighting a losing battle, with more and more Skaven taking over places, but then it abruptly ends. The game definitely hints at more story to come with “the war had only just begun” but it made the actual end encounter feel a bit lackluster.
Minor graphical errors still exist in the final build of the game, but it luckily does not affect the game play. Queuing for missions can be terribly slow at times but often a 10-15 minute wait is preferable to launching a mission with an AI bot. Bots will often not revive downed characters, get stuck in rooms or simply fail to keep up with player characters moving through the map.
Overall Vermintide is a very nice use of the four-player co-op style of game play without reliance on overdone zombies. The atmosphere is unique and fun, while the enemies are something different from the normal repertoire of villainous hordes. If you enjoyed Left 4 Dead, Vermintide is worth giving a play through to experience it in a newer light.