This Vermintide review has been a long time coming. In fact I will admit while I have been playing the game since beta I keep getting unfortunately distracted before committing my thoughts to print. In my admittedly paltry defense, that is because I keep logging in to get some screenshots and well… I get distracted. The map is on the table right there. The Innkeeper agrees, I need to come to the defense of Ubersreik. Surely screenshots can wait while I deal with an infestation or two…right?
What is Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide? For ease we’ll refer to it as Vermintide from here on. Vermintide is a four person co-op action game set in the old Warhammer fantasy world. Old in terms of fantasy and old in terms of setting. For anyone who is into the tabletop side of things but hasn’t kept up with events, The End Times came and went. The world ended and was reborn. Tabletop players are now enjoying the Age of Sigmar version of Warhammer Fantasy and all it’s little changes to races and the setting.
So the End Times are fantasy apocalypse. What can you do with that sort of setting? It turns out that when you get the option to do anything, well anything is possible. Ultimately yes the world will end, ultimately no matter how well you stem the Vermintide, in the long run of what is “canon” we all lose. Swedish developers Fatshark looked at that depressing truth and decided that means that they get to have a party before the end.
So for Warhammer newbies here’s where we are. Skaven, giant rat men, have poured out of the Under-Empire and are looking to bring down the Human city of Ubersreik. Players get to pick one of five heroes to face off against the hordes.
- Bardin Gorekson, Dwarf Ranger and clearly the best because he’s a Dwarf.
- Kerillian, Wood Elf Waywatcher whom we shall tolerate because she really is very good at what she does.
- Markus Kruber, Empire Soldier and good solid man to have at your side.
- Victor Saltzpyre, Witch Hunter. He’s lost an eye to the Skaven before but don’t worry, he was always that cranky anyway.
- Sienna Fuegonasus, Bright Wizard. Imagine if your grandma was an adrenalin junkie pyromaniac with fire magic. She might be as cool as Sienna.
There are plenty of comparisons out there between Vermintide and Left 4 Dead. They’re not without merit. Left 4 Dead is a four player co-op action game where you pick a character and face off against a horde. Vermintide is … well exactly like that, only we have Skaven instead of Zombies. Broad stroke comparisons, however, don’t leave room for the differences and the differences are what make Vermintide such a joy to play.
You can play any character you want to run through each of the missions. They all get a variety of gear, with a drop at the end of each successful mission. You can gear up your characters in the Inn, selecting what they’ll carry, and at the start of any mission at the appropriate crate. After that, you go in with the weapons you are carrying. I play Bardin with a Shield and Hammer for melee and depending on the mission either a Crossbow or Grudge Raker (Dwarf Shotgun). If you end up with me on your team, my Bardin means there’s someone with the stamina to take a bunch of hits on the shield and who can knock rat men here and there. Someone elses preferred load out may have a Bardin laying in with a single handed axe or a rifle. Certain characters, depending on the loot, are just better at certain things. This makes for a more co-operative co-op experience than Left 4 Dead where you just get a steady procession of better guns and more targets.
The focus on melee and working together (Markus even yells out for people to pair off and work together) makes it so very satisfying when you win through the battle and lay into the Skaven. Ranged combat is totally an option but ammunition can be a concern. Kerillian burning through all her arrows is not hard to arrange. Sooner or later you’re going to have to get her blades wet.
On that point, lets talk about the characters. Left 4 Dead introduced us to the original cast in their epic crossing of the street. We all know that Louis sees PILLS HERE and that Frances hates everything except vests. Vermintide offers something similar. As much as I end up working with the players, I end up bonding with the characters. They will snark and snap at one another. They will compliment each other when someone is particularly impressive. They have their own stories and only bits of them get told. It is satisfying to hear Bardin burst out laughing when causing mayhem and to hear Kerillian complaining that I haven’t left her anything to kill. As grating as Victor sounds, he sounds exactly like a Witch Hunter of the Empire should and is perfect for it. That sort of thing occurs all over the game. Vermintide is easily my favorite rendition of the Warhammer World ever.
Sorry Age of Reckoning, I loved you dearly but Ubersreik needs me.
The focus in Vermintide is on co-operative gameplay. It’s in the title and it’s in the game. Running off and trying to be a lone hero works as well in the game as it would in the Warhammer World: Awful and well deserved death will ensue. With the focus on melee combat, the interesting hero mechanics and weapon options and with the varying difficulty options there is plenty of game play here for you to sink your teeth into. There is however, as of the end of 2015, no co-op versus mode. Strictly you versus computer controlled Skaven. There are new game modes including a lone wolf mode being worked on and coming in the upcoming months.
The soundtrack was crafted by BAFTA award-winning composer Jesper Kyd. His work shows and it is a perfect match for the atmosphere of the game. The scores are on point and the audio work in the game works perfectly for giving you cues on what to expect. Graphically speaking, everything is combined to bring the single most beautiful rendition of the Warhammer fantasy world I have ever seen. Everything doesn’t just look and sound like it should for the setting, it looks and sounds like a dream.
Be thee warned. Hard can be hard. Nightmare is suitably nightmarish. Cataclysm, I haven’t even gotten to. If you go in with friends, you have a ready made team that will forgive and forget (ideally). If not, if you go into a random party, things can get cranky when victory or defeat is on the line. That said I have not had any toxic or vicious encounters. It’s just a game and apart from a few passive aggressive quits, the community I have played with has been patient and fun.
Right now Vermintide is on sale on Steam as part of the Winter Sale. That is a nice 15% off of the regular price of $25.49. The value is increased by Fatshark’s commitment to the game and to bringing new free and paid DLC. The first DLC being Sigmars Blessing, which gives you a greater control over your loot and is entirely free to all players.
There have been many comparisons to Left 4 Dead and as stated, they are not without merit. That said, Vermintide may take inspiration from the zombie horde slaughter simulator, but it is not a clone or slavish follower of it. The loot and upgrade systems are engaging. The Sigmars Blessing DLC gives you the chance to stack the dice in favor of your favored hero. The melee combat is far more entertaining and rewarding than Left 4 Dead 2. There is still work to be done and they are working on new game modes to add in so what we have at the closing of the year isn’t all there ever will be.
Closing: I am an unabashed Warhammer fan. I could talk for ages about the things in Vermintide that made me gleeful. I could go on about Fatshark’s pedigree and where Autodesk Stingray came from. I could probably do another article on just how much I love that each hero has a personalized bedroom that utterly fits their personality.
Fan or not, Fatshark took a property and an idea and made something glorious out of them. Games Workshop appears to be giving out licenses for everything. For every Mordheim there’s been a Snotling Fling. Any company, any property would be lucky to have a game as lovingly and wonderfully designed and put together as Vermintide. It is easily for me the jewel in the Warhammer gaming crown above Space Marine, Eternal Crusade and Dawn of War. If Fatshark didn’t innovate further, that may never change. With their plans for the game, I think it’s certain that it never will.Related: Action, Co-op, FatShark Studios, Review, Vermintide, Warhammer