Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide Review
Warhammer: End Times – Vermintidehas been created in one of the most expansive universes in modern media today, centering its story around a Skaven uprising in a small town. For anyone not well-versed in Warhammer lore, The Skaven are a race of clan-like Rat people who tend to avoid other races.
Fans of the Left 4 Dead franchise will immediately see the abundance of similarities, a first-person melee/shooter with strong focus on group tactics and large waves of smaller foes, halting progress at every turn. This is not a negative comment; it has been six years since the last Left 4 Dead game and its gameplay style has yet to be recreated to the same extent by anyone. Developer Fatshark has taken a risk emulating such a powerhouse but it sure has paid off.
What really sets this game apart are the five leading characters: each has their own set of skills and weapons and truly affect the way you play.The Empire Soldier wields heavy axes and swords working as a slow tank-like character, alongside the powerful Dwarf. On the other end of the scale you would have the Witch Hunter, fast and agile with a preference for ranged weaponry or the Waywatcher - a bow-wielding Elf, perfect for long ranged tactics. The Mage stands out from the rest with a fire staff able to burn all Rat foes that stand in her way.
Combat works well throughout, and while simplistic, every attack has weight to it. Watching a horde of Rats fly through the air as limbs rain to the ground due to a single heavy sword swing is a joy to behold. Blocking is key to survival when surrounded as you try to move to a safer location, so don't expect to crazily whale away on every enemy and come out on top.
Teamwork is essential, each mission revolves around completing a specific task, this varies from the likes of destroying Skaven war machines, to exploring a skaven encampment.. Whether you are playing through matchmaking or with friends, every player must work together as a close-knit group to ensure fewer fatalities, as players can only be revived by their fellow comrades. if anyone was prone to play as a lone wolf and pull away from the group during our experience, they would almost instantly be taken down by one of the game’s special Skaven enemies, and if revived would ensure they stick together from then on.
The special Skaven enemies are almost identical to Left 4 Dead's special infected with a different skin, the Gutter Runner plays like a Hunter leaping from the shadows and pinning the player to the ground. The Packmaster works similarly to the Smoker and will drag players away from the group and straight into danger. This is not necessarily a bad thing as we know they work very well in this style of game, but more variation would be a plus. With this said, the Skaven are a delight to fight against, each horde that surrounds the player and every Special Skaven that joined the fight brought a smile, as our team would work together, focusing all attacks to bring them down.
You will pick a primary character to play as, but don't expect to spend all your time in this role, a frequent occurrence is to join games where your ideal character is unavailable and you need to pick whoever remains. This does ensure that everyone has a varied experience and gets to try all characters, yet can lead to frustration. In addition to finding yourself stuck with a less than ideal character, you may pop into a game just a few seconds before completion or inhabiting a deceased character, pulling you straight back to the Tavern which is used as a hub. Thankfully load times are quick on PC and you will not find trouble jumping straight back into the action.
The game can be a challenge, with each round consisting of four players working as a team to overcome any obstacle, which means that even though the game can be played alone alongside bots, it will not be the choice for many gamers due to an extremely high difficulty curve. Where the game truly shines is through its co-op experience and it is undoubtedly the best way to play, either with friends or just through online matchmaking.
Vermintide features a leveling up system, that while light, does work effectively. Each level will bring forth new unlockables for the player, such as weapons and new hub features. Leveling up affects the player only and not the chosen character, so being forced to play as a different character does not feel like starting from scratch.
Seeing what new weapons and armour you can bring to the table will bring players back long after they have completed the game’s thirteen missions. One interesting addition to proceedings was the inclusion of a dice roll at the end of each match, the better the roll the better the loot obtained. To ensure that you get the best roll at the end, certain criteria have to be met, one of which involves bringing tomes with you to the escape point. What makes this idea successful is that each player can only carry a singular tome, ensuring the whole squad work together to gain maximum rewards. In addition, each tome when found takes up an inventory slot, the same slot which is used for healing items creating an intense risk and reward structure.
Vermintide is light on plot but rich in atmosphere, with most plot points being discussed in menus or through character discussion in-game.The city of Ubersreik looks beautiful for the most part. Graphically the game may not be the best, but the art design and the huge amount of variation in locals really bring the city to life. Sound design was great throughout the experience, each rattling head squished by a hammer or the sounds of unseen enemies scuttling nearby, perfectly accompanied the on-screen action.
Overall Vermintide is a triumphant co-op experience at its best, held back from greatness due to minor technical flaws. Despite being developed by a smaller studio, Vermintide can stand proudly alongside most AAA titles.