Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide is a first person action game developed by Fatshark. Additionally, it’s a game with a terrible name. That’s okay though, because Vermintide manages to impress on quite a few levels. If you’ve ever played Valve’s “Left 4 Dead” franchise, you know exactly what to expect from Vermintide. It’s a first person multiplayer romp through hordes of enemies. Does the game feel fresh throughout, or does it grow stale? That’s what I’m here to let you know.
The narrative in Vermintide is vast, but unimportant in the grand scheme of things. The game takes place in the world of Warhammer, an expansive Lord of the Rings-esque world that spans countless games. There’s tons of lore and backstory to read about, but it has little to no impact on the game. The arch of Vermintide follows a gang of adventurers taking on a mutant rat infestation known as the Skaven. In Warhammer lore, the Skaven are thought to be myths; essentially nightmarish creatures to scare the minds of young children. However, they turn out to be extremely real, and want to take over the entire world. That’s the extent of narrative that truly matters, everything else is just flavor text. That’s because Vermintide barely pays attention to storytelling at all, instead favoring gameplay encounters. The heroes spout off some story dialogue every now and again, often commenting on why they’re in a specific location, but beyond there’s nothing. A small text roll before you start a mission will indicate your objective, but there’s no narrative motivation to push your character forward.
Not every game needs a narrative push… not if it’s fun. Vermintide is just that: fun. Those who have played “Left 4 Dead” will know this game before they even play it. That’s not because Vermintide borrows Left 4 Dead’s style; it actually just straight up takes it. Vermintide is exactly like Left 4 Dead gameplay-wise, it’s actually kind of impressive. For those unfamiliar, allow me to explain. You start by selecting a character. Each character represents a different class: warrior, mage, archer, etc. While they all have different upgradeable gear and weapons and a slightly altered play style, there isn’t a massive difference. The archer shoots much faster than the warrior, but both have melee and ranged weapons. It does add some small variation into the game though, so it’s worth playing each one. After you’ve selected a character, you find yourself in a small inn. Inside, you can select a mission, manage your inventory, forge new weapons, and more. When selecting a mission, the game always pushes you towards a multiplayer setup. You select between Quick Play or Custom Match, start up your mission, and away you go.
Each mission is in a different location, but objectives are often similar or repetitive. The most simple levels turn out to be the most fun, with small extra tasks becoming slightly annoying. There’s roughly 15+ missions, spanning all sorts of different locations. Early missions feature dirty back alleys and sewers, with later missions revealing large forests and city docks. These missions usually involve getting from your starting point to the ending point in a pretty linear fashion. Meanwhile, hordes of giant rats will attack and swarm you, trying to separate your party and kill you. While all of the enemies are rats (you’ll never see a human enemy in the game), there’s key variations that specialty enemies that are a handful. Once again, you’ll see the glaring similarities to “Left 4 Dead” here. There’s a large bulking rat (see above picture) that knocks you far distances. There’s also an assassin rat who pins you down, a strangler rat who pulls you from the group, and a “gas” rat who throws acidic bombs at you. These enemies usually take a lot of damage to kill, and deal a lot of damage as well.
Enemies like these exemplify the game’s focus on teamwork. If an assassin rat spots you, you’re going to be pinned down. At that point, you need to rely on your teammate to free you from it. Most of the special enemies work this way; separating you from your team in hopes that the swarm will kill you. This makes the game insanely hard to play by yourself. Sure, it’s manageable on Easy difficulty, but you’ll need a miracle for competent AI from your bot companions. I can’t count the number of times computer controlled teammates walked off ledges, failed to help me when standing right next to me, and more. They would inconsistently lend a hand, but never reliably. If you want to enjoy this game, you need to play it co-op. It’s a shame that there’s no local cooperative play supported, but I can understand due to the visual fidelity. The game controls smooth, as well. You fight with standard light, heavy, and block moves. You can push enemies as well, but that’s about the extent of your swordplay. Gunplay is also tight, so archer arrows fly true and shotgun blasts feel effective.
Finally, the game looks beautiful. I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of pop-in or texture muddiness, and was immersed in the experience entirely. The game has a definite dark feeling to it, but there’s enough fantasy elements in the visuals to create some truly awesome set pieces. Most of the game does look a little gray, but when forests and large fires become into play, the game truly shines the brightest. Character models (especially the enemies) are fantastic and detailed. There’s some truly excellent lighting effects on display here. Overall, the atmosphere is pretty spot-on. I have little complaints about the audio, as most of that is great as well. Weapons have an audible weight to them, and the clink and clanging of swords against armor sound crisp. The presentation of the game is the definite high point in this package.
Overall, Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide is a fun and exciting multiplayer experience. It’s a game that can be played for a few hours in a row, or mission by mission. It is not, however, a game that can be marathoned. The repetitive nature of some of the objectives makes Vermintide great for short burst sessions. There’s some replayability to be had here, with upgradeable weapons and various difficulty settings. The gameplay feels good and looks good, and is enjoyable to boot. While there are minor graphical glitches, the game runs well, with barely any frame hiccups or dips. It’s a solid game with a solid amount of content, but for a specific audience. If you need an intense multiplayer action game and you were a fan of “Left 4 Dead”, Vermintide is going to make you very happy.
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