It was about one week into the Warhammer End Times: Vermintide open beta that I asked what the game was about. The response I was given was “Left 4 Dead with rats.”
As someone who finds the Left 4 Dead series incredibly boring, it would have been easy for me to pigeonhole Vermintide as another co-op shooter and move on. After pouring hours into the game I keep thinking back to that description, “Left 4 Dead with rats”. Vermintide is much more than that to me; it is engaging, visceral, challenging and most importantly, fun. It’s a perfect example of a game that is not perfect but both enjoyable and addicting.
Set in the Warhammer universe, The End Times: Vermintide takes place during a bleak time for humanity as the Skaven army of ratmen have taken over. It’s up to your team to fight through various parts of the city, complete objectives and defeat the Vermintide. These vermin are ugly and relentless; many times it seems like they never stop coming. You and three other online players (or bots) will use a variety of weapons, abilities, items and potions to destroy the vermin to gain experience and loot. Vermintide isn’t overly heavy on story, with an opening cutscene explaining the state of the world and some voiced dialogue between levels. In the end I didn’t need much motivation to take out as many of these rats as I could.
Vermintide is played through a first person perspective and there are guns, but I wouldn’t label it as a traditional shooter. There are 5 characters to choose from: witch hunter, waywatcher, dwarf ranger, bright wizard, and empire soldier. The five character classes mean different play styles, personalities and options for weapons such as: swords, bows, axes, hammers and various types of guns. Weapons have different stats for damage, speed, rate of fire, and knockback. Completing missions and leveling up will earn you a new weapon which you can choose to do a number of things with. Weapons can be salvaged for their metal, which can then be used to upgrade something else. They can be upgraded, which increases their stats and unlocks an additional perk (sometimes two or more). Melee weapons also have a charged attack which is very powerful and sometimes has perks like armor piercing. I preferred to have a fast shooting ranged weapon, which typically do less damage, paired with a slower more powerful melee weapon. It’s important to find melee and ranged weapons that fit your play style because Vermintide is not an easy game. Playing on easy difficulty was never a guaranteed victory as our team would often get pummeled if we didn’t use proper teamwork. The pain can be ramped up even more with nightmare and cataclysm difficulty for the most leveled and skilled players.
When not playing missions you can easily get lost in all the character and weapon options; the learning curve was a little high for me. Every character has two weapons to equip before a mission starts, in addition to that you can equip different hats and trinkets, each with their own stats and perks. You are limited to one trinket slot at first, with the other two unlocking as you level up. Weapons of the same rarity can be combined to make a new one, in addition to being invocated which gives you a chance to increase their perk percentage. You can also offer your materials at the altar to pray for gifts of stronger weapons and also offer your materials in exchange for changing a weapon’s traits. Understanding each of these weapon options took time but when I got it down I was thankful for so much freedom to tweak my weaponry. I do wish there was a tutorial for this section of the game, it would have made my understanding much quicker.
Vermintide looks pretty good graphically, and only continues to impress when there are dozens of enemies on screen or when a bomb blows up an entire group. Swords clang and guns have an impactful boom when fired. I didn’t notice any slowdown or framerate dips which was shocking since I had heard complaints of them during the beta. I don’t think that the game will blow anyone away graphically, but given the amount of action on screen the graphics are pretty impressive. I also liked how the environments varied from mission to mission. I found myself in underground caves, castles, outdoor villages, port towns and more.
In addition to the main objectives like: blow up a target, defend an area and escape there are also tomes and grimoire books to add additional challenge to a level. Three tombs are placed in every level, exit the level while holding one and you will earn additional experience. The challenge is that the tomb replaces your healing slot, meaning you will have to drop the tome to heal and then pick it back up. This is not always practical in the heat of battle but it’s always worth it to try and keep tomes. Grimoire books will occupy the potion slot and decrease the group’s overall health; and once you drop it or die, it disappears. These optional objectives are a great challenge and help extend the replay value of the game.
If the campaign is not enough for you there is also Last Stand mode, similar to horde in other games. You and your teammates must stand your ground against never-ending waves of Skaven. This mode is pretty much what you would expect and not much more. Chests and endurance badges will occasionally unlock along with supply drops. While not particularly unique, I do appreciate having this mode in the game; it adds more replay value and a change of pace.
After initial publishing of this review there have been two DLC level packs released: Karak Azgaraz and Stromdorf. Karak Azgaraz takes place over three new levels set in a snowy Grey Mountains. It adds new achievements along with chances to earn two new weapons. The levels felt shorter than those of the main game but still enjoyable, honestly any new content in Vermintide is a good thing! Stromdorf just released today (9/22/17) and I’m hoping to try it out soon and update the review with my impressions.
I could go on forever about Warhammer: End Times Vermintide, it really hooked me. I loved replaying missions, whether it be on easy to gather tomes and grimoires or attempting a hard run for experience and rare items. This is a game I would easily pay $60 for, but you won’ have to because it’s priced modestly at $40 American. Fans of this genre will likely get more than their money’s worth when all is said and done. I would love to see either a sequel or expansion to Vermintide; hopefully one day its inspiration from Valve will be known as “Vermintide with zombies”. Highly recommended!