Review by Bkstunt_31
The End Times are upon us!
Wow, I am starting to feel old... It's been 8 YEARS since Left 4 Dead 2 came out. Granted, Valve doesn't really make video games anymore (who needs video games when you have Steam?), but after playing through Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide, I was immediately reminded of the Left 4 Dead games. Being reminded of something doesn't necessarily make a game good, however, so let's go through exactly what you can expect out of this game below!
The hidden threat below...
The first thing that drew my eye to this game was the "Warhammer" title. Warhammer's had dozens of games released over the years, spanning all sorts of genres, but this style of game play is still a first for them. Just let me quickly say that this version of Warhammer takes place in their "High Fantasy" universe (not the "Warhammer 40K" space universe).
Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide (which I'm just going to call Vermentide from here on out...) is quite aptly named, as it features the race of rat-men known as the "Skaven". The Skaven are usually an afterthought in the world of Warhammer, as the other races often preoccupy themselves by fighting each other in various wars, which in the city of Ubersreik at least has given the Skaven time to breed...
Breeding and time has led to a literal tide of vermin coming up from the sewers and virtually washing over the city ("Vermintide" is indeed aptly named), slaughtering anyone who stands against the rat men. This is where our story starts, as we take control of one of five champions charged with protecting the people and stemming the tide as best as they can.
Personally, I thought this idea of a Skaven uprising was well done. For a game that has a "Left 4 Dead" feel where you'll be fighting hundreds of enemies, the Skaven in Warhammer were a good choice. The story itself, as an overarching tale, is rather generic however. We are tasked with boring task after boring task as an excuse to kill more vermin. Not necessarily a bad thing, but with no set pieces and no interaction from ANYTHING other than Skaven it doesn't exactly come off as a memorable story. In short, you aren't playing this game for the unforgettable narrative.
Keep your shield up, Dwarf!
The game play of Vermentide really is its main draw, emulating the popularity and success of Valve's "Left 4 Dead" series. As mentioned above, you'll pick one of five distinct characters to play as: a Soldier, an Elf, a Bright Wizard, a Witch Hunter or a Dwarf. Each character has their own set of weapons available to them, some of which suit them for certain roles in the team. For example, the Dwarf and Soldier can choose to equip a shield, which, sure, lowers their offense, but lets them guard against many more attacks and fling enemies backwards.
One thing I did like about Vermintide was that each character had multiple weapon load-outs to choose from. For example, the Soldier could use a shield like mentioned above, or he could just go with a two-handed warhammer. You even have ranged weapon choices for each character. Should my Soldier carry a blunderbuss or long-range rifle!?
As you play through the game you'll level up over time, which unlocks new equipment. Heck, at the end of each level you'll also roll dice for new equipment as well. It won't take very long until you are swimming in new gear, even if gear is limited to just weaponry and the occasional trinket (which usually reduces your damage from certain enemies). Thankfully, you can use the forge system to break down unwanted gear or combine gear for higher-level gear. The higher level your gear is, the more traits you can unlock on it which provide handy abilities that help you survive. The game also has a system that allows you to re-roll these traits as well. But while the game does indeed have some light RPG elements, such as leveling up and different ranks of gear, that's about as deep as those RPG elements go.
Onto the game play itself! Vermentide is best played with a group of four friends in a party, as it is definitely designed to be a game where you need to focus heavily on cooperation. You and your party will travel from the start of a map to the end, fighting off the Skaven that can appear from anywhere (all directed by the game's AI behind the scenes). Along the way you'll also have to worry about special types of Skaven. Many of these special Skaven types are specifically designed to punish players who go off on their own. For example, the Packmaster Skaven will literally hook a character with their pole and drag them off, while the Assassin Skaven will pounce on you and incapacitates a character, leaving your friends to bail you out. As you can tell, working together as a team is key!
Actually fighting is pretty simple. You can swing your weapon and block. You can also charge up attacks for more damage (or range, depending on your weapon and character). Each character has a melee option but also has a ranged option, which you'll need to switch between deftly to survive. Beyond that, you have grenades, healing items, and strength/speed potions you will need to use to survive. Finding item stashes is nearly as important as working together! Still, the objective throughout most of the game is one of three things: travel from point A to point B, hold out for a period of time, or finally just plain deliver something to a location (which is usually you gathering items from around the map and returning them somewhere).
In the end, this game play is quite fun but you really need friends to play with. Playing online with random people is possible of course, but its a bit of a drag and having a party chat (audio) with your teammates is just so much better.
Ugh, do we have to go down there!?
Vermintide is broken up into a mission format, which is honestly probably the only way you can really do this type of game. Still, that is a good thing as it makes it much easier for the developers to make you visit a variety of locations in the game, which Vermintide definitely does. From the city streets themselves to sewers, cemeteries, woods and mansions there is just a lot of different locales to enjoy. The developers also did a good job of sprinkling in "ruin" throughout the levels. These are the "End Times" after all, so expect to see a lot of random corpses and destroyed housing.
The character and enemy models were also well done. Each player character looked fantastic and was animated well. I particularly liked how "ugly" the characters were. Facial scars and blemishes gave them each some character and fit with the world of Warhammer as a whole (especially when combined with their "look" overall... the developers definitely did their homework when it came down to the source material). The Skaven all look the same, more or less, but that's to be expected. There's likely a few models of them, but when you are killing hundreds it all tends to... blur together. The special Skaven are memorable at the very least, and each have their own look. Overall though, the graphics are varied and solid, portraying the grim look of Vermintide beautifully.
The Drums of Doom...
The vast majority of the soundtrack here is dark. Dark and foreboding, which fits the atmosphere quite well actually. The game's audio is somewhat tied to what is going on while you play as well, so every so often you'll hear the "Drums of Doom" start to play in the background and you KNOW a wave of vermin is about to appear. Still, the soundtrack here is solid and does its job well. I particularly liked the track "The Skaven come out to play" as well as the ending theme.
One of the other highlights of the game as a whole was the voice acting. Each character's voice actor fits their voice well, but they also have dozens of interactive voice chats between them. This party banter was a highlight and helped break up the monotony of the general game play (and was just downright funny). Good stuff.
Facing the tide again and again...
One of the big draws of games like this (and Left 4 Dead) is just how re-playable they are. Not only do you have five characters here that all play rather differently, with different load-outs and weapons to choose from, but the AI behind the game is going to mix things up every time you play. Even if you play the same map over and over, special Skaven are always going to be a threat at different points in that map.
There's also different difficulty levels and a couple of "survival maps" as well to try out. The game also has some DLC out as well, although it is just new maps as far as I know (I haven't tried any of it yet). There's a full trophy list as well, including a Platinum Trophy, although you'd have to REALLY play the game a ton in order to platinum it (as well as probably finding three other REALLY good players to play through the higher difficulty levels with).
In the end, Vermentide is a solid title that emulates the "Left 4 Dead" / "Co-operative Horde Shooter" formula well. There's only a shell of a story, sadly, but that is definitely the game's weak link. The game could have more polish here and there with it's various systems (I would have liked to see some sort of in-game communication system, for example) but it's still a solid title overall. It should be noted that I still HIGHLY RECOMMEND you have a group of friends ready to play this with you before picking it up, but if you do you'll likely have a pretty good time! Have fun and keep playing!
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Warhammer: The End Times - Vermintide (US, 10/04/16)
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