Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide immerses you in the Warhammer fantasy universe, arms you with melee and ranged weaponry, and unleashes the human sized rat force known as the Skaven on you and your party of adventurers. And with dozens of the vermin swarming you whilst blades, magic, arrows, grenades and bullets fill the air alongside the screams of battle and the cries of death, you’ll be forgiven for thinking this is Left 4 Dead with a different skin. It is, in fact, a great deal more than that.
Well, not a huge amount more than that. Vermintide shares more than a passing resemblance to Valve’s zombies slaying action titles. The core gameplay-loop is the same: you and up to three others venture off into a relatively linear level towards an objective whilst a variety of different Skaven foes flood your screen and try to murder you. The Skaven even have special units that neatly compare to the likes of Left 4 Dead’s, such as the hulking Rat Ogre that can absorb and dish out huge damage, the Poison Wind Globadier who chucks poison grenades your way, and the Gutter Runner who pounces on you and slashes away at your torso, plus several more.
Players also respawn further within a level if they are felled, and items can be picked up to help heal or buff you and your party, as well as offensive options such as bombs and grenades. Furthermore, an omnipresent AI director oversees the summoning of the Skaven horde in order to make your playthrough more dynamic and scalable. Indeed, it’s very much plays like Left 4 Dead. However, this is certainly not a bad thing.
Vermintide is fast paced and intense, with dozens of enemies filling the screen forcing you and your party to wildly swing, bash and shoot to try and clear a path forwards. Meanwhile, teamwork is crucial in dealing with the number of foes and the aforementioned special units that mean to separate you from your friends and pick you off whilst you’re vulnerable. Vermintide is the best parts of Left 4 Dead, all packed up in a faithful, intriguing and beautiful Warhammer package.
Stunning visuals brings the city streets, sewers, forests and harbours to life, with character models for your adventurers and the Skaven looking tremendously detailed. Moreover, this visual fidelity doesn’t compromises the fast pace, regardless of the action unfolding around you. You’re party of four, swinging melee weapons or firing off projectiles against dozens of humanoid rats remarkable remains smooth and fast throughout.
The rest of the presentation is also superb, with a fantastically thematic score accompanying your dance of slaughter, not at all listenable outside of the game but wonderfully fitting for the action and world whilst you’re immersed within it. Furthermore, the clash of steal, the swish of arrows, the roar of fire, and the boom of firearms all sound excellent amongst the equally terrific Skaven and party member voices. Vocal cues from the Skaven and your party aid you in preparing for upcoming battles, or point you in the right direction if you get lost, but are used sparingly enough not to grate or become superfluous. Additionally, the little elements of lore you glean from short snippets of dialogue between your party point to the larger world of the Warhammer universe subtlety but rewardingly for fans.
You can embark on a large selection of missions across multiple different locations either alone and supported by AI teammates, or via online coop with up to three other players. You choose a hero from a selection of five: a Dwarf Ranger with axe and crossbow; an Elven Waywatcher with dual daggers and bow; a Witch Hunter with rapier and pistols; a Bright Wizard with flaming mace and fire magic; and an Empire Soldier with great sword and pistol. You then gather within an inn, consult a map to choose your mission and are then briefed by the barman. It’s terrifically atmospheric. Moreover, the starting weapons can be swapped out for several more to modify your characters significantly.
Securing new weapons requires an element of skill and equally luck. Once you complete a level, depending on how well you do, you’ll be given dice to throw. The more dice that land showing a face, the rarer your weapon loot will be. However, the weapons available during this dice game are random, sometimes not providing new weapons for the characters you prefer and potentially lumbering you with junk. Fortunately, you can combine unwanted weapons to form new ones or upgrade favourites at the forge, helping to alleviate the frustration of tackling a level and not receiving anything useful.
This random loot system certainly can compromise your fun. The levels are hugely challenging and conquering one only to receive junk can be disheartening. Furthermore, if you fail a level you receive nothing. The friendly AI is often responsible for such failures, unfortunately. Occasionally they’ll get stuck on scenery or fail to figure out the terrain to progress forward. Meanwhile, at times they’ll completely ignore that fact you’ve been downed and require medical assistance and you’ll die surrounded by the dumbfounded AI. Bringing friends along for the fight certainly helps, but the challenge remains stiff whether you’re backed up with AI or human comrades.
Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide is great fun to play, with its hugely satisfying combat and its excellent feedback as enemies are knocked around and sliced apart, to the visually stunning environments, as well as the character and enemy models, which truly bring the Warhammer world to life. It’s difficult, and the loot system’s random element can get a little frustrating, but the gameplay-loop is easily compelling enough to keep you coming back for more Skaven blood.
Thanks to Xbox and Fatshark for supporting TiX