Warhammer End Times: Vermintide is the newest entry in the gaming market from the hugely profitable table-top war-gaming brand Warhammer. Games Workshop has had a slightly inconsistent history with the release of their video games, from the reasonably successful Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine and the ever popular Dawn of War series, to the less known and appreciated titles such as Warhammer Battle March and Warhammer 40K: Squad Command. The Warhammer games have always been hit and miss, something that the now defunct developers THQ found out at their cost. So what is different about Warhammer End Times: Vermintide that ensures that it won’t be a disappointment? Well, for one thing, it is the first time that Warhammer has ventured into the online cooperative first person genre. Something that I think was long overdue.
I have played Warhammer End Times: Vermintide throughout the games development, through private and public betas and hands on at conventions. The very first thing that I, and anyone else for that matter, noticed was how similar Warhammer End Times: Vermintide is to the Left 4 Dead series. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Vermintide could have just as easily been a L4D mod than its own standalone game, and that’s a scary concept.
I will put my cards on the table, I am a console gamer; that is where most of my time gaming is spent, so switching to a frantic PC game was a little bit of a culture shock, usually I enjoy MMO’s or RTS games on my PC. I have a reasonably powerful computer but it is a couple of years old and it did start to falter on Warhammer End Times: Vermintide if I were to put the graphics above the half-way point. There is no shortage of customisable options, something that I’m sure PC gamers are used to but it was definitely a novelty for a console heathen like myself.
As a result of never using the “super-ultra-mega-pc-slaying-awesome graphics” setting, I was unable to see Warhammer End Times: Vermintide at its best. Even with the graphics set to a nice and steady medium setting, I was quietly impressed. I had expected the game to look blocky and scraggily but it just isn’t the case. There are some issues with texture pop and enemies can simply appear two paces in front of you from time to time but, by and large, the visual appeal holds its own. I did have a few issues with enemy Skaven simply vanishing just after my sword connected with their furry necks which took me out of the moment. I’m not sure if these problems would be minimised on higher settings but it was one of the few negative aspects of my time with the game.
The gameplay itself is almost identical to the Left 4 Dead Series. You play in a party of four adventurers (think survivors), when you don’t have a full strength human party, the AI takes over and fills in the gaps. Each mission will give you an overall objective that you have to complete, many of the levels end in a Finale style section where everything goes to hell and you have to make it to your wagon to escape. Most of the time I spent in Vermintide was occupied with chopping down hoards of ratmen: The Skaven. The Skaven are the antagonists in this fantasy epic and they have been portrayed pretty damn well from the source material. The enemy types that you will face are, once again, similar to the classes in L4D. Slave Rats and normal Skaven replace the hoard zombies, these little guys are the furry fodder I spent hours chopping through with, what some might deem, concerning levels of delight.
There are also special enemies that will show up to spoil the fun. Gutter Runners pounce on a member of the party and will frantically stab them to death until they are pushed off by a companion (just like the Hunters). Clan Rats will loop a noose around your neck and drag you off, (just like the Smoker). There are a couple of tougher enemies like the Rattling Gunner, who carries around a ridiculously oversized Gatling Gun that will mulch anyone caught in its stream of carnage, as well as Skaven that will throw poison globes at you (like the Spitter), you know, just in case you were getting too comfortable while fighting off dozens of ratmen. There are also some Commander units, these heavily armoured and powerful Skaven can be found both wandering around alone or in packs. They can be a real challenge as it takes a very powerful weapon or a charged attack to do them any damage. And finally we have the Rat Ogre (Tank), that will show up from time to time and it takes the whole team working together to take it down. The diversity of enemy types really did keep me on my toes but it does seem like someone has simply changed the textures from zombies to rats, made a couple of tweaks and then slapped the Warhammer name on it.
I noticed, on a few occasions, that the audio would clip during combat, it was never a big problem but, once again, it did spoil the emersion to a degree. When the audio was working fine it was incredibly good. One stand out moment I had was running across a large stone walkway, enemies were everywhere, their chattering screeches echoing from all around during a stormy night. It was a singular moment, a moment where, just for a second, I wasn’t some guy playing a game, I was a Witch Hunter, slaying the unclean from the walls of my town. It was an exceptional moment but one that is sadly alone in the game.
There are five different characters that you can choose from, each character has their own set of weapons and upgrades. To start with, I felt that the character selection would dictate how I played the game, I couldn’t very well go charging into battle as the semi-weak, skirmishing Elf but as I played and unlocked new weapons and armour, I found myself able to equip weapons that would let me play any way that I wanted to. It was a nice touch, I mean; no one wants to be their least favourite character simply due to the lack of a badass weapon. New weapons are obtained through the forge or are awarded a Random Dice Roll at the end of each mission. This can be a hit or miss as I found I was regularly getting weapons that were unusable by my current character.
Each character has both a melee weapon and a ranged weapon, be it Bow, Pistol or Blunderbuss. The one exception to this is the Wizard. While everyone else has ammo for their ranged weapon, the Wizard instead, works on a kind of overheating system. It wasn’t explained in any kind of tutorial but it was simple enough to figure out after the first couple of fireballs.
I think the biggest gripe I have about Warhammer End Times: Vermintide is the inept AI support you get if you play offline or alone. I had a good few occasions where I had been downed, awaiting revival, and the AI would stand around uselessly. I had the same gripe with L4D but this one seems equally terrible.
As with any online focused cooperative game, Warhammer End Times: Vermintide will be judged by the people you play with. When I had a good team that worked together, I had a blast as I slayed my way through the dozen or so levels, but if you play with AI or get “that guy” who charges in to get the most kills ever game, well then, it may be just about the most frustrating experience I can recall. I enjoyed Warhammer End Times: Vermintide but I think it lacks an identity of its own, it feels like a L4D mod, an outstandingly good mod, but a mod all the same.
Warhammer End Times: Vermintide is a product of its environment and has the same vulnerabilities as Left 4 Dead (an obviously huge influence on the game’s design). When played online with a good team Warhammer End Times: Vermintide can be a blast, it is easy to overlook occasional graphical and audio problems when the gameplay is so fun. When playing with AI or “Lone Wolf” players, the experience soon degrades into sighs, eye rolls and the occasional expletive. Warhammer End Times: Vermintide is a good game but it feels like a copy of the L4D formula, almost a carbon copy. I think Vermintide has a right to its own identity but this could just as easily have been a Steam Mod for Left 4 Dead.
• Graphics – 79/100
• Audio— 78/100
• Value For Money—88/100
Overall – 79.5