We take a look at the Warhammer-based End Times – Vermintide, a cooperative shooter/brawler in a fantasy setting. Here’s our review.
We’d been following Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide for a while, but didn’t cover it up until now. We actually got to play the game last summer as well, when we met with Swedish developer Fatshark during Cologne’s Gamescom. The experience was a bit rough around the edges, but at least we now know why – and it’s not the game’s fault, it’s actually to the game’s credit.
Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide is a cooperative first person shooter/brawler set in a fantasy universe based on what was created by board game designers Games Workshop. The end of the world is upon us, and it’s been brought about by the Skaven, a race of rat-like creatures. In the game, you’re fighting to save the city of Ubersreik – a quest that is spread out over 13 levels.
There is a storyline that connects the individual levels, but the core experience is the same for all of them. You are given basic objectives (to reach a goal, grab an item or take back a location), after which a seemingly endless supply of Skaven does everything possible to prevent you from reaching these objectives. The key to success, without exception, is to work together with your teammates. Team members include a soldier and a dwarf if you’re into melee-oriented combat, and a wizard and elf if long-range combat is more your style. If you prefer to mix things up a bit, then the witch character is right up your alley.
Whichever character you choose, cooperation is crucial – and this brings me back to that evening in Cologne where we first got to play Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide. We were in a room with four networked PCs and each station was manned by a different journalist. No one had played the game before, and we were all thrown into battle as one of the levels booted up. Chaos ensued. Everyone started exploring, playing around with the controls, taking down some of the easier enemies… and eventually we all progressed further into the level. We then got to a section where we were supposed to gather a dozen or so bags – and as simple as that may sound, that’s where we met our doom.
The key to success would have been to have one player run around collecting bags, with the others covering him while he was unable to wield his weapon. Instead, everyone went for a bag, or was off in a corner fighting enemies. The moment one of us went down, people were too tied up either carrying another bag or fighting enemies to be able to revive our fallen comrade. As a result, the enemies who took one of us down had their hands free and would switch to attacking another one of us… and very soon we were overrun and our mission ended just minutes before we would have (against all odds) completed it.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that scene captured the essence of Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide perfectly. Cooperation is crucial, and so is communication. We did neither back in August, but playing the final game now has really taught us the importance of developing team tactics and executing them in the midst of battle. Arriving at the same square and being asked to collect the same bags again, we now had our soldier gathering the items, while the dwarf circled around him keeping enemies off his back. The other two teammates stayed further back to keep an overview and take out enemies from a distance…. and this time, we all made it!
The difficulty level can be cranked up for some added challenge, but the default mode offers plenty of difficulty for newcomers learning the ropes and developing their team tactics. The game is fairly well balanced, so after a bit of training it’s a good option to also learn and master some of the other characters. It adds a bit of lasting appeal to the game, because the 13 levels can be completed rather quickly and the experience changed drastically with another character.
Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide’s world is dark and mostly dimly lit, which helps in obscuring the somewhat limited level of detail in the character and world models. In most cases, the action is too frantic to even take note of this anyway – so it’s never a distraction and the overall look and feel that Fatshark has crafted is spot on. The game can also be played with bots, but nothing comes close to playing and communicating with other humans and switching up your plans in the midst of battle.
It’s easy to draw comparisons to a game like Left 4 Dead, but Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide is vastly different in its setting and gameplay style – and although it’s not heavily story-driven, there’s a good amount of Warhammer lore to be found here as well. We may have had a rough first experience with the game, but it’s a nicely polished diamond in the end.