Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide (Video Game)


vermintideDeveloped by Fatshark

Available on PC through Steam

Rated M for Mature

The streets of Ubersreik have a familiar feel. As you begin a mission, a sweeping view of the intro zone pans in to show your band of slayers. Numbering four, one of you will say a scripted snarky banter that alludes to your present objective. Heading out, a group of dormant fodder enemies wait patiently for you to warm up your smashes and shots. Soon, depending on difficulty level and luck, a horn will sound, signaling a coming tide of chittering flesh. Various whispers, cackles, and callouts signal the coming of specialized foes, and a thunderous bellow heralds a coming massive lumbering titan.

If this sounds a lot like a certain zombie shooter that goes by Left 4 Dead, then you would be right. Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide has become known amongst my friends as “Left 4 Rats.” You and three compatriots will follow a linear path from objective to objective, before gearing up for a final massive encounter that will test the limits of your mettle. Standing between you and ultimate victory is the unending “Vermintide,” a swarm of vile rat-men who employ all manner of foul machination and mutation. There are rats that creep and leap, and rats that snag and drag. There are rats that boom for blind, rats that shoot, and rats that loot. There are rats that lumber and thunder, and rats that lead and refuse to bleed. It’s a familiar formula, but fortuitously fun.

Though treading in familiar waters, I see no reason to hold that against Vermintide. It’s a title that skipped the wave of cheap imitators that came after Left 4 Dead by about half a decade, so deserves to live outside the stigma of “clone.” Still… it is basically Left 4 Rats, so the comparison is warranted.

What sets Vermintide apart from the competition is that it’s really damn good. It is a more focused vision than Left 4 Dead and its many imitators, relying entirely on a cooperative experience. Maps are split into main missions and side missions. Main missions typically require the completion of a few objectives, leading up to a final encounter. These missions are far more robust, taking maybe 30-45 minutes to complete with an average group. Side missions are generally single objective affairs, with a brief intro before you get to the meat of the encounter.

There is no “Versus” mode. As is the problem with every cooperative experience, the question lingers, “what do you do when you have beaten every mission?” It feels odd to say this, but it seems Vermintide has learned what makes pay-to-win games fun and applied it well to a lump-sum product. At the end of every round, you roll a number of dice to determine what loot you get. The number of dice is always the same, but the quality varies. There are items you can obtain during a mission that increases the number of winning sides on the dice, making collecting these items a priority. So, let’s say you roll 5 positive dice, you will get a tier 6 reward (as you start at tier 1 automatically). There are four tiers of gear: common, uncommon, rare, and orange. Higher difficulty play increases the loot rewards, meaning that a hard level game will reward orange gear at tier 6 while a medium will only do so at tier 8.

You can grind out high level items over time if you are afraid to venture into the realm of badass gods who play on nightmare difficulty. Combining 5 items of the same level in the forge will yield an item of the next tier. Getting a common item sucks, but at least you can smash them together to make something worthwhile. Items also come with randomized enchantment slots based on their tier (uncommon has 1, rare has 2, and orange has 3). Disassembling an item of a lower tier gives you the material required to unlock these enchantment slots, which both doubles the grind and value of low-level items.

If it sounds like an unreasonable amount of shit to do, it kind of is. There’s no way you will play through 15 iterations of the same level successfully just to grind out the loadout you need to try the next difficulty level. Fortunately, this isn’t super necessary for winning. It’s going to be near impossible to beat a Cataclysm difficulty mission in uncommon gear, but skill can make up for significant gear gaps. The game is 20% having the right tools and 80% knowing how to use them.

Much of that knowing how to use them bit comes from working with your team. The satisfying feel of chopping away at hordes of rats on easy difficulty quickly becomes a desperate stand against threats from all angles. This is one of those games that you can witness people learning, and the jumps between difficulties. Playing with a group I thought I found more than competent to tackle levels on normal, we decided to try our hand at hard. We failed to watch our flanks, and were quickly taken down by the increased Gutter Runner (assassin rat) spawns. The game doesn’t have a level restriction on matchmaking, so being paired with noobs that don’t know a Stormvermin from a Packmaster is aggravating. Getting a good group together, learning the ropes, and figuring out how to watch each others’ backs is what this game is all about.

To further the replay value and challenge scale, a series of tomes and grimoires are hidden in every main mission. These hard to find items increase the value of your loot dice, with grimoires providing a 100% positive roll chance. The tomes are easier to find, generally stashed away in some out of sight nook or cranny. These take up your healing item slot, but can still be swapped for a potion and picked back up. Grimoires are far trickier, generally requiring complex jumping puzzles and secret activators to find. These take up your potion slot (reserved for temporary boost potions), but more importantly drop your maximum health by 33%. There are two grimoires and three tomes in every main mission, making the challenge of carrying them all to the end significant. The reward of significantly increased loot is tantalizing, but whether or not your group is up to it is a totally different question.

I love the Warhammer/Warhammer 40k universes, but I’ve never had the time or money for the tabletop. Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War 2 is one of my most played games of all time, with the original Dawn of War coming in a close second. For me, Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide is a perfect foray into the world. While purists will cry foul over the absence of save rolls or the unfair depiction of their favorite unit, Vermintide brings the world to a new audience. It’s the perfect medium for the story, and the kind of game you dream of playing when you hear about hordes of heroes holding out against a never ending tide of foes. A must have, this hopefully isn’t the Endtime of coop Warhammer games.

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User Rating 5 (2 votes)


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