Preview: Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide (PC)

coverWarhammer: End Times – Vermintide
Developer: Fatshark
Publisher: Fatshark
Genre: co-op First Person Shooter
Release Date: 10/23/2015

What happens when you take a dark fantasy game world like Warhammer, bring in several characters from the setting, then cross it with a healthy dose of Left 4 Dead and set it firmly in the end of days of the Warhammer universe? You get Vermintide. While it has an initial feel that’s reminiscent of Left 4 Dead, Vermintide brings something new to the table, and it’s not just the dark fantasy game setting.

The main baddies you’re going to be fighting in this are the Skaven, a half-man, half-rat race of intelligent monsters belonging to the side of Choas. During the end times, they have risen up en masse to swarm over the human settlements and take them as their own. Enter our group of heroes whose unenviable task is to wade through this seeming unending swarm of Skaven to keep them from taking whole cities over, and ensure your survival through the foretold End Days of the Warhammer universe. The lore featuring the End Days is actually pretty in depth and the Skaven uprising is just a part of it, so if you have a chance to look it up, I highly recommend it. Fascinating stuff. You also don’t really need it all to get into the game, but the whole premise piqued my curiosity.

01You get to pick from five different characters to play as in this game. The Witch Hunter uses pistols for ranged combat and a rapier for getting up close and personal. The Bright Wizard uses a staff to channel her magic at range in a combination of ways and has a wizard sword for that up close touch. The Dwarf Ranger kind of works as a tank, as he can use axe and shield for in close combat but he has some ranged options as well with what they call the Grudge-raker. The Waywatcher is probably my favorite to play so far, as she’s excellent with her bow and dual wields for the up close and personal attack. The Empire Soldier can also work as a tank, but I thought the Dwarf Ranger was a bit more fun in the role. He’s got a sword and shield option and a blunderbuss for ranged combat. Each of the characters plays quite a bit differently from the others and definitely feels like a different character when you’re playing with each or have them running along with you.

Ubersreik is the main setting for the game. It’s a high-walled shipping town and has some great design work within it. The game itself looks great from the few levels they’ve had available for the beta. The Skaven look very much the part of the rat-man horde that they are, and its easy to draw parallels to the zombie hordes of pretty much any zombie game out there… though the Skaven are much faster than most of those zombies. It’s visually very pretty to look at; just don’t get caught staring at it, or you’ll end up dead pretty quick. The animations look great, and beheading a Skaven in combat is messy and satisfying. It’s easy to find your fellow players on the map because they stand out on screen so you know where they are. Overall it’s very functional, and it looks and plays great.

03The fighting is fast and can be overwhelming at times. The current goals for a particular level are pretty clear cut as to what you need to dog and the game gives you lots of different ways to develop quick tactics to tackle the mob that tries to overwhelm you while you do your task. While I can see an unending wave of nothing but Skaven becoming stale after a bit, which is part of the reason I don’t play Left 4 Dead all that much anymore, the closed beta event has been fun. This will be a blast to run through with a bunch of friends or even with randomly matched up people in quick sessions. It did take me a bit to gauge distances and how close I needed to actually be to score a hit, and this led me into some situations where I was getting slaughtered wholesale, but the learning curve on this is pretty small in that regard.

The bigger question is how well will the multiplayer work? Amazingly smooth actually. Just to test matchmaking during the beta, I signed on at four in the morning before I had to head into work and not only did it match me up quickly with someone else, but it then found two more people later, after we’d already started, and they jumped into the roles the AI was playing. The beta was an overall fun experience; I only encountered a few minor bugs, and there was very little wait to getting paired up with someone else, even at four in the morning which, in a limited beta, is a very good sign. The AI partners aren’t all that bad from what I’ve experienced. I haven’t had any occasion where I’ve had to run with all four being AI however, but they’re helpful and seem to know what they’re doing instead of cowering in a corner and weeping. To be honest, that’s more what I expect from the AI in these kind of games, so them working really well was a pleasant surprise.

05I do think if you’re into games like Left 4 Dead, survival horror in general, or dark fantasy, this might be an option for you. This take on Warhammer might not be exactly what the tabletop wargaming crowd is looking for, but the Warhammer flavor and setting is perfect for what they’re going for with Vermintide and I really want to see how this all comes together with the full release on the 23rd of this month. The controls are pretty good and the dialogue never seems to get on my nerves; on the contrary, it doesn’t feel repeated or forced and fits along with what’s going on pretty naturally. Vermintide is currently up for pre-order on Steam for cheaper than you’ll get it at release, and you get early access to the beta before the game actually launches that way.



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