Vermintide – Preview
There are few universes that have as much depth, character and carnage as the Warhammer universe, a fact well known to Fatshark, developers of Warhammer End Times: Vermintide. I have managed to get my grubby little paws on the closed Beta for Warhammer End Times: Vermintide and, after having the opportunity to speak with Daniel Platt, Lead Level Designer at EGX, I have to say that I am both encouraged at the progress that the team are making in the cooperative shooter and slightly worried at the lack of originality on offer from this short demo/beta.
The beta, which launched for media and streamers on Monday 28th of September, gives us access to the first three (of thirteen) levels, five different characters and more rat men than you can shake a sabre at (trust me, I tried).
Warhammer End Times: Vermintide is set in the Warhammer fantasy universe and is designed to be played as a four player online cooperative title. Think “Left 4 Dead” set in a fantasy universe of rat people, monsters and magic. The Beta is suffering from technical issues, but that is to be expected, I mean…. It’s a Beta after all. I have a decently powerful PC but I found that I had to turn the graphics down to the lowest setting in order for the game to run smoothly, optimisation is an issue that Fatshark are aware of so I suspect this issue will be ironed out by the game’s release next month. There was also a problem with the sound clipping during chaotic moments in gameplay, once again, a helpful message on the Beta’s launcher told me that this is being looked at too. Other than those issues, I have to say that Warhammer End Times: Vermintide ran pretty well, there were some issues with latency and occasionally enemies would clip through the wall of a building but these problems don’t concern me all that much. The entire point of a Beta is to get players running the game so that developers can sort these problems, so I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it at this stage.
The enemy that we are given to fight are the Skaven, a race of Rat-Men who have been warring with pretty much everyone in the Warhammer Fantasy universe that you can think of. Skaven are a bold choice for Fatshark, as enemies like the Orks or Chaos would be infinitely more identifiable, even fighting Necromancers or Dark Elves would have kept the combat generic enough to invite both fans of the Warhammer universe and newcomers alike. I think the Skaven are an underutilised faction in the Warhammer games (not that there are many of them) and with the Skaven hierarchy, the gameplay elements make perfect sense.
The gameplay is fast paced and can become a furious whirlwind of blades, arrows, and black powder pistols, as swarms of Skaven race down alleyways, crawl out of sewers and descend from the rooftops. More than once I was fighting back to back with my allies in a sea of snapping jaws and slicing swords. I was impressed by the camaraderie these moments of back to back fighting inspired, something that is missing all too often in cooperative titles. The different characters complement each other well, in many of the playthroughs I decided to play as the Witch Hunter, a fairly average character armed with swords or an axe,` and a range of handguns (once I unlocked them). The Witch Hunter is a combat centric character, much like the Empire Soldier and Dwarf, while I couldn’t dive into the fray like the Soldier, I was excellently positioned to guard his flanks to make sure he didn’t get too bogged down. While we were forging our way into a swarm of Skaven, the Sorceress and Elf would pepper the enemy from range. It built a fantastic dynamic to the team rather than an all-out, balls to the wall melee, Warhammer End Times: Vermintide encourages actual teamwork and tactical play.
At the end of each level you are granted a dice roll, this will allow new weapons to be used (it works on a kind of RNG so be prepared for getting the same underpowered pistol a few times) and it means that you can tailor your character to your own play style to an extent, as you won’t be able to wade into the thick of battle as the Elf, but a new sword might just make the difference for your skirmisher tactics. I think this will add some real replayability to the levels as you try different combinations and play with your shiny new axe.
The levels are of a decent size although I found that when I played at any difficulty above Easy, I was thrashed almost instantly, it might be down to my and my team’s skill level, but there was no easy or natural difficulty curve, there was “doable” and “better luck next time”.
There are different objectives that players will have to accomplish to finish each level and these are very much in the vein of Left 4 Dead’s Finale sections. This is where I start to grow concerned about the title.
Warhammer End Times: Vermintide doesn’t feel like its own game, it feels like a Left 4 Dead mod, an excellently developed mod, but still a mod. Fatshark have even replaced the Special Infected with special Skaven enemies. Hunters are replaced by Gutter Runners who will pounce on a member of your team and stab them until you can fight them off of your downed comrade, Clan Rats will lasso you and drag you away from the party, just like the Smoker and special Skaven will throw poison grenades at you just like the Spitters. There are even Rat Ogres that will charge at your party just like the Tank. The skins have all been changed but the core elements are almost a carbon copy of Left 4 Dead. That might not be a bad thing if you are a big L4D fan, but the lack of originality concerns me. Warhammer has such a rich lore, one that deserves attention, but Vermintide left me feeling like I had just played L4D: Warhammer when I was hoping for a unique Warhammer game.
The gameplay is undeniably fun and with the right team I can see Vermintide being a blast. Whether or not it will be more than a L4D clone….. I guess we will find out on the game’s release.
Warhammer End Times: Vermintide is set for release through Steam on October 23rd, it will also launch on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 however release dates have yet to be announced.
Interview – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdECacXFrtU
Gameplay – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNEbCAliASQ