Platform: PC [Reviewed], Xbox One, PS4
Release date: October 23rd, 2015 [PC], Q1 2016 [Consoles]
Price: $29.99 [Standard], $44.99 [Collector’s]
Warhammer is by no means a new name to not only tabletop gamers, but digital gamers as well. Spanning over 30-years, the franchise has made its way in all forms of fantasy entertainment, usually being held in high regard. The video game iterations of the Warhammer universe have been met with much praise and consist of a massive list of titles, dating all the way back to the DOS.
However, now in 2015, Games Workshop (the creator and retailer of Warhammer) have released the first video game set in the end times of the Warhammer universe, and thus have given those players of video games (like me and you) the chance to experience the universe in a modern setting.
Warhammer, having roots as a tabletop role playing game, inherently has a ton of lore, far more than I could explain here (and far more than I even know). However, Vermintide offers a different perspective on The End Times, which are spoken of in other forms of the universe. This plot is centered around the city of Ubersreik, where the cataclysmic End Times have been prophesied to occur. The city has been overrun with Skaven, a rat-like creature that’s only intent is to destroy.
While there is certainly a lot of lore to digest in the entire Warhammer universe, Vermintide does a fantastic job of throwing you right into the action without requiring any prior knowledge. Knowing the entire story certainly makes the experience better, but that improvement is negligible at best.
Vermintide is a cooperative online first person shooter (with swords). I think a more accurate description would be a Left 4 Dead-esque game set in the vast world of Warhammer. You will be put into a party of four for a chosen mission, and then finish the objectives posed in each of the missions, which is generally not much more than to slay Skaven.
There’s nothing wrong with this layout. In fact, it is just flat-out enjoyable. Indulging in mission after mission with people around the globe makes for an experience that is incredibly redundant, but way too addicting. Very much in the vein of games like Left 4 Dead and Payday 2, Vermintide begs to be played vigorously for hours on end. And with five different difficulty levels, that seems awfully likely.
In order to defend Ubersreik properly, you will assume the role of one of five heroes: a Witch Hunter, Dwarf Ranger, Empire Solder, Waywatcher, or Bright Wizard. Each of these heroes is unique in not only look, but function. For a Left 4 Dead styled game, it’s nice to see variety in characters, not only from the aesthetic aspect, but from a practical aspect. I actually felt like I could contribute something to the fight that no one else in my party could. Whether it be scouting Skaven from afar as a Waywatcher, or being able to set fire to large groups of them as a Bright Wizard, I always felt like I played a unique role.
Each role can can be further customized with loot that can be forged or found, and there is a lot of it. This is really good incentive to keep playing Vermintide considering the amount of gameplay you get out of it is solely dependent on what you have the motivation to unlock. This further improves on the Left 4 Dead model with complete customization of your character.
The look of Vermintide floored me completely. Many games tend to be rough around the edges, but Vermintide just looks flawless. Every environment sets a perfect atmosphere, with the different locations all holding an independent feel. Furthermore, the Skaven looked fantastic. Having hordes of them swarming around you looks real, and evokes an overwhelming sense that so many other games fail to get right. The different types of Skaven are generally easy to spot as well, giving you the chance to prioritize kills.
However, while I was playing Vermintide, I did experience some frame rate issues. This didn’t appear to be due to a hardware issue or a high number of things happening within the game; it seemed to be on a timer. Every minute and a half or so, my frame rate would dip well below 30 FPS, even when there was nothing happening on screen. I’m not sure what the issue is, but hopefully Fatshark will be quick with a patch.
For all the seriousness of the lore, it doesn’t seem that the gameplay is to be taken as seriously. While there is a lot of death happening, and the setting looks pretty grim, there is still a light tone that permeates the actual game. The characters bicker back and forth, often offering jokes for Warhammer fans to pick up on, and interactions in each game aren’t so heavy as to kill any motivation of playing further.
The Bottom Line
Vermintide is just a great game. While the model is something that has been used before in games like Left 4 Dead and Payday, the improvements are smart and effective, smoothing over some edges that used to exist. Not to mention that the world Vermintide is set in is incredible. There is just a different feel to slicing through Skaven as opposed to shooting up zombies. It feels fresh, fun, and is gearing up to be one of my favorite games of 2015.
With that being said, these types of games aren’t for everyone. If you didn’t find any enjoyment in Left 4 Dead, you probably won’t find it here. While Vermintide improves, it does not break the mold, and that can pose an issue for some of you out there who haven’t enjoyed these types of games in the past. In addition, it is quite frustrating when the action slows down due to the frame rate. A simple patch could fix this issue, and there has yet to be one. It’s an annoyance and needs to be fixed immediately.
Although Vermintide is a niche game, it suits quite a large niche. It is undeniably some of the most fun I’ve had with a game all year and will not be uninstalled from my Steam library anytime soon. For only $29.99, Vermintide is packed with features and gameplay unmatched by other games at this price point. Pull the trigger (or swing your great sword) and pick up Vermintide.