Looks can be deceiving.
It seems the gaming scene can not get enough of the Warhammer 40k Universe right now and for great reason. It doesn’t matter what type of story telling you like, the world of Warhammer will defiantly have something for you in any medium. However if you are looking for the Gothic, heart pounding action that only a Left 4 Dead inspired game can deliver, then you might want to think twice before buying Warhammer: End Time – Vermintide.
There is no getting away from it; Left 4 Dead was definitely an inspiration for Warhammer: End Time – Vermintide all the way down to the in-game hud. So you would think that it would be a perfect match right?
Developer Fatshark (by the way best name ever) has done an amazing job with Warhammer: End Time – Vermintide’s atmosphere. The set designs, the lighting, the chilling orchestra music, the way the Rats are crawling onto the path from the cracks and high ledges, gives it a real sense of Gothic/medieval horror that many other developers struggle to pull off. I can almost feel the chill in the air and the hairs standing up on my arms just thinking about it and in a good way.
There is little to no plot here however for those familiar with the Warhammer universe will know what I mean when I say the game takes place during the end times in the year 2523 in Ubersreik, an element that has been given approval by Games Workshop themselves. Regardless of the actual plot, you are given just enough information to make your adventure seem worth the effort for our 5 heroes.
As soon as you have gone past the opening cinematic you are immediately thrown into the game’s hub world, which is a warm tavern. Here you will be able to select your mission, select your character, customize their load out and appearance and it all comes off as unnecessarily messy. Why can’t this just be a simple menu. Sometimes less is more.
If you are familiar with Left 4 Dead, then the gameplay will not be to far off from what you are used to allowing you to jump straight in. It’s run and kill action at its purest. However being that is this game is set in a medieval-esc era, for the most part you won’t be relying on ranged weapons such as guns for the most part as melee weapons and the center of the combat, unless you have good players on your team.
You have 5 classes to pick from and are all perfectly voiced. Their deigns, voices and banter gives each character a real personality that makes you really like these characters. The match making system Fatshark has in place, will never place you with a party with more than one of the same classes. Even if the match maker has failed to locate an available player in the class you are missing from your party, a BOT with, so far, flawless A.I. will take its place until a player has joined the game.
However to ensure the newly joined player isn’t spawned in a rush of Rats ready to gang up on you instantly, the player can only observe his/her new team and must be “rescued” in order to play. This is a great mechanic however a flawed one and sometimes doesn’t work depending on type of level. There were times as soon as I rescued the character, the player was spawned at the previous check point rather than the area their character was tied up at. Meaning we had to wait while they made their way to us. Also during the boating level where your mission is to carry barrels of explosives to destroy a fishing boat, because of the level being a simple squared hoard mode type of arena, I spawned multiple times in the middle of 30+ rats and was downed almost instantly from joining the game which is another flaw in itself.
Most of the missions are unfairly crafted. Too many enemies spawn in one area but hardly any in another. During my first mission I was caught up fighting off rats after being outnumbered. I was pushed further and further away from my group making it impossible for me to fight them off on my own, I needed my team, yet my team abandoned me.
As I mentioned above, melee weapons are the center of combat and without a good team you will only be able to rely on your weapons that are so unbalanced you won’t be having fun for long and dead before you know it. The way the game is designed, it expects you to be a great team from the start. If you are a witch, you are expected to know it’s you duty to fend off the enemies from your team mate two floors down using your magic staff. Otherwise that sword he has, won’t be enough to fend off 30+ rats and the Gutter Runner (the same as Left 4 Dead’s Hunter) that has just jumped on him stabbing him repeatedly as he lays defenseless on the blood soaked floor.
Ranged weapons do exist and are thankfully enjoyable to use. Bow and arrows can be fired on the fly but you can charge up your pull back for extra damage. Guns are the power house you would expect although take a while to reload, which depending how you see it can be a downside. Magic is a great addition and the most satisfying way of playing.
Combat is designed to make you go face to face with the enemy, for you to see the fear in your enemy’s eyes are they meet their fate with the convincingly heavy wielded weapons. I keep trying to switch weapon on the fly, but the realistic feel the game is going for, restricts your ability to do so, making it even harder to fend them off. Luckily all enemies have perfect stats so nothing feels like it will take more hits than that is necessary.
Thankfully you do have the ability to heal yourself with healing items you find in the world. I do find health is extremely difficult to find at times as you might need to stand in the exactly angle to see it glowing in the chest. This could however be a design choice that while I’m not found of it, others may see it as an extra challenge to add to the tension of rats coming for you and you need to act quickly.
If you managed to make it to the end of each mission, you will be rewarded with the ability to roll dice. Depending how well you rolled (which I still don’t understand what each symbol means, if they mean anything at all), you will be rewarded with more weapons which gives you a real sense of achievement. Dice can be found by exploring the world and finding chests increasing your chances of earning something that may actually be useful.
Bugs and glitches are thankfully not too distracting but they certainly are there. Dead enemies would spawn back as lifeless rag dolls that don’t stay down. Rat Ogres (Similar to Left 4 Dead’s Tank) will, 50% of the time, charge at you and continue running into an invisible wall, (or get stick in a small corridor), as you are a small step below or above it, allowing you to kill it where it stands (or runs this case), with no threat to you or your team. There have also been reports, which I have yet to experience, of rats spawning from the sky, so be sure to “Watch the sky boys!”.
+ Rich Visuals and Environments
+ Orchestral Music
+ Diverse Characters
– Confusing menu system