The universe of Warhammer fantasy has drawn to a close. Games Workshop has stated that their fantasy line of miniatures is now defunct and as a giant banner they’ve laid the ‘End Times’ moniker across their products as a last hurrah (before rebranding and re-releasing as ‘Age of Sigmar’). While the miniature game is known for high expense, time and effort, there are a number of digital games that have a much lower entry point. Vermintide feels like it’s one of the best and it resembles nothing of the game that spawned it.
Aesthetically, the gothic world of Warhammer is painted in blacks and greens with hints of orange and brown. The muddied pallette fills out well when placed upon the stonework, timbers, fur and glass that makes up the world around you. The five playable characters all have excellent designs with outlines that remain unique against the world. Hordes of ratmen (Skaven) pour over the geometry of the world while seven specialized foes hold outlines as unique as the players. This ends up giving us scenes filled with enemies without losing the ability to read what’s going on around you.
In terms of gameplay, players of Left4Dead (L4D) will find Vermintide familiar. Co operative missions take four players through a linked campaign, pushing the narrative of the game forward. Each mission has a different requirements to complete it, from destroying mechanisms created by the Skaven to opening up ways for smugglers to bring food into cities for survivors. At the end of each successful mission, treasure is divided out to the players. All gear is assigned to one of the five characters, allowing you to customize these characters, changing how each plays in rather significant ways.
The five characters are a Human Witch Hunter (looking very Solomon Kane), a Dwarf Ranger, an Elf Hunter, a human Wizard and a human Soldier, each with their own weapon loadouts. The characters have voice callouts to each other, giving players with no mic the same communication skills that more co-operative players might have and the voice lines come with a lot of lore friendly quotes that I really loved. The Elf, for example, uses the Skaven names for things instead of the slang names humans gave everything. The Skaven have their own ‘character’ ratmen and their AI really impressed me.
The Assassin harrases properly, feeling like a much better version of the Hunter from L4D. The Trapper grabs characters and drags them away like the L4D Smoker, but their mobility is higher. The poison globadier hurls clouds (a little like the Boomer from L4D without summoning a horde) about while being an effective skirmisher. The armored Storm Vermin are just really heavily armored characters only susceptible to magic and headshots. Rattling Gunners lay down suppressive fire on a specific character, forcing other players to take the gunner down. Finally the Rat Ogre is much like the Tank from L4D, without ranged attacks. This is the one comparable ‘special’ character that I think L4D did better.
The ever present claustrophobia, overwhelming numbers of rats and omnipresent atmosphere creates a really imposing setting, which is probably the biggest drawback for most. It’s a very negative feeling, which fits with the warhammer universe but could easily turn people away who are looking for a less grim game. Also something players might not like is a weak AI, even on the easiest difficulties which means you’ll need at minimum, three players. Also while the special vermin of this game impressed me, there is no PVP mode which would be a turn off for a lot of Left4Dead players I am friends with.