Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide Review – Left 4 Dead, With Lots of Rats

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Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide is a first-person shooter set in the Warhammer fantasy universe. The game was developed and published by Fatshark, a company most known for the action title War of the Roses, which was released in 2012.

With less than ten games under their belt, it was understandable if fans of the Warhammer series were a bit uneasy, especially considering the mediocre titles to come out of Games Workshop’s other intellectual properties as of late.

Fortunately, Vermintide is a thoroughly competent game, albeit incredibly derivative. If you’ve played Left 4 Dead, this title will feel incredibly familiar, seeing as how it purloins a large majority of Left 4 Dead’s game mechanics.

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Vermintide is essentially a clone—but honestly, I don’t think that immediately makes it a bad game. Quite to the contrary, I believe that it does many things better than the titles it borrows so heavily from.

The story of Vermintide isn’t particularly deep or engaging, but it manages to tie the missions together handily enough. Taking place during the End Times, your party of four players is constantly set upon by Skaven, hordes of rat-like humanoids in the city of Ubersreik.

Players can pick from one of five heroes, consisting of the Dwarf Ranger, Waywatcher, Bright Wizard, Witch Hunter, and Empire Soldier. Each of these characters has their own personality and unique things to say, which is half the fun in my opinion. They’re also all incredibly well voice-acted.

Combat seems like standard fare for the genre at first, but it does have some nice changes from the Left 4 Dead mold. While you do have your melee and ranged weapons, melee is a lot more of a focus here. It also feels wonderfully meaty and visceral, with each sword and hammer carrying a fair amount of weight behind their blows. It’s a lovely departure from Left 4 Dead’s paper zombies.

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The “Special Skaven” mirror Left 4 Dead’s special infected almost to the tee, which is a bit disappointing. You have a Skaven that tries to grab one member away from the rest of the party, you have a stealthy one that pounces on singled-out targets, and you have a tank Skaven as well.

There are a few new ideas here, such as an enemy with a gatling gun that picks a target to fire upon, as well as heavily armored rats that require precisely-aimed shots to the head to easily dispatch. It unfortunately doesn’t detract from the fact that Vermintide still feels incredibly derivative from Valve’s popular IP.

It also feels irritatingly cheap in this game when Packmasters or Gutter Runners nab you. They seem to spawn just as the rest of your party is descending into a part of the stage from which return is impossible. This mean that you all have to coordinate going down at once, or risk one of you being grabbed. Your allies basically just have to watch as you slowly bleed out, since there’s nothing they can do.

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This isn’t particularly good game design, in my opinion. While it is difficult, it’s not a satisfying form of difficulty at all, and just ends up feeling like the game is trying to cheat you out of a victory.

Simultaneously my favorite and least favorite part of Vermintide, however, is the loot system. After successful completion of each mission, the player gets to roll a certain amount of dice supplemented by completing side quests and picking up tomes and grimoires. The latter are hidden items that take up an inventory slot and debuff your character, the benefit being extra chances at loot.

Getting loot is always a fun addition, and it adds a sense of progression to the game. My main criticism of Left 4 Dead was that the only progression was getting better at the game, and once you’d beat everything on the highest difficulty, it was essentially over. That’s not the case here, which I appreciate greatly.

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Unfortunately, in order to get anything worthwhile, you’ve got to do a fair amount of grinding. I can’t say my time spent exhaustively repeating the same levels in hopes that I’d get a higher-tiered item was particularly enjoyable, especially considering you’re at the mercy of a series of dice rolls to get anything from it all.

On a brighter note, the sound design in Vermintide is pretty top-notch. The weapons swing and crash into bone and flesh with satisfying audio cues, and the score and voice acting are delightful as well. If I had one complaint to make, I wish there were voice commands the player could give. While the game does these automatically, it often signals that there’s ammo or health right as you’re picking it up—which is pretty counter-intuitive. You’ll often hear an ally alert you about available health packs, only to find nothing when you make your way over to them.

The graphics are nice, if a bit muddy. It can be hard to tell the difference between certain enemy types at times, especially in the midst of a Skaven swarm. This can make it difficult to pop off reliable headshots as well, though it’s not a huge problem. Performance can be a bit spotty as well, with lower end PCs having a lot of trouble running the game at a respectable FPS. However, the devs have cited this as a top priority, and have been putting out frequent updates since the game’s release.

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So, would I recommend Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide after all is said and done? Yes, I certainly would.

While it does have its fair share of issues, many of which frustrated me greatly, I still think it’s a solid, enjoyable title. Warhammer fans will have a lot to sink their teeth into, and Left 4 Dead fans will have something to fiddle with until the next iteration. Well…if Valve ever learns how to count to 3, that is.

Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide was reviewed on PC using a digital copy provided by Fatshark. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 7.5

The Good:

  • Satisfying, weighty combat. No paper zombies here
  • Loot system adds meaningful progression to the game
  • Voice acting and sound design are superb


The Bad:

  • Is essentially a clone of Left 4 Dead
  • Loot system adds quite a bit of grinding to the game
  • Difficulty can be unfair and completely unsatisfying