My brother has been pestering me to play Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide for ages. But the 50GB download and the fact that it was a coop-based shooter akin to Left 4 Dead put me off. I can barely get through Hard Rain on my own or with players, how was I supposed to do that with magic involved? But I couldn’t say no any more when brother dumped said 50GB on my external hard drive then asked me where my Steam Library was. With Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide installed, I had to play. Also I’m shortening that title to Vermintide, because it’s a fucking mess.
So I’ve played a couple of times now. Probably in the most optimal setup as well. I played with three people nearby so we could actually call out to each other. And basically, Vermintide plays a lot like Left 4 Dead 2.
Seriously, everything outside of the main menu safe house area, it feels and plays so much like Left 4 Dead 2. Why 2? Because melee. I’ll get back to the melee later. Sure, you don’t have a set of 5 campaigns but you do have missions that feel somewhat similar in length with the first and last parts of each Left 4 Dead campaign. It’s not once you get into a mission that the Left 4 Dead vibes begin to flow.
The missions even start out the same. You get an overview of part of the area, see a few zomb- uh, Skaven and then you get an overhead view of your team, before zooming into first person for your character. Then you follow a vaguely randomized path flooded with mindless zomb- uh, Skaven enemies, mowing them down and encountering special infect- uh, special units, while also having random hordes of Skaven appear and dealing with obvious panic events with tasks that will lure enemies to your area. You have similar conversations and rambles between characters, the same basic items, the same weapon layout. Sure the characters are different but they all play mostly the same apart from Missy Exploding Fire Lady, you just get different weapons. There’s an escape vehicle at the end as well!
Even the special units are very similar. You’ve got Stormvermin which are armoured Skaven who work similarly to infected police officers that need a headshot to kill quickly; you have gas-lobbing Skaven that work like ranged Boomers; you have pack leaders that drag you off just like Smokers; assassins leap at you and pin you EXACTLY the same way Hunters do and there are also massive tanks that take a ton of effort to kill. The main special unit I’ve seen so far that isn’t similar is the rattling gun rat, which WILL fuck you up if you either don’t take cover or bumrush his side and murder the bastard.
The main differences are outside of the main gameplay. Vermintide has RPG elements, as you can get new weapons at the end of missions and you have the chance to upgrade them or fuse crappy items together inside a forge in your safe house. There’s a bounty board too but I haven’t unlocked that yet.
But really, it plays just like Left 4 Dead 2. You go through a mission, do a couple of objectives so you can continue on your path, set off some alarms, maybe fight a tank and get to the escape cart at the end. The maps are both a bit samey and pretty varied at the same time. Many of the city areas look similar, but places like the Wizard’s Tower were really fun to explore ASSUMING SOME PEOPLE DON’T RUN OFF THEN NEED RESCUING BECAUSE THEY CAN’T STICK TOGETHER FUCKING HELL STOP RUNNING OFF.
There are issues though. Mostly that guns are shit and there’s literally fuck all you can do once you’re downed. You can’t shoot and you can’t swing your melee. Sure, falling off a ledge would leave you dangling in Left 4 Dead as well but half the time environmental damage kills you instantly. Two of my team, me and the other tankier person, both got knocked into water by a tank and were instantly killed, with nothing we could do about it and with zero chance of being revived. But if you’re downed by damage means, you just… lie there, being stabbed to death, not even attempting to defend yourself. Honestly, maybe it’s because I don’t think that there’s any sound cues to warn you, the way Left 4 Dead does. There are character prompts but there’s a lack of info whether they’ve spawned, whether they’re attacking or what they’re doing, the way special infected in Left 4 Dead work.
A lot of this ties into the fact that guns really, really suck. Maybe it’s the low level guns, I don’t know, but they hardly kill or even slow enemies down unless you get a headshot and kill them instantly. Even if you can reliably kill, you get very little ammo (56 inaccurate shots on the witch hunter, 24 on most of the other characters, unlimited ammo but a high chance of literally exploding if you play the pyromancer and don’t vent off the extra heat) and ammo is actually pretty rare, often only appearing as a single item that can only be picked up by one player.
That’s fine most of the time. You can somewhat reliably melee most enemies anyway. Mostly. I’ve noticed that my swings don’t always connect and neither do my blocks. You do need to block quite a bit. But when you’re faced with a rat with a massive gun or even a super massive rat tank, you… you don’t want to go and melee that. In fact, meleeing a rat tank (it acts exactly like a Left 4 Dead tank!) is a really stupid idea since it will easily throw you off ledges and instantly incapacitate or kill you. You HAVE to shoot some things, but you easily run the risk of running out of ammo and once you do, there’s little else you can offer.
There are a lot of good things to say about Vermintide though. The characters are all really good and have their own personalities, as well as very distinct looks. The NPCs aren’t too bad either, but the innkeeper in the safe house can get a bit repetitive. The environment is genuinely really cool and it’s a great setting for an apocalypse and even if the Skaven act exactly like the infected in Left 4 Dead, they do look the part and can be decapitated in so many awesome ways. The AI is pretty good as well, from what I’ve seen. We only had to pick up the AI guy a couple of times when we played with three players and the AI actually did help out.
If you like Left 4 Dead, then DEFINITELY give Vermintide a go. You’ll feel right at home.