Warhammer: End Times -- Vermintide Review

  • First Released Oct 23, 2015
  • PC

Rat pack.

When I heard my teammate's character cry out "Potions here!" during a mission, I just had to laugh. While games frequently borrow broad design ideas from their influences, developer Fat Shark's Warhammer: End Times -- Vermintide apes even the smallest details of Valve's classic first-person shooter Left 4 Dead. Swap "potions" for "pills," for example, and many gamers will hear Francis's gruff voice echo through their brains.

And the similarities don't stop there: the special enemy types, the glowing silhouettes of your allies, even the fly-by camera that zooms into the back of your character's head at the start of each mission are all lifted straight from Left 4 Dead. It's pretty shameless, but it's also not such a bad thing. What worked about Left 4 Dead's frantic cooperative gameplay works here as well. Plus, Vermintide builds on its predecessor's formula in a few meaningful ways that capitalize on the grimy, medieval feel of Warhammer's End Times lore.

In place of Left 4 Dead's zombies, Vermintide uses humanoid rats, but to similar effect. Four players (or, if absolutely necessary, AI-controlled allies) select one of five available characters and battle their way through a collection of 13 discrete, replayable missions in an effort to quell the rodent scourge. There's no plot to speak of, but the game provides enough context for the world to feel deep and the action to feel purposeful. The slick yet succinct opening sets the stage, each mission is prefaced by a brief voice-acted overview, and characters banter back and forth during missions. All this, combined with Vermintide's richly detailed visuals, creates a palpable atmosphere that's more than adequate for a multiplayer-only experience.

In keeping with this dour high fantasy world, each of the five characters relies on both ranged and melee weapons. There's very little nuance to the melee mechanics since there's only one attack button and you're unable to direct your strikes beyond simply pointing the camera, but the action finds other ways to feel satisfying in spite of its relative mindlessness. The sanguine sound effects and blood-spattered screen makes cutting through wave after wave of foes feel convincingly gruesome. Luring enemies into a bottleneck for easy slaughtering or decimating a pack with a rare but glorious grenade generally elicits demented joy. And strategically swapping between your ranged and melee options to control the spacing between your party and the vermin adds a surprising amount of tactical depth.

Vermintide uses character banter to subtly guide players through its dense, occasionally confusing levels.
Vermintide uses character banter to subtly guide players through its dense, occasionally confusing levels.

Perhaps most importantly, each character offers unique weapons and abilities that function in distinct ways, which represents a welcome departure from Left 4 Dead's mechanically identical avatars. The fire-wielding Bright Wizard, for example, must occasionally "vent" the heat that builds up in her body or she'll literally explode. The elven Waywatcher not only moves faster than her allies but can zoom in while aiming down the sight of her bow. None of these talents are hugely exciting or original--a cooldown function and sniper aiming are nothing new--but at the same time, none of the characters feel boring or underpowered, which means they add tangible variety and replayability to the experience.

Building on its individualized characters, Vermintide also includes loot and upgrade systems--another welcome tweak to the Left 4 Dead formula. Every time you complete a mission, you get to roll a set of dice. The strength of that roll determines the rarity of the item you unlock. You'll always have some basic dice, but you can add additional, more powerful dice by locating them in the game world or by finding and carrying a "Tome" in your inventory's lone medical supply slot. Encouraging players to risk exploration or sacrifice healing in hopes of unlocking better loot is not only deviously clever, it also incentivizes teamwork: If any player finishes a level with a Tome, every player gets an extra die.

The loot system's by no means perfect, though. This whole setup can seem a little unfair when you go out of your way to locate the bonus dice but still end up with a low roll, but the bigger problem is a simple lack of items. When I unlocked a flaming sword for the Bright Wizard early on, I was thrilled. When I unlocked my third generic broad sword just a short while later, I started to question the depth of the loot system. You can combine unwanted items to create random new gear at the mission hub's weapons forge, but this yields repeat items just as often as the dice. Ultimately, the loot system provides some extra motivation, but without more varied and plentiful unlocks, that motivation steadily wanes the more you play.

Encouraging players to risk exploration or sacrifice healing in hopes of unlocking better loot is not only deviously clever, it also incentivizes teamwork.

Vermintide's missions also grow a little tired over time, though there's actually enough inventiveness to keep players invested through at least a couple difficulty levels. Most missions challenge players to make it from point A to point B while facing consistent waves of enemies, and nearly all contain obligatory objectives that stand between you and the finish line. While these objectives are uniformly predictable--detonate the three exploding barrels, protect the six magic staves, and so on--the diverse level designs help pick up the slack: A massive shipyard becomes a sort of vertical maze. An abandoned graveyard provides a creepy, slower-paced experience. An eccentric wizard's tower confuses when its walls and ceilings suddenly flip.

The diversity is memorable, and generally speaking, levels offer a strong mix of claustrophobic hallways and complex open areas, with the occasional hidden pathway thrown in. Outside of those short, optional side areas, though, the route from A to B will always be the same. Given that you'll be playing the same 13 missions over and over again, alternate pathways would have certainly helped to keep the experience fresh. Fortunately, Vermintide uses random item spawns and dynamic enemy placement to keep the gameplay from getting too predictable. Just because you faced a Gutter Runner and a Pack Master (Vermintide's versions of the Hunter and Smoker zombies) around a particular corner last time doesn't mean you'll find them there again in the future.

New weapons aren't always better, per se, but they often open up new strategies.
New weapons aren't always better, per se, but they often open up new strategies.

At higher difficulty levels, this unpredictability creates dread and tension that propel the game forward and lead to intense gratification when your team survives against seemingly impossible odds. But the key word there is "team." Vermintide's AI is unreliable at best and comically inept at worst, so if you don't have three friends you can drag into the End Times with you, you'll probably end up screaming at your allies to revive you while they run off chasing...who the hell knows. You might get lucky and connect with a friendly, helpful group of Steam players, but that's not a guaranteed solution.

Plus, Vermintide suffers from other issues beyond its braindead AI. The game doesn't tutorialize anything, so prepare to be embarrassed as you slowly learn the ropes. Movement feels just slightly too slow, and in the face of frenetic action, it can actually feel frustratingly lethargic. And most importantly, Vermintide offers no alternate game modes. Where Left 4 Dead innovated with an asymmetrical versus mode that put half its players in control of the zombie horde, Vermintide fails to branch out in any direction.

Still, the bread and butter co-op experience shines just bright enough to compensate for this relative lack of content. Though the action is mostly mindless, its gruesome details and varied characters still make for satisfying gameplay. The loot system, while not as deep as it could have been, proves an intelligent addition to the Left 4 Dead formula. And the 13 levels provide enough variety that, with the right team, Vermintide remains entertaining for a solid handful of hours. I also didn't experience any noticeable server, match-making, or technical issues during my time with the game--which does support Xbox One controllers. Vermintide is still a shameless imitation of a seven year old game, but it is, if nothing else, a creative, well-executed, and enjoyable imitation.

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The Good
Tense, frantic action
Mechanically diverse characters
Loot system cleverly rewards teamwork
Maps are intricate and interesting
The Bad
Old formula needed stronger updates
Friendly AI falters
No versus mode
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Scott was lucky enough to stumble across several helpful strangers while battling through 15 hours of Vermintide--and that means a lot in a team-based game.
38 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for AceBalls

I'm enjoying the hell out of this fantastic and surprisingly fun game.

Avatar image for Gbullet

Great game, nothing extraordinary but I am enjoying it quite alot - and it is cheap in today´s standards. Give it a try if you enjoyed Left 4 Dead or any similar CO-OP games. For me it is a solid 8/10 that can easilly turn into a 9 or 10 with a few updates. Great job, Games Workshop!

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

I wonder how any player who gives two shits about the story in this game would feel when they are told that two years later in the canon, all the places that the player tried to defend are fucked anyway.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

Having read Warhammer - End Times: Thanquol, it seems like the Skaven that the players are fighting are clans which are led by a terrible commander, a certain Great Warlock Skribolt who has little sense of strategy. Maybe they are deserters of the campaign at the World's Edge Mountains or the remnants of the Tilean/Estalian campaign. Maybe they are just opportunistic clans looking to take a bite off a dying Empire. Perhaps they are all of the above (most likely).

In any case, the Empire had it easier than the Tileans/Estalians, Dwarfs and the Lizardmen, at least when it comes to the Skaven.

Also, Ratling Gunners are actually supposed to be a Ratling team in the canon - one ratman is the gunner, the other works the feeder drum. This game takes liberties with the source material.

Avatar image for Apathy4Marmite

@Gelugon_baat: What's weird is that some of the character barks when spotting Ratling Gunners do seem to acknowledge that it is meant to be a Ratling Team despite the absence of the loader. The Empire soldier often shouts "Gun team!" when one appears.

Perhaps the dialogue is a relic left over from a feature that didn't make the cut or something.

Edit: From an official dev blog.

"The Ratling Gun is a six-barreled monstrosity of a gun, powered by warp steam and operated with a hand crank. This fearsome weapon of unparalleled rate of fire is normally operated by a Clan Skryre weapons team, but the version deployed in Ubersreik seems to be of a lighter, experimental type, capable of being moved and fired by a single Skaven."

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@Apathy4Marmite: Ah... seems like residues left from a reworking of the game. Likely the developers had problems trying to have the loader follow the gunner.

Avatar image for RogerioFM

@Gelugon_baat: It's strange to play games like this for a storywise perspective, I mean, the world already ended in canon, Chaos won, it gives a sense of futility I don't know. I mean, the game is still very fun I'm loving it. It's just that from a storywise perspective and I do pay attention to story more than I should for titles like this, it's strange. I wish they would retcon the ending since Age of Sigmar is WH40K Medieval.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@RogerioFM: Well, too bad for you; Games Workshop seems to have become tired of their longest-running IP.

Avatar image for Leonagard

versus mode??? seriouslly? the bigest flaws in this game are the loot system and AI and some crashes! its a Co-Op game!

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@Leonagard: Left 4 Dead has raised the bar. Anything below the bar is inadequate.

Avatar image for Leonagard

@Gelugon_baat: I did not play L4D that much... I own both on steam... but Vermintide I have already played 60hs+ I look at it more for its RPG ellements and Co-Op that are fun to play, as well the theme is better for my taste. The biggest flaw is the reward system that needs more variation and rpg depth aka Diablo/MMOs but I understand the developer was looking maybe for a wide audience....

Avatar image for Kaobasa

@Gelugon_baat: L4D raised nothing. It was mediocre at best and it's touted "Director" was incredibly gimmicky as it had very little impact on the game itself. All the "Director" did was change around some pre-determined item spawns, maybe changed a path that still ultimately led you to the same area, and every now and then you'd get a zombie horde. Give me a break.

VS mode was a complete joke. Invisible walls every where and pathetically weak player controlled infected that, when you do incapacitate a player, any control over the game you have is taken away and you're stuck just watching. Also L4D2 probably had some of the worst level design I think in any Valve game ever.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@Kaobasa: Well, you can say that, but I doubt that many people would agree with you.

With that said, I do wonder what you personally consider to be good level design. Also, I do wonder what expectations that you had for Left 4 Dead, and what games you think did better at doing what Left 4 Dead did.

In fact, having looked over your history of remarks on GameSpot, I have the impression that you are by default against anything that you think is a fad. Left 4 Dead certainly started a fad, so you would dislike it, wouldn't you? Either that, or you have a rather fickle contrarian streak.

Avatar image for Kaobasa

@Gelugon_baat: I don't really mind if people agree with me or not. I know it's not a popular opinion to have for the L4D games.

It's interesting that you want to know my opinion on good level design when it's obvious you've already made up your mind on what I'm about anyway with the comments made in your last paragraph.

And looking over my post history on Gamespot? Weird.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@Kaobasa: Alright, so you won't take the bait then. Wise decision on your part.

Also, I look over your posting history because I want to know whether you have any pre-existing notions on games. All I see from you is you going against the grain here and there.

If you think that is weird, then you likely don't do much research on the person whom you argue against.

Avatar image for nikontou

- bugs like CPU Overburning Temperature Volcano explosion

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@nikontou: Heh, them Skaven are not as easy to render and process as zombies are. :P

Avatar image for aiat_gamer

" No versus mode"

No buy.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

By the way, the Warhammer fantasy world has canonically ended - the champion of Chaos that is Archaon the Everchosen won.

It seems like Games Workshops is tossing out licenses to its defunct IP left and right just to squeeze some more moolah out of it now that it can't do that with its Citadel miniatures and paint anymore.

Avatar image for alien33

@Gelugon_baat: That's a shame, I don't like the new Warhammer tabletop Age of Sigmar... The previous versions that were in the Old World were great.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@alien33: Yeah, yeah, sure - change is not always good. The Mortal Realm is even more of a medieval version of 40K than Fantasy was. Heck, one of the first few things that Games Workshop's customers did was convert the miniature parts of Stormcast Eternals into Space Marines.

Still, I was getting tired of the old version. There was so much stale-mating in the canon and intractable gameplay issues, such as the Empire not having any Monstrous Infantry to hold the line against Monsters and other Monstrous Infantry, and the general unreliability of Skaven and Greenskin troops.

Avatar image for alien33

@Gelugon_baat: I guess you are right. A change was needed.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

Only the Skaven could have replaced the Infected in this Warhammer version of Left 4 Dead. Even the Orks are less chaotic and bumbling.

Avatar image for jako998

Game still looks great.. any one know when Console version comes out ???

Avatar image for catsimboy

Getting loot was too slow and unrewarding (yay another common weapon even though we got all the tomes, a grimoire, AND some bonus dice) for the game to hold much interest for me more than 8 hours. If you get all that stuff you should at least get a couple extra common weapons if only to smelt them into a green weapon.

Avatar image for noirtenshin

Vermintide is still a shameless imitation of a seven year old game, but it is, if nothing else, a creative, well-executed, and enjoyable imitation.

Try using some other description that would say something like "creative and enjoyable experience in an already seen formula", or something like that.

"Shameless imitation of a seven year old game..." is like saying : "nothing new, already seen, copy/paste, boring, stale"

and then adding "creative, well-executed, enjoyable" is like saying: "interesting, something new, not boring"

So it sounds you are just lazy and trying to evaluate all components with a single mark, while the components clearly do not have the same quality.

Core gameplay: nothing new, already seen, can be good with a good team.

Additional systems: interesting enough to keep you busy for certain amount on time.

Am not even trying criticize your views here, just the way how you present them.

Now for the views part:

Imho, just the melee system is a quite step forward from L4D.

With the map design, communication confusion (when in the wizards tower everyone sees the same layout but different worlds in that layout), itemization, risk factors, dynamic spawn places, hell, even how your avatar looks like when equipping different gear are all a step forward for me.

With all that creativity and innovation (while keeping the quality) i don't think 7 is a good score.

Also you failed to bring up the game's price (and as such not rank it with AAA games ranking system), while in the same time not mentioning that this game is a game that will offer more (content,mechanics) as the time passes by (so atm its just a starting platform for content and judge/evaluate it as such) .

So sadly, your review would score less then what it scored the game...

As far as the game goes... even if you compare it to Destiny (which would be apples and oranges to a degree) or Evolve (maybe better for comparison) this offers at least the same quality (if not more) on release at a different price tag.

P.S. Reviews should be non-biased, informative, precise, consistent and elaborate enough to present the game as it is.

If scored, it should be scored in a way that it:

represents its value in a category of similar genre games (overall quality),

with similar price tags and with a similar content policy (content, visual quality, gameplay mechanics,bugs),

while keeping in mind the advancement from the previous games in the series/genres (distinction)

and respecting the general feel/value of the game within those constraints (overall enjoyment).

Its not easy, but sure is harder then mass-producing reviews and slapping a score that "feels right at that moment", while neglecting consistency with other reviews.

Avatar image for deactivated-58ce94803a170

@noirtenshin: I think what the reviewer means is that the studio imitated it with pride. It was what they were aiming for, they wanted to get that feel and use it as a building block for their game. Scott also states that the game does a good job of adding to the foundation. He also praised the combat and said it had some very good tactical depth, so seems he would agree.

A reviewer should never critique a game by its price, it has nothing to do with the fun factor of a game.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@mesome713: I disagree; price is an important factor.

Avatar image for deactivated-58ce94803a170

@Gelugon_baat: Even if a game is $1, its a good game cause its a good game, not because its a cheap mediocre game.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@mesome713: I get the impression that you think that I consider price to be reflective of a game's quality. If this is so, you are wrong.

Avatar image for deactivated-58ce94803a170

@Gelugon_baat: I had the impression that you thought price should play a role in a review.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

@mesome713: I do, but you are misconstruing what I consider to be the role of pricing.

Avatar image for Rammone4

I'd agree with it - THOUGH i think it deserves an 8, but it's ok. The thing I like about this game (that also equally frustrates me) is how it punishes you for lack of team work.

And even with that, you still see people who don't listen, or communicate with others

Avatar image for repalioaderfes

FAIR score

Avatar image for bojan_sokol

I feel like L4D was ahead of his time

Avatar image for xsonicchaos

@bojan_sokol: WiiU WiiU. Did I just hear you suggesting L4D is a he? Do you have a problem associating a feminine gender to neutral stuff, brah?

Avatar image for nicodiaz

@xsonicchaos: It's "Was ahead of its time". Why would he associate a feminine gender to L4D? English probably isn't his mother tongue, so he didn't mean to associate anything.

Avatar image for RogerioFM

@xsonicchaos: eeewwww, what a misogynist.

Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide More Info

  • First Released Oct 23, 2015
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    Yet even in the darkest times, there are always champions to light the way. As Ubersreik cowers, five heroes, united by capricious fate, carry the fight to the rat-men. It remains to be seen whether they have the strength to survive, let alone work together long enough to thwart the invaders. One truth, however, is beyond all doubt: should these five fall, then Ubersreik will fall with them.
    Average Rating37 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide
    Developed by:
    Fatshark AB, Nordic Games Publishing
    Published by:
    Nordic Games Publishing, Fatshark AB
    Shooter, Tactical, Action, First-Person
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Alcohol Reference, Blood and Gore, Intense Violence