IntroductionWarhammer: The End Times - Vermintide, developed and published by Fatshark Games, is an action-packed co-op focused game that takes place in the Warhammer universe, specifically The End Times. An army of rodent-esque creatures known as Skaven is threatening the city of Ubersreik, and it's up to you to protect it. Play as any of the 5 characters and dive into the war solo, or bring up to three friends to help. There are 15 different missions to test your might with, and post-mission loot system to build your inventory for each of the character. The game has been praised by both critics and gamers for its co-op experience. It was originally released for PC in October of 2015 where the developers have shown it an incredible amount of attention after launch with both free and paid DLC, and it has now made its way to consoles, launching on both the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. You can buy the game on Steam for $29.99, or PlayStation Store or Xbox Marketplace for $39.99.
CharactersThere are 5 different playable characters, each with their own distinct play style, abilities, and weaponry. They each have their own narrative told throughout the story, and they each progress with loot independently. You can play as:
Witch Hunter (Victor Saltzpyre), initially equipped with a rapier sword and two pistols, but can use axe and great sword for primary, and either pistols or crossbows as secondary. Arguably my favorite character to play as; when you've slashed your way through as many Skaven as possible and need some distance, pulling out the dual wielding pistols is so elegant due to the quick and powerful alternated firing. You can read his full bio here.
Waywatcher (Kerillian), initially equipped with dual-wielded elven daggers and a traditional bow, she can also use single sword and combinations of swords, as well as a short bow and long bow. Her specialty lies in the different types of arrows she can use; as a former elven guard she proficiently uses arrows meant to destroy armored enemies, arrows the find their target, poison arrows, and even the ability to fire multiple arrows at once. You can read her full bio here.
Dwarf Ranger (Bardin Goreksson), initially equipped with an axe/shield combination and a crossbow for secondary weaponry, he is also able to use hammers and two-handed axes, as well as switch out the crossbow for variations of pistols and dwarves handguns. He may be the shortest in the group, but he doesn't lack any ability to kill Skaven. You can read his full bio here.
Bright Wizard (Sienna Fuegonasus), the fire-based mage, she is initially equipped with a sword and a staff, she can eventually use a mace or even a flaming sword, and will also be able to use a few variations of the staff, each with a unique specialty for dealing out the magical hell. You can either shoot a quick spell or charge up a fireball in her free hand to be thrown as a bomb. As she uses magic, though, she will begin to burn up and if you don't let her vent the heat out she will explode. It takes a lot to get her that burning, but it is something to be cautious of. You can read her full bio here.
Empire Soldier (Markus Kruber), initially equipped with a two-handed hammer and a blunderbuss, he can be later equipped with swords, maces, and combinations of these with shields as his primary, and even the repeater pistols for secondary weaponry. You can read his full bio here.
GameplayFor the general understanding of how the game works, think Left 4 Dead, where you must make it from one end of a map or mission to the other alive, slaughtering massive numbers of enemies. Actually, think of many things about this game to follow the game's model, even down to the sound (more details below). Each character plays similar, but they have their own variety of attacks via the different weapon options. You can jump, crouch for sneaking, parry and block incoming swings, and dodge/dash in different directions. Occasionally you can decide to bash the enemy with a stunning melee hit to back them up if you find yourself being swarmed. You'll find stringing together combinations of sword/axe/hammer weapons cut down groups in a very responsive manner, and performance wise very clean. You can feel every hit slicing or bashing it's way into their bodies or heads (sometimes taking their heads clean off).
The primary enemies are Skaven, but there are varieties to them. You'll find the weaker ones like to swarm in packs, trying to overpower you with numbers rather than pure strength or skill. They'll mostly be one hit kills for you, meaning those packs get chopped up fairly quickly, but you will need to watch out for their swords as well. You'll come across some that are in armor suits who must be met with power hits in order to kill. Poison throwing Skaven are also present, who will turn into suicide bombers if they are not killed quick enough. It wouldn't be a Left 4 Dead styled game if there weren't any tanks;
There are a few ways to play, either Adventure mode or Last Stand. Both of which can be played up to 4 person co-op or single player. In Adventure mode, you'll find the story, comprised of over a dozen missions. You can attempt these missions (some after unlocking through completion of others) on any of the 5 difficulties (again, the last two unlock after completion of prior). You can then select if you wish for the lobby you're hosting to be public or private. You can invite friends to your lobby, allow random players to join, or take them on by yourself. You can also be the one to search for a game with a Quick Play option based on difficulty, or search for a more filtered game and settings. The Last Stand game mode allows for you to survive countless waves of Skaven as they increase in numbers and difficulty.
Your hub for inventory and character setups (as well as mission selects) will take place at an inn. You'll run freely around it, only accompanied by a friendly barman of few words. Upon completion of missions, you'll be able to roll dice for loot (higher difficulty means for better odds). There're few additional aspects regarding this loot table; based on specific items collected during missions, you could receive a greater overall chance at hitting a good reward, but at the cost of a lesser health pool during said mission until the end. It's tricky but does mean for a little more strategy and risk vs reward. Crafting is another feature in the game, and will allow for... well crafting. You'll be able to make some things that you perhaps couldn't hit during the loot drops which is a nice helping hand to the overall system.
Sound and graphicsBoth of these aspects are amazingly detailed to bring this Warhammer world to life. The music is dark and can be described as anxiety filled creepiness. It doesn't shoot for a legendary soundtrack that you'd contemplate buying some special edition bundle for, but fitted with the gameplay and environments, it's a perfect match. Just as Left 4 Dead had that build up sound of impending death, this too gives you constant worry. The voices are unique to each character and very impressive as to how well they are acted; nothing generic or blandly recorded. The graphics are really well done, with a ton of attention to detail. The bloody messes and destroyed bodies left over from the Skaven hold a strong influence on the dark setting. Character models look great and are very much appreciated in comparison to other games that go for basic features and differences. The dwarf is short and pudgy, The witch hunter is tall and skinny, and the wizard lady shows age on her face. There too many small details to list, but they are all truly unique to themselves.
ConclusionWarhammer: The End Times - Vermintide is now one of my top co-op games to play on next-gen consoles. There have been a few other games that provided a great platform for gaming with friends, but this just delivered so much for a great price. It reminds me of those fun times from Left 4 Dead on the Xbox 360 but avoids feeling like a complete clone. Even with its minor feeling of Lord of the Rings at times, everything is extremely original and genuine. The graphics are great, and the sound fits all the requirements to bring it to life the way it deserves. The looking controls are a little weird to learn at first and my only complaint about the game; moves slow at first and the jumps to quick movements, with no way of adjusting.
It's creepy undertones and dark gothic appearance makes it one you enjoy bringing in some online help for, and the developers have made it easy to find co-op games with random players if you need or want to team up that way. The loot system encourages you to play with all of the characters, and even more so if you want to prepare for harder difficulties. For $39.99, and a history of the developers showing a massive amount of attention even after they launch the game, it's hard to find a reason to not pick it up sooner or later.
|+ Amazing co-op experience and fun||- Somewhat weird 'looking' controls to learn|
|+ Great loot and crafting system||- Online matchmaking was slow at time of review|
|+ Last Stand mode|
|+ Diversity of characters and gameplay|
|+ Replay value and future support from developers|