Welcome back! Today we’re covering a more recent entry in the gaming universe. Fatshark’s Warhammer: End Times- Vermintide, released late October of this year. Allow me to elaborate as you try to digest that title. This is a game set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe (similar but not quite the same to the Warhammer 40k ‘verse) during the End Times, AKA “the entire world is ****ed, but at least we’re going down fighting.” The Vermintide in question is an invasion of Ratmen known as Skaven into the Imperial town of Ubersreik. You play as one of five heroes trying to save the town from the Skaven hordes. Each stage has you fighting through said hordes, as well as more limited special enemies, much like the ones featured in Left 4 Dead. Indeed, like L4D, the game emphasizes teamwork and careful management of your limited resources as you try to push through to the objective.
Mechanically speaking, it’s L4D with melee weapons taking center stage. Ammunition is quite limited, and while there are more opportunities to restock than in L4D, this is more to encourage that players actually use said ranged weapons at all, rather than ignore them in favor of the hammers and axes and swords. Weapons have a number of important attributes to consider. Should you pack the Rapier, so you can score headshots on armored foes, or would the Templar Zweihander be more useful, with its sweeping strikes that injure multiple targets? Do you take the Coach Gun for blasting mobs of rats, or the Handgun for picking off special enemies?
The character roster is passable. The Dwarf is basically a shorter Soldier with slightly different weaponry but otherwise all the characters have their own playstyle. And there’s enough variety in everyone’s weapons that you can play your role a little differently as the situation requires. For example, I could play the Soldier with his warhammer, allowing me to make quick work of armored enemies. Or I could use a shield and mace, allowing me to better defend against large groups. Now, since there’s only 5 characters and the matches consist of 4 people, you may start up matchmaking only to find that your preferred hero is taken in the current lobby, but thankfully the matchmaking allows you to decide whether to take a different hero and get straight into the fight or keep waiting so you might have a chance to play your favorite.
A major difference between this and that other co-op game is the loot. Yes, at the end of each run, players roll a set of 7 dice. The more successes they roll, the better quality loot they may obtain. In addition to getting new weapons, there are also trinkets, which provide nifty bonuses like “Take less damage from Special Unit X.” The higher tier weapons get similar bonuses in addition to just hitting that little bit harder.
That said, the starting dice only have a 2 in 6 chance of success, so you may want to take certain measures to improve your chances. The first of which is picking up special items hidden in the levels: Tomes, Grimoires, and Loot Dice. Tomes provide a better die for each one that is brought to the end of the stage, but it takes up your healing item slot. Grimoires grant dice that cannot fail, and take the less valuable potion slot, but each one carried reduces the maximum health of the entire party. Loot dice are the simplest, not needing to be physically carried out of the level, but their appearance is dependent on luck, and their effect is the weakest.
The other approach is to play on a higher difficulty. Each step up improves the loot available in the end-match dice-throw. Thankfully, in order to reach anything above Normal, you must first complete the difficulty below it, so there’s less newbies trying to join you for your perfect run on Cataclysm difficulty. Good thing, too, as while a decent party may make it through Normal or even Hard just by avoiding obvious mistakes, anything above that is going to be a serious effort, especially because friendly fire is applied to ranged attacks above that point.
Major complaints are a pretty short list: It doesn’t run well on some rigs due to the high CPU usage, the AI director will often be a dick at the worst possible time, there’s no consolation prize (so if your team gets downed 5 feet from the escape wagon, too bad), and there’s just enough RNG is regards to loot to make it frustrating. The devs are working on the first and last of those issues, so good on them.
tl;dr- It’s L4D with an emphasis on melee weapons and a loot system. Highly recommended. It’s $30 on Steam.