There are a few games being developed at the moment that are based on the Warhammer franchise, and along the way, I lost track of Warhammer: End Times Vermintide. After playing it at EGX this past weekend, Vermintide is now most certainly on my radar.
I’m not one who has much knowledge of the wider Warhammer universe, my understanding tends to be limited to the 40K strand of the series, and that is based on playing the Dawn of War games. A bit of digging around though has revealed to me that Vermintide is set during the ‘End Times’ part of the Warhammer Fantasy universe in the city of Ubersreik.
When I was playing the demo that Fatshark brought to EGX, I took part in a level where the mission was to fight your way to the Magnus Tower. I think the ultimate goal was to reach the tower to alert the city of the invasion of rat creatures that are known as Skaven. The demo ended before reaching the Tower itself, but it gave me a good taste of what is to come.
It is ostensibly a four-player co-op shooter/melee action game, but fortunately (for me at least), it is one that you will be able to play solo as well as bots will take the place of any missing human players.
Despite the ability to fall back onto bots, I think I’ll be willing to give Vermintide a shot of playing with random others, I had a great time when playing it at the show and I don’t think it will be as competitive as something like Rainbow Six: Siege. You can read that as meaning that despite the fact that I probably won’t be any good at Vermintide, I won’t feel the pressure to succeed as I might in other co-op games.
During EGX, I had the chance of playing as two of the five heroes that will be on offer when the game comes out towards the end of October. If I had more time, I doubtless would have played with every hero available at the show, but sadly time wasn’t on my side.
First up was Kerillian the Waywatcher. She is a Wood Elf who in the demo on hand, was mixing things up with a bow and daggers. The daggers were great for the dirty and bloody melee combat with the Skaven, a useful defensive block could easily be turned into a shove to clear a path through the rat-hordes. The bow meanwhile was an absolute pleasure to use, when I first saw others using it, I feared it would require precision aiming to be at all effective. It turned out, that with the mass numbers of Skaven that I was often faced with, aiming in the general vicinity of the creatures would be enough to cause damage.
On my first run towards the Magnus Tower, I positively led the charge at the front of our group of merry men, women and dwarfs. It probably wasn’t the best tactic as I didn’t get to see much of the level design, but it kept me involved in the combat. I let loose a few grenades here and there, but because of my foolhardy nature, I had to make use of my medkit halfway through the level. It all meant that by the time we approached a set of gates where three barrels of gunpowder had to be placed to blow our way through, I wasn’t in the best of shape. I felt bold enough to push on, and danced my way around the throngs of Skaven and once two of the makeshift bombs had been planted, I grabbed the last barrel and was already planning how to celebrate my moment of triumph.
I was to be brought back down to earth with a thud when a massive BOOM went off in my headphones, and I gazed at the remains of Kerillian. One of those damn rats had taken a fancy to the gunpowder I was carrying, resulting in predictable results.
In my second crack at the demo, I was in the shoes of the Witch Hunter, Victor Saltzpyre. After my gung-ho antics in my first attempt at the level, I decided to take things a bit slower so I could enjoy the scenery. This backfired somewhat quite early on when I realised why some people have been comparing Vermintide in favourable terms to Left 4 Dead. While it lacks the horror element of Valve’s masterpiece, some of the enemy designs are clearly following in Valve’s footsteps. As I was larking around behind my allies, my screen suddenly turned to a third-person perspective as dear Victor was being dragged backwards by some ratty monstrosity. If you think about The Smoker from Left 4 Dead, you might get a feeling of agony as you hope a friend will rescue from your predicament.
Fortunately I was saved by my three able allies, and we continued our adventure. Slashing at the Skaven with Victor’s rapier was fun, but bringing his pistols to bear was great fun. Starting off the level with plentiful ammo, I scythed down the enemy in droves, switching between firing one pistol at a time and some brilliant dual-wielding action at will. Carnage ensued, and with a more measured approach to the mission, I was able to appreciate what Fatshark have done with the game.
There is a character to Ubersreik which shines through when you stop to pay attention. Up and down you go, then twists to the left and right before climbing stairs to a small city prison before entering a more open space. If the pacing of the levels continues in the full game as it did in the demo, I will be very happy. I was never bored, and I knew there was something around every corner. It might be more Skaven, or it could have been some extra ammo, or a container hiding a potion to boost movement or a fresh medkit.
The first open beta kicks off later today, but is sadly short lived and will be ending at 10:00 on October 1st. I’m hoping for some more open betas before the game releases on the 23rd October, I’m quite keen to get to grips with some of the other heroes. Sienna Fuegonasus, the Bright Wizard looks especially interesting to take to war.