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Warhammer: Vermintide / 5th of November 2015

The Endtimes are upon us, I have been proved wrong! Okay, well, to take it from the top, I owe Fatshark a big fat apology. In my preview I stated that I had not seen, nor ever could imagine seeing a game’s poor technical performance rectified in such a short space of time prior to its final release date. I, however, was wrong, Fatshark have managed to well and truly shatter my expectations completely. The game now runs perfectly in 4k with everything maxed, and there’s even a setting to change whether the UI sits around the centre of the screen or out on the boundaries as is more traditional. My major gripes are now gone, so I’m going to push through and try to get past the fact I really can’t be arsed with Left 4 Dead.

I also owe you, dear reader an apology, I lied in my initial investigation. I actually have two friends, I switched which one I played with between the beta and the final release in order to get a bit of a different perspective on this, as my first friend is a miserable cunt. Anyway, the final game is now here, and maybe I’m just one of those PC master race twats, but I found that I could really get into this as it ran properly for me.

Vermintide managed to pull something out of me that I’ve not felt in a while having switched to a more solitary gaming experience; a feeling of in-game camaraderie. To survive the titular Vermintide, you’re going to have to work with your fellow players (unless you play on easy, with bots, but in that case you’re kind of barking up the wrong tree with this), and it’s actually rather fun to do so. I was surprised to find that Vermintide afforded me an enjoyable experience even when playing with strangers as we all watched each other’s backs, and it was nice to dip my toe in the world of co-op play, to feel in awe of a better player saving my ass from a sneakily pouncing assassin rat just before it could touch me. It was satisfying to be the only shield-wielder on the team, raising it to cover an ally while they put a few arrows into the head of a minigunner taking aim at them, it honestly feels like teamwork is that little bit more necessary than Left 4 Dead made it and that’s what a game like this needs to set itself apart from the competition.

The concept of classes (rather than the dominant strategy of simply getting the best weapon) and their dependence on each other makes me enjoy this bit of teamwork more than I ever did in the game it apes so obviously. And on top of this, the loot system which provides some much needed progression ties very well into the teamwork aspect. There are a total of three of tomes in each stage, these take up your healing item slot and you will need a hardened squad with considerable mettle to get all of them to the end of the level as it might mean leaving behind what would been a nice reserve healing item, a co-operative team is necessary for this and it only increases the intensity and need to watch each other’s backs.
All the scenario types are here, and yes, most of them are right out of the Left 4 Dead oeuvre. I actually feel a bit bad comparing them quite so repeatedly, especially when my major complaint with Left 4 Dead is repetition, but if you indulge me, I shall repeat myself just a couple of more times:

- There’s Left 4 Dead 2’s fuel up the car (though this is move the gunpowder to the boat).
- The hold a point until something happens (this one was really common in the first L4D).
- Long trek through unforgiving terrain filled with nasty beasties.

That aside, there’s nothing wrong with copying good ideas, after all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and besides, Vermintide takes those ideas and runs with it. The level design is surprisingly impressive, though a bit samey in a number of areas, but it certainly shines far brighter than Turtle Rock’s efforts in others. It’s perhaps a little unfair on Left 4 Dead as it’s not a game set in a world of magical fantasy, but the co-op zombiefest never had a Wizard’s tower where the group walked on walls and, looted treasure and medkits from chests on ceilings and suddenly, with a flash of light found themselves not in a quiet library clambering up some stairs but rather standing upon a rickety rope bridge overlooking an enormous ravine. Pleasingly there are indeed daytime stages with less dim colour grading that take gamers as close to a sunny blue sky as you’ll ever see in a Game’s Workshop setting, so that’s also rather nice.

With a total of thirteen scenarios to enjoy, there really is a damn good amount of content and variation. I find myself a lot more enthused to go back to them than I had originally expected, possibly because they’re more bite-sized chunks than hard slogs, most are around twenty to thirty minutes long, because of this, failure doesn’t feel like quite so much like a kick in the teeth and it feels far less of a whore to try out a harder difficulty that you might not manage. To top it all off, there’s some degree of reward for your playtime, it’s a little bit skinner box-like but the loot system provides greater rewards for greater accomplishments (including playing the higher tiers of the game’s five difficulty settings), and it feels a bit more like a cohesive campaign when I’ve got some tangible reward that follows me between missions if I’ve played well, which I also found encouraged me to go back to master earlier stages.

As an aside, I’d love to see some (preferably free) DLC to expand this out a bit, or maybe even an expansion with some of the other Warhammer armies as the core foes, or some lovely mod support so the community can add to the scenario pile. The one thing that L4D beats this on, as it stands, is VALVe’s aggressive support of its existing titles, but only time will tell. Overall though, I really think Fatshark have knocked this one out of the park. My initial foray into the game was dampened a somewhat by having little success with teamwork and my lack of enthusiasm for the format/genre. My excitement at finding an enjoyable co-op adventure might not last forever, but in my opinion it’s a better game than either Left 4 Dead due to being more feature-rich. If you liked that game and can even so much as stand a fantasy setting then pick it up, you’ll have a blast.

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