The End Times: Vermintide
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Vermintide is a co-operative action first person adventure based on Warhammer Fantasy's The End Times and developed by Fatshark. Think Left 4 Dead, but with Skaven and swords. And an actual, working melee combat system.
It's pretty fucking baller.
It's The End Times. The entire World of Warhammer is about to get torn a new one by every evil army in the setting, and it all begins right here.
The Skaven have been plotting a series of mass invasions of the surface world, and one of the first targets on their list is the Empire city of Ubersreik. Their goal: complete destruction of the city and the deaths or enslavement of its populace. Their means of accomplishing this: a huge force of Clan Fester's unluckiest rats. Standing between the hordes of ratty death and the lives of the Empire's good and loyal citizens are five "heroes" who, for one reason or another, just happen to be passing through at the right time.
With the help of the local Grey Wizard, a quick-thinking Ubersreik tavern keeper manages to set up a magically-concealed base of resistance in the Red Moon Inn. With the streets outside covered in rats, it's up to our plucky band of misfits to save the day - by securing the Red Moon Inn from attack, making sure the rest of the resistance is properly supplied, and finally crushing the Grey Seer responsible for leading the assault and thus saving the city, in that order.
Of course, since this is The End Times, it's all basically moot in the end - while the heroes do succeed in driving Clan Fester off, the ending narration for the game mentions that, even as the citizens of Ubersreik start rebuilding the shattered city, the borders of the Empire are coming under siege. But, hey, y'know. Still pretty badass.
Now has four downloadable mission pack expansions: Castle Drachenfels, which sees our heroes traveling to the titular fortress of doom to stop the Skaven from retrieving several powerful artifacts that the nasty old wizard left lying about, Karak Azgaraz, wherein the Dwarfs are roused to battle and another artifact is retrieved, Stromdorf, where our heroes attempt to ruin Clan Fester's search for new friends and Death on the Reik, a wild goose chase after stolen books taking place first in Reikwald, and then on the titular River Reik. Shortly before the release of Vermintide 2, one extra mission, Waylaid, was added, which features Skaven attacking the Red Moon Inn and leads directly into the sequel.
Fatshark has even stated that, since the game has been so surprisingly popular, Games Workshop has declared intent to make the whole thing canon. Which is cool.
Think Left 4 Dead, but with more swords and sorcery. And rats. Lots and lots of rats.
The primary differences between Vermintide and the aforementioned series are to do with its combat system. While Left 4 Dead is very much a shooter series, Vermintide embraces the meaty melee combat that Warhammer fans have come to love from their time on the tabletop. Ranged weapons exist, but are (in all but two cases) largely secondary to the heroes' various close-combat weaponry, and the melee system itself is surprisingly deep and involved, rewarding precise timing and careful blocking. What initially appears to be a fairly straightforward Left 4 Dead clone with a focus on crowbars soon reveals itself to have a pretty damn solid hand-to-hand system that is extremely fun to play with.
Each of the five characters is mechanically identical in terms of movement, hit points, and so on,asides from classes in Vermintide 2,(except for the dwarf, who is very much shorter than the rest but otherwise the same). What differentiates them is their weapons, which are incredibly widely varied in terms of playstyle. One-handed, lighter weapons might allow you to move at nearly full speed while blocking, or to dodge an infinite number of times in combat, making you much harder to hit and letting you dance circles around the Skaven. Heavier weapons will kill targets more quickly, but leave you open to counterattacks. Shields will let you hold back huge crowds of the things, but will struggle with actually killing them very quickly. And so on.
Some basic tips:
- STICK WITH YOUR TEAM.
- You can block while reviving your friends, and you should always do this.
- When the hordes ambush you, put your back to a wall or corner to avoid getting flanked.
- If you're up in front while doing this, consider crouching to better allow allies to shoot past you.
- Headshots do a bit of extra damage against "unarmored" enemies (clanrats/slaves, sack rats, Gutter Runners and Globadiers) even if a weapon's attack lacks the Headshot characteristic.
- Don't expect to be able to dodge the hordes of slaves/clanrats' attacks. When you back away or dodge while close to them but before they've attacked, they will perform a very quick lunging attack that will probably hit you anyway.
- Blocking while dodging however is reasonably safer and still better than letting 20 rats surround you, and dodging specials' attack is definitely what you're supposed to do.
- Focus on pushing skaven instead of blocking them to save stamina if you're up against more than a few of them.
- If you don't have a good weapon for taking down a particular special enemy well, ping it to your team with T.
- If you're fighting hordes and your melee weapon's swing pattern includes a downward swing without much radial distance that'll probably be a waste of time, cancel the pattern to the start by blocking/pushing.
Players will take control of five heroes:
- Victor Saltzpyre, or "Salty". A Witch Hunter of the Empire who has a personal grudge against the Skaven, losing an eye to them after an incident with the rats and a Vampire. (Salty was sent to save a burgomeister's daughter from the vampire, and found him in the burgomeister's mine with a seam of Warpstone. Then the Skaven showed up and things devolved into a three-way fight. Salty later deduced that the Burgomeister had been selling the Warpstone to both the rats and the vampire and had him hanged for treason.) He was bringing the party wizard in for trial (and employing the soldier as his personal bodyguard) when the rat-men surfaced, leading him to repurpose his little troupe as an impromptu exterminator squad. Most infamous among the fans for a hugely hammy instance of one of his voice lines for healing himself: "HOLY SIGMAR! BLESS THIS RAVAGED BODY!" He favors fast, light weaponry that allows for high mobility and damage at the cost of defense. His signature melee weapon is the Rapier, and his signature ranged weapon is the Brace of Pistols.
- Markus Kruber, an Empire Soldier and Salty's personal bodyguard. He was the Captain of a regiment of Empire swordsmen until a necromancer tore out the souls of all the men under his command and bound them to his will, giving him a bad case of PTSD, though funnily enough he's still probably the nicest and least-contentious person out of the group. His request to retire was rejected, but when Salty showed up he was willing to work with him. He favors slow, heavy-hitting weaponry that makes him good at either controlling or killing large crowds of rats, but limits his mobility and leaves him vulnerable between swings. His signature melee weapon is the Zweihander, and his signature ranged weapon is the Blunderbuss.
- Kerillian, a Wood Elf Waywatcher who saw... something in the woods one night and came out having prophetic dreams about the oncoming Skaven attack, and is also cursed. Though we don't have a damn clue what the curse actually is, because she doesn't talk about it much. She knows a lot more than she's telling about... everything, really. Snarky keebler bitch (apparently, a lot of that is Matt Ward's doing) that loves name-calling the rest of the party as "lumberfoots", with an extra layer of sassy-sauce. Like Saltzpyre, she favors light weaponry that allows her to stay mobile in combat but is far more effective at long range than most of the other heroes. Depending on the bow, her arrows run the gamut of super long-range to poison clouds, to no-scope-headshots, which make her OP levels of awesome next to an ammo crate. Her signature melee weapons are the Dual-Wielded Sword and Dagger, and her signature ranged weapon is the Longbow.
- Bardin Goreksson, a Dwarf Ranger who is searching for the lost hold of Karak Zorn and came to Ubersreik looking to buy a book from an antique shop that apparently held the next clue. The dwarfest dwarf to ever dwarf, pretty much. Has the most flexible weapon set out of any character, letting him fit almost any playstyle depending on how he's kitted out (and his Dorfy height makes shooting over him easy for everyone else). He does, however, lean towards the heavier end of the scale for weaponry, and will generally either be taking a shield and working to control the giant mobs of rats or pick up an axe and start cutting them down himself. His weapons tend to have the most similarities with Kruber out of all of the characters. His signature melee weapon is the Greataxe, and his signature ranged weapon is the Grudge-Raker.
- Sienna Fuegonasus, a Bright Wizard hailing from Estalia whose addiction to fire magic has led to her being arrested by Saltzpyre on charges of arson and murder. She loves - no, you don't understand, she loves fire. A lot. And she doesn't really understand how to control her temper. And the last guy she torched (after finding out that he was a serial killer) happened to be the son of a Burgomeister, who called in Saltzpyre to arrest her. She's by far the strangest of the heroes in terms of playstyle; her melee weapons are all meh at best, but since she's a wizard, she doesn't have limited ammo for her ranged weapons - her various staves, which all have different spells attached. She can do tremendous damage from far away, but has to carefully manage her heat meter or risk exploding from too much magic. Her signature melee weapon is the Flaming Sword, and her signature ranged weapon is the Fireball Staff.
Each have their own strengths and weaknesses. For instance, the Bright Wizard can use devastating fire spells and doesn't have a limit of how many times she uses them, but overusing her powers without taking a break will cause her to damage or even kill herself.
There are also the Skaven themselves, who actually act quite differently from the zombies you might be expecting. The Infected tend to simply Zerg rush any players they see, while the Skaven Clanrats and Skavenslaves act pretty much like you'd expect them to. If they have the advantage of overwhelming numbers, they'll attack, but if caught alone, outnumbered, or off guard, many times they'll cower in fear or even outright break and run, trying to circle around to attack from the back or sides. They're cowardly, sneaky little backstabbing bastards, just like you'd expect.
In addition to the Clan Fester foot soldiers, the rats have brought along a handful of Special Skaven from the other Clans to add some meat to their assaults. These spawn separately from the normal Clanrats, usually one at a time, and almost always when you really don't want them to.
- The Stormvermin - The most common breed of Special Skaven, Stormvermin will spawn at random among the crowds of Clanrats seeded throughout the various levels. Unlike the rest of their ratty brethren, the Stormvermin have actual armor, actual weapons, and actual training, making them a serious threat. Their halberds do more damage than the standard Clanrat improvised weaponry, and hits against them that don't aim for the head (or have the Armor Piercing trait) will glance off their armor. Even blocking their attacks is difficult, since they do significant Stamina damage and therefore have a high chance of breaking your block and putting you into stun, making you an easy kill. At higher difficulties, they become one of the most significant threats in the game, and require careful combat to take down safely or make ranged weapons good at taking them down quick very desirable.
- The Stormvermin Patrol - Once per map, if you're listening carefully, you'll hear the sound of rats shouting out a ratty little marching drill. And if you're smart, you'll hide. If you're not smart, you'll die, because the Patrol is a massive mob of Stormvermin that all aggro at once if they spot any of the heroes, and will never back down from a fight. On the highest difficulty, you'll be staring down something like twenty Stormies, all of whom kill you in a single hit. Yeah. Have fun with that.
- Poison Wind Globadier - A Skryre-rat in a gas mask, with a miniature plague factory on its back. At a distance, it will constantly lob spheres full of gas so poisonous that it eats into the skin like acid, covering the battlefield in green clouds of death. The good news is that these are as poisonous to the other Skaven as they are to our heroes. The bad news is that you'll still die like a bitch if you stand in one. And if you get too close, they'll rig the tanks on their backs to explode, taking you with them in one final kamikaze assault.
- Gutter Runner - Representing Clan Eshin, we have these stabby little ninja-rats with warp-dust coated knives strapped to their hands. They lurk in the shadows, trying to find a hero that's cut off from the rest of the group or waiting for you to be otherwise distracted, then pounce and pin one hero to the ground while they stab and stab and stab until the puny man-thing stops moving. Once you're pinned, you're helpless. It's up to the rest of the team to save you. So if you hear that strange whispering in the distance, make sure to stay close to your team.
- Packmaster - Clan Moulder's representatives, the Packmasters have taken up capturing humans for slaving. To this end, they cart around giant spiked collars on poles; if they get close enough, they'll snap that collar shut around your neck, disabling you like the Gutter Runner. The good news is that the collar doesn't hurt nearly as much as the knives. The bad news is that the Packmaster will drag you off into the distance, probably through a mob of Clanrats, and then hang you up to die - or at least for the rest of their companions to stab while you wriggle helplessly.
- Ratling Gunner - Clan Skryre is pulling overtime here. This rat's got a miniaturized, one-man version of the tabletop Ratling Gun strapped to its back, and the rest of its body is covered in heavy armor. When it finds a good firing line, it'll wind up that gun and then unleash a hellstorm of warp-shot onto one of the heroes, tracking them as best as it can. The good news is that it's not very accurate and tends to jam after a while. The bad news is that it's firing so many bullets that it's probably going to hit you anyway, and while it's not as powerful as a full sized "kill both knight and his horse with a single bullet" ratling gun it still hurt a lot.
- Rat Ogre - The triumph of Clan Moulder's scientific prowess. The Rat Ogre, like the Stormvermin Patrol, is a once-a-map event, barring special mission rules, and is always announced by a throat-peeling bellow of rage. It's a giant, hulking brute that rampages across the battlefield, pummeling and punching its way through any heroes it can find. It is possible to kite the Ogre, but the problem is that it's rarely alone; the true difficulty arises in managing the Ogre and the accompanying Clanrats at the same time, since they limit your mobility just by existing.
- Sack Rat - A Skaven with a big sack full of loot. It doesn't attack on its own, but if you can kill it before it runs off you'll get to claim its stuff.
And the whole thing is, of course, headed up by Grey Seer Rasknitt. He's not so much of a boss so much as an occasional environmental hazard in the final level, raining down green lightning on you while he takes a breath for another round of his favorite activity: laughing evilly and making love to the sound of his own voice. Seriously, this guy has a laugh for every occasion, and each one is more gloriously hammy than the last. It's almost worth all the dying just to hear all of his chortles and gloats. Presumably fell to his death, but the latest DLC has revealed that he survived the fall (which isn't really surprising considering his ability to teleport). Lays a trap for the heroes and makes them fall into a portal to an uncertain fate (which will presumably be answered in the second game).
- Chieftain Krench - Shows up in Stromdorf DLC as the not-too-bright Fester warlord in search for new allies after Rasknitt's apparent fall to death. Notable as the series' first proper bossfight, having players learn to dodge out of the way of his warpstone-charged halberd (and be rewarded by our heroes trash-talking the overgrown Stormvermin asshole whenever he misses) or die. Predictably, goes down, but too late to stop Clan Fester from both making a pact with a mysterious party revealed to be the Rotbloods Sorcerer Burblespue Halescourge in the sequel and depopulating Stromdorf in the process.
The Garden of Morr level.