So now this I’ve spent a bit of time with the official release of the game, I can happily say that Vermintide is still great. The full release has ironed out the majority of the bugs from the beta and what remains is a very entertaining game.
The combat is visceral and intense, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the enemy swarms of rat-folk but if you luck out and get some helpful teammates you’ll be hacking your way through hordes of snaggle-toothed vermin in no time at all. Each of the five hero classes come equipped with different weapons and abilities, and learning the nuances (yes, you read that right) of each is vital to the team’s success. The Empire soldier is powerful and versatile, whereas the Witchhunter whips around lunging his rapiers and dual wielded flintlock pistols. As the elfin Waywatcher, you’ll want to keep a distance, sniping from afar, while the Dwarf ranger likes to get his hands dirty, swinging his axe into crowds. The Bright Wizard is the most surprising, she can tank more damage that you’d expect of a wizard and in the right hands she can be devastating; her charged fireball spell is capable of taking out huge crowds with a long cooldown being the drawback of such a huge blast.
Regardless of the situation it’s always worth exercising caution before ploughing into the fray, and it’s best to stick with your team rather than go off wandering: if you get caught by a gang flea-ridden rodents on your own, you’re pretty much done for. Blocking with the melee weapon soon becomes a vital tactic and while blocking you can also shove enemies who get within reach causing them to falter long enough to line them up perfectly for a beheading.
As with Left 4 Dead, the overriding pleasure of this game is the necessity for cooperation among your fellow pest controllers. Lose all your health and only your teammates can revive you and if you bleed out completely then you’ll be whisked away and imprisoned until your team rescue you. Effective teamwork is essential to turn the vermintide; gunner rats will lock onto you and unless the rest of the team kill him sharpish, you’re Swiss cheese. The Rat Ogre, a ‘juicer rat’ with proper roid-rage, will need everyone hacking and shooting to bring it down.
Most of the stages culminate in a final set piece where, inevitably, the team is swarmed with hordes of Skaven. These points are understandably challenging but even on the normal difficulty setting you will frequently see the defeat screen. This is probably the biggest criticism I can level at the game – the balance between being challenged and being wiped out is skewed somewhat in the rats’ favour and can sometimes feel a bit unfair. This may be addressed in the future but it’s by no means a deal-breaker. It’s a testament to Vermintide’s quality that it keeps you coming back for more – just to see if you can get through the next level or pull off a great save.
At one point, all but one of our team were downed, surrounded by Skaven picking away at our reserves of health, only for the plucky Dwarf to come barrelling through the crowd like a hairy cannonball to fight off our attackers and revive us. It was a truly heroic moment that lasted a split second before unrelenting hordes of Skaven overwhelmed our already depleted team mere yards away from the end goal.
Fatshark should be also commended for the efforts they’ve gone to adhere to Games Workshop canon, although the story is minimal, the heroes’ personalities and relationships with each other are revealed through their in-game banter. Pull off a couple of decent kills as the Dwarf and the Elf might, grudgingly, congratulate you.
The levelling system also sets Vermintide apart from its forebears, experience is gained and weapons are awarded at the end of each level. Weapons can be upgraded back at the tavern via a basic crafting system, but this gives Vermintide a measure of longevity and variety that keeps the experience fresh.
As mentioned in the preview, the Warhammer setting shouldn’t put you off, Vermintide is a blast whether you are a fan or not. Before I got Vermintide to review I joked that being a Warhammer game it would likely lack depth. I couldn’t have been more wrong: co-operation is essential but balance issues aside there is room for individual heroics while managing health resources and backing up your allies creates a tension that’s altogether thrilling, desperate and above all fun.
-Fun to play
-The odd glitch