Warhammer – End Times: Vermintide Review

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

SCORE: 8/10

Pros:

-Great combat

-Good banter

-Fun to play

Cons:

-Balance issues

-The odd glitch

Vermintide Beta Preview

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Vermintide is the co-op Left 4 Dead-alike from Fatshark studios, and us frugaleers were lucky enough to get a couple of codes for the recent beta. Straight off the bat it’s worth mentioning that we encountered some bugs. Obviously this isn’t the finished article but I’ve played dozens of betas this close to release that was much more representative of the final product. I encountered a few crashes at the end of rounds preventing me from collecting XP and levelling up – in fact I didn’t even realise there was a levelling system until the game finally stabilised. I also encountered a few lag spikes and a couple of clipping and ragdoll glitches.

Despite the expected beta hiccups, when Vermintide works it’s great fun. Gameplay is near identical to Left 4 Dead so if you’re a fan of those games you’re in good hands. At times, Vermintide is in danger of borrowing too much from the L4D template: ambushes are random, save for the odd scripted set piece. There are even equivalent enemy types: the Packmaster grabs players and drags them away, the Poison Wind Globadier flings gas bombs and explodes when killed, and then there’s the Rat Ogre, a huge hulking monster that takes all four players to bring down. There are a few differences, however Vermintide gives you a choice of five heroes to exact pest control throughout Übersreik, each has a melee and ranged attack, with class specific weapons that are unlocked as you progress through the levelling system. This being a beta, there wasn’t much time to unlock weapons, or experiment with the crafting system, but it’s clear that the developers are attempting to remain faithful to the source material by offering a handful traditional RPG mechanics.

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With that in mind it’s rather disappointing that this isn’t a traditional RPG; the environments that you hack your way through are rather gorgeous, Fatshark have clearly gone to a lot of effort to bring the Warhammer world to life and it’s a small shame that the frantic nature of the gameplay means you don’t have much time to soak in the atmosphere before another relentless wave of axe-wielding subterranean rat-people emerge from the sewers. The heroes all look great and I would happily play through an entire single player campaign as a dwarf ranger with a Yorkshire accent and a bad attitude. The dialogue throughout the game hints at entertaining personalities and on the odd occasion, the banter between the heroes is perfectly pitched for this kind of fiction. Even the in-game lobby, a dingy inn in Übersreik is an environment that would look great filled with NPCs.

I enjoyed my time with Vermintide, as a game specifically designed to be infinitely replayable it certainly won me over with repeat plays and if you get a good crew together cooperative play can be very rewarding. The environments, characters and voice acting are all superb, but Vermintide’s similarity to gameplay established by Left 4 Dead and the Warhammer setting shouldn’t put people off, Vermintide stands on its own as a great cooperative hack and slasher.

Available Via Steam 23rd October. Full review to follow on release.

War of the Vikings Review

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War of the Vikings Review

Developer: Fatshark

Publisher: Paradox Interactive

Platform Reviewed: PC

Release date: 15/04/2014

With your sword held aloft you hastily close distance on your foe, arrows and spears narrowly miss their target as you get ever closer to your quarry. Your swords meet with a shuddering crash, you back away preparing to strike again, the enemy raises his shield, pondering his next move. Battle has commenced.

War of the Vikings is multiplayer only game brought to us by the same studio who were behind War of the Roses. Thrust into battle as either a Viking or Saxon, combat takes place on a bloody battlefield somewhere in Britannia and you are on the frontline. Played entirely in the third person, this gladiatorial style conflict can be swift and brutal.

The way in which you approach each skirmish will depend heavily on your choice of loadout. Play it safe with a single handed weapon and you may carry a shield. Feeling brave, then maybe a devastating two handed great axe is your preference or how about staying out of range completely and choose a bow and arrow. Let’s not forget your secondary weapons, from small axes and throwing knives to large spears and javelins, all vary in their speed and destructive capabilities.

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Holding down left click whilst moving the mouse in any of four directions readies your main weapon for attack. Careful timing and a precise aim can result in a fatal blow, this will take some degree of skill and you will need to be accurate. Parrying is achieved by holding right click as you match the direction of your opponents strike. This can lead to a tense stand-off until you consider that friendly units can also cause you damage. A wayward arrow or a clumsy strike from a nearby ally can be infuriating and can often make the difference in such close quarter combat.

There are currently five game modes on offer, each can host up to 64 players. The usual Team Deathmatch, Domination and Conquest make an appearance. Whilst Arena and Pitched Battle offer a change of pace. You are limited to a single life, bring your enemy to their knees so you can deliver the killing blow, fail and they can be resurrected by their teammates, free to hunt you down themselves.

Joining a game is a simple process of choosing a server and jumping straight into battle. None of the usual matchmaking here. Dueling servers are particularly interesting. Generally played in the Team Deathmatch mode, these games are limited to one versus one clashes. Put away your bows and arrows, these encounters are for those who want to see the light extinguish from the eyes of your foe as you best them in battle. These are very tense and tactical exchanges and lie at the heart of what War of the Vikings has to offer.

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Environments are rich and varied. Mountain villages feel claustrophobic and with limited lines of sight combat is often directed to well-placed choke points. Barren and frozen shores feel empty and lost to the elements, traversing these areas can be challenging and often rely on swift movement to close the distance on your foes without being taken out from afar. It certainly adds to the authentic and brutal feel of the game.

There are elements of customisation, from general appearance to the colour of your shield. It doesn’t go quite deep enough and more choice in this area would be very welcome. There is also no real discernible difference to which faction you are fighting for either. Neither Viking nor Saxon have any particular advantage as weapon choices are very similar. That being said there is something incredibly compelling with regards to the combat. Rushing your target and swinging blindly will often cause your swift demise. You will need to consider your surroundings and plan your next move accordingly.

War of the Vikings does have its faults. Poor optimisation is a problem. A lack of weapons and the shallow customisation make the game feel a little stale after a while. It can be fiendishly difficult and very intimidating, especially if you are new to this style of game. That being said, War of the Vikings is not without its charm and appeal. It offers a somewhat unique experience. It stays true to its source material. Graphically it’s very respectable, complimented by the admirable audio. Plus you can be a Viking, and Vikings are awesome.

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Reviewer – MrBadDog