Content Type: Gaming Reviews
Date: February 26, 2018
Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide is an online only action co-operative first-person shooter game available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide is based on the two player tabletop board game by Games Workshop which was originally released in 1983 set within the Warhammer Fantasy universe. Warhammer games are mostly synonymous with Warhammer 40,000 such as the third-person action adventure of Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine on PS3 in 2011. However, there are also a respectable amount set within the Warhammer Fantasy universe dating as far back as HeroQuest on such platforms as the Amiga, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum in 1991 with newer games including tactical RPG Mordheim: City of the Damned in 2015 and spin-offs from the turn-based strategy and real-time tactics of the Total War franchise titled Total War: Warhammer in 2016 and 2017. Swedish developer Fatshark has previously developed third-person multiplayer shooter Lead and Gold: Gangs of the Wild West in 2010, platformer Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2 in 2011, puzzle adventure platformer Hamilton’s Great Adventure in 2011, action combat gameplay in War of the Roses in 2012 and more besides. The major question heading into Vermintide is if Fatshark can deliver a first-person Warhammer Fantasy game with gameplay reminiscent of their first game Lead and Gold which was described by many as an old west take on Team Fortress 2?
A story presenting an expansion to the lore of The End Times has been written by Games Workshop veterans with the story revolving around the barbaric invasion by the Skaven army which reduces the once established city of Ubersreik to mere rubble and ruins that only a small group of people have managed to survive. Five heroes set out to prevent any further deaths and destruction by slaying the rodents of the Skaven army one at a time until they are completely extinguished.
An effective single player tutorial set in a rainy Stromdorf shows players the basics such as how to jump, dodge and block enemy attacks from all directions, perform normal and charged attacks, picking up ammunition, switching weapons, aiming a bow and arrow at distant enemies, reviving an ally, providing medical supplies and more besides.
There is unfortunately no offline single player gameplay; therefore if you want to play the game in single player or multiplayer, then an online connection and PlayStation Plus is required to play either of the two game modes. Adventure mode tasks players to fight against the invading ratmen, while completing a variety of missions including sounding the horn of Magnus to alert the authorities to the hostile invasion as the townspeople are asleep; gathering food to help survivors; stocking up on gunpowder for the resistance’s weapons; and much more besides. Last Stand mode is completely different from the premise of adventure mode due to being situated within a much smaller environment in which you and your team of 4 allies must defend against endless hordes of onrushing Skaven with endurance badges awarded periodically for surviving a certain quantity of waves.
There are multiple collectibles including books and lore pages. Books are a range of tomes and grimoires scattered throughout environments in primary missions. Tomes have the important purpose of replacing one of your dice per tome with four chances of success instead of two in Ranald’s Bones, while having a grimoire equipped at the end of a mission rewards the player with six chances of success. However, there is a significant risk and reward factor as a tome takes the place of your healing item slot, while a grimoire takes the place of your character’s potion item slot, alongside grimoires reducing every player’s health by 30% each from the beginning until the end of the mission. Lore pages can be collected throughout primary missions and side missions which can later be viewed back at the inn within the lore book. Elsewhere, lore pages essentially cover a back story throughout everything experienced in Warhammer: Vermintide including the group of five heroes, important yet non-playable characters, individual types of Skaven, earlier and later history, environments explored within each of the acts and downloadable content and more besides.
Each of the five heroes have varying melee and ranged weapons in addition to armour. For instance, the witch hunter utilises a melee weapon called the rapier that is balanced between defensive parrying and taking it offensively to the Skaven, a powerful axe or a two-handed sword, alongside such ranged weapons as a brace of pistols, a crossbow capable of penetrating armoured enemies and a repeater pistol that makes up for less accuracy with a faster rate of fire. Meanwhile, the waywatcher carries such melee weaponry as dual daggers, a short sword, dual swords, a sword and dagger and a glaive, alongside ranged weapons including a swift bow or a swift bow equipped with poisonous arrows, a longbow that pierces through enemy armour and the higher accuracy of the true flight longbow. Dwarf ranger’s melee weaponry contains a great axe capable of defeating multiple Skaven with one mighty swing, a two-handed hammer, a lighter axe that does not inflict the same amount of damage to enemies in comparison to the great axe but does allow the dwarf ranger to move quicker, a hammer and an axe and shield or hammer and shield for simultaneous efficiency in parrying incoming enemy attacks and defeating a fair quantity of Skaven. Every weapon has their own unique attributes including the amount of damage dealt to an enemy, the speed in which the weapon can be fired or swung, the accuracy in which it targets enemies and how much the weapon is capable of knocking back an enemy in normal attacks and charged attacks, alongside the maximum ammo capacity for a ranged weapon and the stamina of a melee weapon. Rewards such as a weapon, a hat or trinket can be earned in Ranald’s Bones after completing a mission by rolling what is referred to as loot dice with the completion of side objectives providing better loot dice to be rolled.
The inventory holds your chosen character’s items that stretch further than armour, melee and ranged weaponry, although there is also a selection of trinkets that can initially be equipped to a single trinket slot before gradually progressing towards unlocking a second and third trinket slot. Trinkets cover a variety of purposes including protecting the character by reducing the damage inflicted from ratling gunners’ warp bullets by 40%; greatly increasing the probability of acquiring better equipment for a particular character during Ranald’s Bones; and more besides. However, there are necessary items gathered within missions such as those found in chests situated sporadically throughout the environments which come in handy as they often contain ammunition for ranged weaponry, healing items that restore your character’s health and various potions that can be looted in preparation for battling the next group of enemies.
Levelling up by earning XP from successfully completing objectives with more XP awarded for harder difficulty levels is essential as almost every new attained level results in a reward for a particular character which in turn increases your chosen hero’s chances of surviving the Skaven invasion. Rewards are categorised into common and uncommon with common rewards including the waywatcher receiving a recurve crossbow for reaching level 5 and the empire soldier unlocking a mercenary great two-handed sword for attaining level 11, while uncommon rewards include the witch hunter receiving an imperial repeater pistol for reaching level 48. However, there are some rewards that are not character specific such as unlocking the Forge at the Red Moon Inn for attaining level 1; receiving the second trinket slot for reaching level 15; and unlocking the third and final trinket slot for attaining level 30.
There are five characters to choose from with their own unique looks and methods of attack including a male witch hunter named Victor Saltzpyre, a female waywatcher called Kerillian, a male dwarf ranger named Bardin Goreksson, a female bright wizard called Sienna Fuegonasus and a male empire soldier named Markus Kruber. Enemy design is quite varied with rats coming in a range of sizes and attacks such as the smallest and lowest ranking enemy known as the Clanrats that only wear rags and scrap armour with a heavy reliance on melee attacks from swords, knives, maces, flails, spears and torches, although the Clanrats greatest advantage is their strength in numbers as they attack from every direction which is assisted by Skavenslaves who are of an equally low status within the Skaven army. Taller and far more powerful enemies include the Poison Wind Globadier which shoots green poisonous gas in the direction of your character and allies, while Rating Gunners move slowly, but make up for that with an unprecedented rate of fire through what is effectively a hand cranked six barrel chaingun.
Environment design has a positive amount of depth to it as players are able to explore Ubersreik on the ground, within buildings, traversing upwards and even venturing underground into the Under Empire, while searching the outskirts and harder to reach areas of the expansive environments within each mission in an attempt to discover collectibles and helpful items. Varying times of day or night and weather conditions such as clear skies, fog, rain and lightning are appropriately used to paint a relevant atmospheric tone in accordance with the environment and scene playing out within it.
Quests and Contracts is a free downloadable content pack comprising of substantial features including contracts containing objectives that grant rewards such as crafting tokens or weaponry for completing contracts which mostly consist of one-off tasks, while boons award players with timed power-ups upon completing specific contracts, alongside quests which provide a collective of contracts resulting in even greater rewards for players who successfully complete quests. Karak Azgaraz is a downloadable content pack costing £7.99 which provides three levels set in the snow covered summits of the Grey Mountains, while completing the missions will earn players the chance to attain two new rare weapons including the warpick for the dwarf ranger and the falchion for the witch hunter. Stromdorf is a further downloadable content pack priced at £5.79 that introduces the city of Stromdorf where a courier transporting important news has vanished; therefore the group of heroes must rescue the courier and the important news from the hands of the mischievous Skaven, while earning the mighty two-handed executioner’s sword for Markus Kruber as a reward for completing the missions.
It is disappointing not to see Warhammer: Vermintide on Vita, especially when considering some of the amazing first-person shooter games the Vita has played host to and that Warhammer had a presence on PSP with Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command, although at least there is Space Hulk on Vita and Warhammer: Vermintide’s remote play as consolations for Vita owning Warhammer fans. Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide’s remote play performance is excellent as the graphics, audio and general performance is of the same quality as the PS4 version. There is only a minimal amount of remote play control scheme optimisation resulting in tapping the top right of the touch screen to fire your gun or swing your melee weapon and tapping the top left of the touch screen to aim a crossbow or use a shield which is not particularly comfortable when factoring in that the left and right analogue sticks both need to be utilised an equal quantity as the top right and left of the touch screen. I had the best remote play experience with Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide when choosing the alternate 3 control scheme as it re-maps firing or swinging weapons to R and aiming or using a shield moves to L; therefore providing a comfortable control scheme much better suited to the first-person shooter genre on Vita.
The four control schemes are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller accompanied by a left handed mode; providing ample variety for players looking to find a control scheme that suits their respective play style. The default control scheme consists of pressing R2 to perform a melee attack or fire a weapon or holding R2 to perform a charged melee attack; holding L2 to shield your character from enemy attacks or focusing your aim with such weaponry as the dwarf ranger’s crossbow; pressing L1 to reload; pressing triangle to quickly swap weapons; pressing square to use an item or open doors and chests; pressing X to jump or pressing X during changing the direction of the left analogue stick to dodge enemy attacks; holding O to crouch; pressing up on the d-pad to wield a grenade; pressing left on the d-pad to wield a health item; pressing right on the d-pad to wield a potion item; pressing down on the d-pad to quickly swap weapons; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move your character; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to look around the surrounding environments; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Tapping the touch pad displays the scoreboard, while vibration occurs to reflect the recoil of your character’s gun when fired or a melee weapon when swung at enemies and when enemies hit your character. There is no light bar support which could have produced an alternative HUD to show the current state of your character’s health.
Graphically, Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide thrives on its atmospheric tone which is created by excellent lighting and shadows; providing environments with an eerie sense of imminent danger that is further compounded by the exceptional adaptation of the humanoid ratmen who look as menacing as Warhammer fans would anticipate from Vermintide.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, inventory menus, online multiplayer menus, options menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad, face buttons and tapping the touch pad, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and swiping across the touch pad. The background of every menu immediately sets the scene as an eerie mist descends during a full moon at night.
A talented voice-over cast brings more life to each of the characters including Tim Bentinck voicing the witch hunter Victor Saltzpyre having previously voiced Inspector Auguste Navet in Broken Sword: The Serpent’s Curse and Steady Hand McDuff in Dark Souls II; Alix Wilton Regan voices waywatcher Kerillian having voiced Comm Specialist Samantha Traynor in Mass Effect 3 and Sortiara and Illecebra in Soul Sacrifice; David Rintoul voicing dwarf ranger Bardin Goreksson having previously voiced McBiscuit in Telltale Games’ Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Adventures, Kester and Lloyd in Dragon Age: Origins; Dan Mersh voices empire soldier Markus Kruber having voiced El Presidente in Tropico 5 and Arbor, Troll and God of Humour in The Book of Unwritten Tales 2; and even more equally talented cast members. Sound effects include walking, jumping, firing guns or swinging melee weapons at enemies, enemies attacking your team’s characters, rats grunting as they attack or are defeated and a noticeable air of ambience; complimented by a string orchestrated score. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which could have produced voice-overs, sound effects or ambience.
The trophy list includes 40 trophies with 25 bronze trophies, 11 silver trophies, 3 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy with the Quest and Contracts downloadable content pack including 2 bronze trophies and 1 silver trophy and the Karak Azgaraz downloadable content pack including 5 bronze trophies and 3 silver trophies. It is important to note that as Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide is an online only game; an internet connection is required in order to earn every trophy. Easier trophies include the Wutelgi bronze trophy for rescuing Bardin Goreksson from the Skaven which is earned during the single player tutorial; the Pest Control and Rakogridrengi bronze trophies for being part of killing a whole Stormvermin Patrol and a Rat Ogre respectively which can both be achieved during the Horn of Magnus; the Prologue bronze trophy for completing the Horn of Magnus which is the first level after the tutorial; and the Hammer And Anvil bronze trophy for unlocking the forge. Harder trophies include the Heroes of the End Times gold trophy for completing all missions on cataclysm difficulty level; the Karl Franz silver trophy for reaching rank 100; the Balthasar Gelt silver trophy for collecting all tomes; and the Tenacious silver trophy for collecting 200 endurance badges in last stand. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 25 to 35 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are initially three difficulty levels in adventure mode including easy, normal and hard, while nightmare difficulty is unlocked for completing a mission on hard difficulty and cataclysm difficulty is unlocked for completing a mission on nightmare difficulty on a mission by mission basis. There are three separate difficulty levels for last stand mode including veteran, champion and heroic. Completing missions on harder difficulty levels provides a multitude of rewards such as more XP and better weapon unlocks which introduces a risk and reward factor as harder difficulty levels possess significantly more aggressive and more persistent hordes of rat enemies.
Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide supports 1 to 4 players between single player with A.I. controlled allies or 2 to 4 players in online co-operative multiplayer. However, an online connection and PlayStation Plus are both required, so if a player is based in a very remote area without an online connection, then they could not play the game and anyone without Plus would be unable to play either.
After numerous patch updates; there are barely any disconnection problems and the RAM allocation has been optimised for a much smoother performance during gameplay and when momentarily exiting out of the game to navigate the cross-media bar interface which for quite some time into the post-launch phase used to be rather hideously slow. Online multiplayer matchmaking is not frustrating at all due to simplistic options including a lobby browser allowing players to search for their preferred game mode, mission, difficulty level, show all or only joinable lobbies and search distance between near, medium and world. After your character has been killed; you can still follow the action until one of your team members has revived your character due to a quite entertaining third-person spectator viewpoint. A.I. bots ensure that there is always a group of four heroes throughout gameplay; regardless of playing single player or if a player leaves during a mission.
Adding to the shackles of always-online connectivity is the lack of split-screen multiplayer which would have really expanded the gameplay possibilities in online multiplayer and if the game had been offline too. Instead of just being online co-operative multiplayer; Warhammer: Vermintide could have also been competitive multiplayer by having one group of players control the heroes competing against an opposing team of Skaven that are attempting to prevent your team from completing their mission, while the role of offensive and defensive teams could be switched around by having the Skaven attacking a town that the heroes would have to protect.
Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide’s replayability stems from various collectibles, XP and levelling up, two separate gameplay styles in the form of the unfolding story and mission based structure throughout three acts of adventure mode and the enemy waves of last stand mode which are accompanied by five heroes each with their own melee and ranged weaponry, three difficulty levels with two additional unlockable difficulty levels in adventure mode and three difficulty levels for last stand mode that can be played in single player online with A.I. or online co-operative multiplayer for 2 to 4 players that would keep players returning for a significant amount of time.
- Title: Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide
- Developer: Fatshark
- Publisher: Fatshark
- System: PS4
- Format: Retail/PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1-4 (Online Single Player with A.I. Controlled Allies/Online Co-operative Multiplayer/Online Connection and PlayStation Plus Required)
- Hard Drive Space Required: 24.74GB (Version 1.12)