Games Workshop has certainly embraced the digital age. The last twelve or so months has seen several of their most popular titles re-imagined in digital form. Some of these place the player in command of entire armies, while other utilise a much smaller setting. Vermintide, however, is a little bit of both.
Set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe, Vermintide places the player into the shoes of one or more varied characters who have a talent for killing unsavoury individuals in fairly interesting ways. These characters will form your squad as you battle through a Skaven-infested Ubersreik.
The Skaven (human-sized rat folk with a penchant for large, sharp weapons and general skulduggery) have taken over, and it’s down to your band of not so merry men and women to remove the threat.
Developers Fat Shark have taken a sizeable chunk of the Warhammer Fantasy universe and adapted it for 1st-person use, utilising one of the most infamous races as the bad guys. The squad that you’ll be footslogging with is a varied bunch, consisting a Witch Hunter, Empire Soldier, Dwarf Ranger, Waywatcher and Bright Wizard. Essentially it’s squad vs swarm, and each member can add their own distinctive fighting style in an effort to defeats dozens and dozens of relentless Skaven with each encounter in Ubersreik. But most importantly it’s a team-orientated game. Whether you have the friendly AI or real-life human teammates helping you along, working together is key. Become separated and you’ll very quickly be killed or dragged away, but if you bunch up you’ll find yourself quickly overwhelmed.
Visually it’s a competent affair. The background vistas aren’t the head-turning sort that you would find in an Ubisoft title and the playable environments are decent but lack and real sense of foreboding. The architecture is typically gothic in nature, which is pretty much the norm for Warhammer, but feels somewhat lifeless. And that’s including the fact that most of the folk in the city have locked their doors and windows or have simply perished. But for the most part the immediate environment does the job, but would benefit from some additional polish.
The most commendable part is the squad itself, which is a well-balanced bunch of signature individuals, all of whom appeal for different reasons and playstyles, such as long-range encounters, close combat or magic. In a way it’s like a first person version of the original Gauntlet game. Side with a decent group of players and you can really power through some sections of the game.
But there are other parts where even good teamwork is really tested and the game simply resorts to hurling countless foes at you, all of which seemingly move without much thought, other than straight at you. When this occurred I was reminded of the Colonial Marines game in the Aliens franchise, which often resorted to trying to kill you through sheer weight of numbers and a single-minded-enemy AI with all the imagination of a potato. The Skaven aren’t particularly devious or intelligent in the encounters, and any attempt at ramping up the tension and difficulty seems to revolve around “add more Skaven”.
Overall, the game exhibits a successful and well balanced squad, but uses a limited visual palette and a generic use of enemy AI in order to test your mettle. Any future titles would benefit from increased tactical options, both friendly and enemy, and improved graphics.
Out of 5 stars, I give Vermintide…