STAFF REVIEW of Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide (Xbox One)

Saturday, October 29, 2016.
by Brent Roberts

Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide Box art What would happen if a game developer took a fantasy world setting full of magic, steel, and gunpowder, and pitted several classes of characters sending them forth to exterminate the Skaven who threaten to destroy everything in existence? This is the type of question that developer Fatshark answered with their release Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide. Priced at $39.99 Fatshark has attempted to bring the PC hit to consoles and deliver a quality gaming experience. Have they done it? Let's find out.

Long ago it was prophesied that The End Times would bring about an apocalyptic series of events that would ultimately lead to the complete and total destruction of the Warhammer world. Think of this as another extinction level event of which nothing will be the same again (e.g. Marvel Civil War). However, in the face of such unending demise, a band of 5 warriors have bonded together in a last ditch effort to thwart the evil from becoming so and to rewrite history. Although this sounds like a great narrative, the plot lines and execution of the story is incredibly shallow. I do understand that it's not the type of game that would involve an immense depth to a plot, but if you're ultimately looking for a trigger testing hack and slash game, look no further. With such a wealth of information at hand for reference and/or inspiration, it's a shame that such a game just seems to focus on hacking and slashing everything and going from point A to a linear point B.

I cannot, in good conscience, go any further without discussing how blatant Fatshark has been in mirroring the game essence of Left 4 Dead. Vermintide almost literally seems to have copied every point from Left 4 Dead and just put a Warhammer skin on it. For starters, the whole co-op party system where the party leader can select between missions. And of course there is also 'their' version of a horde mode. Once in the selected level you'll be tasked to take your group from point A to point B yet you're not given a map because the levels are so linear you cannot get lost. The only exploration that exists is navigating through select homes and back alleys that you can search while you are making your way towards your task's end. But before you do any of this you have to select your character, and in Vermintide there are 5 different ones to select from.

The Waywatcher would be regarded as a wood elf who utilizes bows, daggers and swords. Your Bright Wizard is just that, a wizard, who can unleash fire from her staff, but is governed by her use of her magic which can unfortunately consume her, thus killing her. Next you have your Soldier class who is about as generic as they come and is proficient in the use of shotguns, swords, hammers, etc. Then the shortest hero to select from is your Dwarf Ranger, who is essentially Gimli from Lord of the Rings. He's a short dwarf with a shield who can run rampant on foes with his crossbow, hammer, and of course, an axe. Rounding off the character list you have your Witch Hunter. This character sports pistols and rapiers in battle, but they can also wield crossbows and larger melee weapons such as hammers. Completing missions with these characters will allow you to level them up and unlock new character development slots to bring your hero to a whole new level.

The tutorial is good to get your feet wet in terms of the control scheme. Controls are relatively simplistic given the variants of moves that come from a PC landscape, but yet they do not seem to quite feel as familiar as other first person shooter layouts. The Left Trigger is used for blocking and the Right for attacking. The Y button switches between ranged attacks and your melee weapon. The A button is assigned for jumping (barely gets your character off the ground), and X allows you to interact with objects. Finally, the d-pad is used for quick selection of potions, etc. Earlier I wrote that this was a trigger tester because after long hours of gameplay you will not only have a much stronger right index finger, but you'll find out how tough your controller triggers actually are.

This Left 4 Dead clone does hold some improvements as the game is broken up into several missions (a total of 16 in fact) that not only increase in difficulty, but also include 3 bonus missions to play as well. Naturally, at the end of each mission you're not only awarded XP to help level your character up, but you also get the opportunity to try for gear which can consist of weapons or trinkets which you can either wear or combine within a forge/shrine to produce better quality items. This helps increase the replay factor, which is good considering all you ever do is hack and kill everything over and over again.

Now as mentioned earlier, Vermintide is a co-op experience, however, if you don't have any friends online, or any that want to play this game, you can still select to host an open game where gamers can join your match, allowing you to have up to 3 AI bots or any combination of both. We all know that AI companionship in video games is not reliable at all, and while that's true for Vermintide, there's more problems lurking in the darkness. One of the problems is since you absolutely have to connect to Vermintide's online servers to play, should there be any interruption, either on your end or theirs, you won't be able to play anything.

Other connection issues arise as well. If you're in someone else's game and they decide that they no longer want to play and leave their game, you're instantly booted, not back to your own individual Inn, but to the game's main title screen. So essentially, once you join a host's game your connection to the servers becomes solely dependent upon them. In keeping with the whole connection theme, unless you're in a party chat, there is very little in-game communication. This seems weird as you're supposed to be playing a co-op game but it doesn't allow you to communicate with one another easily.

In terms of the visuals, it's a mixed bag. The cutscenes are done with great detail and you can see that a lot of work went into producing the world in which you play in; however, there are some shading issues and graphic abnormalities that are random but not unnoticed during actual gameplay. The sound effects and soundtrack to this game is honestly not the game's strongest point. The lackluster music and generic sound effects leave a lot to be desired, and the voice acting is tolerable, so when assessed as a whole the sound just gets it done in this game.

Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide, although not perfect as it has some issues, still manages to bring about a fresh and deeper evolution of the Left 4 Dead gameplay formula making for a somewhat enjoyable gaming experience. There is still content that is available on PC that isn't available yet on the Xbox One, but from the starting block it seems that developer Fatshark has done a pretty good job not just bringing a PC game to the consoles, but also in bringing some relative fun to gamers with this new game.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 6.5 / 10


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