Vermintide Review - Winning the Rat Race
Updated: Jul 7
Vermintide: End Times
Vermintide is unashamedly Left 4 Dead. You cooperate with three other players/bots to complete objectives on maps while defending against a horde of basic enemies spawning from every direction. You also have to look out for special enemies who can pin players down, drag them off, create AoE threats, or just be a massive tank. The only one of Vermintide's specials without an obvious L4D parallel is the Ratling Gunner, who focuses fire on a single player from a significant distance.
Now, being a L4D clone is no bad thing - it worked for L4D2 and more or less for Back 4 Blood, of course. But Vermintide is actually a lot more original than you'd think from that high level description. For one, its cast of five characters all have their own playstyle and equipment. You earn loot from each completed mission and each character has a few different options for each weapon slot, so after a few levels even two players using the same character could have a fairly different experience. Vermintide is also primarily a melee combat game as opposed to L4D's focus on guns. There are ranged weapons, but they take more practice to use effectively than anything in L4D, and ammo is constantly in short supply.
It's the level design that really sets this game apart, though. Where L4D was built around largely linear experiences that began and ended with safehouses, Vermintide's missions are all continuous experiences with specific objectives. You'll fight your way up a tower to ring a bell in the first mission, collect explosive barrels from all over an arena to bring down a central threat in another, and simply fight to the finish in a mazelike level in another. Although the first few levels might have you thinking the whole game is set in a grimdark medieval city, later ones introduce a trippy magic tower, forest settings, and more. It does a fantastic job of rotating settings and objectives so that nothing ever gets stale.
It isn't quite perfect, though. Most glaringly, the bots are inconsistent and will sometimes just completely fail to do their job. I lost one mission because a bot just stood there and watched another bot get killed by a special, and then was killed in turn before we could get there to help it. They're also prone to getting left behind or not protecting you when you're carrying an objective. There are also some smaller frustrations around special enemies that aren't distinct enough from the regular horde to be easy to pick out at a glance and, of course, the random loot system means you'll inevitably be disappointed by rare drop for the wrong class.
None of that ruins the game, though. I had an absolute blast playing through the main campaign and will be back both on higher difficulties and to see all the rest of the DLC and sequel content for this game. I let this sit in my library for years because I don't care at all about Warhammer, but the joke's on me - this game can easily stand on its own merits.
Time to beat: 6 hours to beat all the missions once.