I recently previewed Warhammer 40,000 Eternal Crusade and, like most Warhammer games in the last few years, I was let down. Severely. Enter the lovable folks at Fatshark games and Pierre-Yve's glowing review of Vermintide on the PC and I thought "Here it is, finally, a Warhammer game to be proud of!" I was wrong, and that pains me to admit it. Warhammer: The End Times - Vermintide is not a bad game, but it is a bad port.
To start, Vermintide, set in the original Warhammer universe, is a corridor "shooter" where forward progression is key. Think Left 4 Dead but with swords and sorcery rather than shotguns and rockets. Behind each level is a faux reason for said forward progression (need to unlock a door, need to gather resources, etc.) that would have been better served with "The Skaven are flooding the streets and you need to get out of there!" because the story for Vermintide feels very B-rated Movie (on the flip side, Vermintide's cheesiness is PERFECT for Halloween season binging), you know, kind of like Left for Dead. Where it differs is that there is actual leveling up, a basic crafting function, and even loot / inventory management (that honestly, makes no sense). Oddly though, about 95% of the chest that I and CGR contributor Jeff came across were all empty. After a dozen hours in-game I still have no clue how loot works, which is sad because loot is a basic aspect of ANY aspiring RPG. That is sort of like playing Diablo with the starting equipment because nothing drops loot. At all. Dumb.
Beyond the horribly bizarre loot fiasco lies the fact that in a single session it was common to crash to desktop three or four times. The fun part? When playing co-op with Jeff we would have to start each level from the beginning; we must have played the first level a dozen or so times just because we could not get the game to stay loaded long enough to actually play. A quick look at the Xbox One Feedback / Bug Report forum at Fatshark shows this is not an isolated case, but rather a common occurrence. Workarounds were along the lines of "avoid this feature/path/loot/function/etc." which, with the broken loot system on Xbox One means ... play the game with original equipment and hope for the best.
Combat is very Skyrim-esque, except boring. Though, in all honesty for all that people love Skyrim ... ITS combat is pretty boring. Run around, tap right-trigger, sometimes hold it. In fact, if you place the targeting reticle at head high and lock it there on that Y axis, you could effectively head-shot about 99% of the enemies for easy kills (only needing to move along the X axis). Interrupt your regular tapping of the right-trigger to hold the left trigger in to block. Mundane stuff. What is even more fun is the overscan "feature." HUD elements and between-mission "tavern time" where you forge / upgrade weapons or manage your inventory all take place slightly off-screen, which sucks, because you sort of need to adjust the HUD to have all elements on-screen to play / choose options effectively. But alas, you cannot re-position/resize the HUD so there were times I would ask my co-op partner what was on-screen. Poor design.
In all honesty calling Vermintide an actual Warhammer game might be doing a discredit to the venerable Warhammer franchise as it is more a Left 4 Dead clone that uses Warhammer assets. That is not an inherently bad thing. What is bad is the port to Xbox One. On the PC? This game would be great and by all accounts, IS great there. Jeff even commented at one time that (non-verbatim) "this game really makes me want to just go play Left 4 Dead" and that sentiment was shared. And I HATE zombies (single most over-used trope in anything, and that is saying a lot, because I watch a TON of anime).
Here are a few words from co-CGR contributor, Jeff: Vermintide’s multiplayer, much like the rest of the game, suffers from a user interface that seems a least a generation behind. Inviting friends to join your session is not intuitive; you must bring up your friends list in-game, highlight the friend you want to invite and hold down a button for several seconds. Simply selecting the friend won’t send an invite and there is no on-screen information telling you what to do. If you don’t know that’s how to send the invite, prepare to spend several minutes of frustrating trial-and-error trying to get your party put together.
In terms of gameplay, though, multiplayer is the way to go. Once you figure out how to get everyone into a session together, you’ll be happily killing Skaven. If you don’t have a full party, AI bots will round out the group. They are serviceable, but like everything else in this game, don’t seem to be any better than the bots in Left 4 Dead, a game now 8 years old. They’ll generally tag along right behind one of the human players but playing two players, they didn’t seem to split up often if the two humans ran off in opposite directions. That makes it especially dangerous to wander too far from the group as it is easy to get separated and swarmed or grabbed by some of the special enemies.
I really tried pushing this review off in the hopes that Fatshark would patch the game addressing a lot of these problems, and in some ways they did. When you play single player. The struggle there is that this game absolutely requires a decent-working team of humans because the NPCs are dumber than nipples on a suit of armor (looking at you Schumacher Batsuit). Warhammer: The End Times - Vermintide may have been designed to play with friends, but on the Xbox One that is near impossible in its current state.
Here's to hoping Fatshark patches it soon, otherwise this will just fall back into the pile of waste that comes attached to the Warhammer franchise.
Nordic Games Publishing
Nordic Games Publishing
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Article by Robert