Rat rat rat rat rat rat rat
I’ll admit that I don’t know that much about Warhammer. But I was craving co-op games and stumbled upon Warhammer Endtimes: Vermintide. I got a close friend to play it with me, and then we got another person. So there were three of us just playing this random weird game about killing rats in a cool fantasy setting. It was good. It was fun. Still didn’t really get it, but whatever.
Then Vermintide 2 came out and then…for some reason we just got really hooked. Actually, that’s not true. There are good reasons why, and that’s the whole point of this article. Sorry for being misleading there.
When making a game, you have to make sure it is fun at its core. Unless you’re going for something artsy, you better have something truly enjoyable at the center of it all. You need to make the game feel good to move and to do the actions you perform the most. Mario’s jumping needs to feel good. Celeste’s movement needs to feel right. Miyamoto spent an hour just climbing trees during the prototype for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The prototypes for Splatoon were just blocks of tofu shooting color at each other. These are all Nintendo games and I am both sorry and not sorry for that.
So long as we can convey the game design using the prototype, most of the time the graphics can just be blocks. It needs to be fun at its core. So, what is Vermintide’s core? First-person melee combat. I know there are ranged weapons, and those are great too, but the melee combat is where it is at in this game.
Each weapon type plays differently and they each have different sets of swings, chops, and stabs. It’s fun mastering each one’s style and how to fight in frenetic combat. When the game calls itself (well, it was called Endtimes, but I think it’s just called Vermintide now) Endtimes, it is not kidding. There are tons and tons of rats and northlanders that are running at you. Chopping with your axe and cutting through an enemy and then feeling your weapon get caught in the shoulder of the next is amazing. Smacking a chunky chaos warrior and feeling your weapon get stuck in the armor. Or swinging really wide with a sweeping weapon like a hammer and just smashing through four or more enemies at once. These things are all part of the intense combat.
But it’s not just slicing and dicing, just like its ancestor Left 4 Dead there are special enemies that fit really well because of their Warhammer background. Aforementioned chaos warriors, assassin rats, ratling gunners, and more will keep you on your toes and force your team to work together. Bosses such as rat ogres will smash your party apart if you don’t work together and keep your wits about you.
I’m not a person that really likes hyper violence. Which is ironic because this game is exactly that. And I do love the combat. I feel like it’s the juxtaposition of us having to fight for our lives when the world is ending kind of situation that makes it not as disturbing to me. I still feel bad about killing enemies sometimes. Even chaos warriors. Especially slave rats. Especially when they burn to death. Man, even blightstormers, which cast huge areas of effect storms that are annoying, I sometimes feel bad about killing. Granted these people are pretty corrupt, but still…
The tension and relief design really feels like an epic fantasy adventure. I feel like I’m in a war in the Lord of the Rings universe or something. I don’t know of any game that does it better or comes close. Maybe Deep Rock Galactic. But I think it’s the high amount of well designed, melee combat that really makes it great.
While that’s all good, what makes the icing on the cake for Vermintide is how much the developers really care about their project. Vermintide was a buggy game. I’m not saying that it’s okay to release buggy games, but it says a lot when developers spend a lot of time actually fixing the bugs that plague their games. There is constant progress on them fixing things, and you can actually feel the difference. The disparity between the attitude of developers is sad. I suppose it helps if the development studio is smaller. It feels less like a boss saying, “Just deal with it.” and more like a friend that says, “I’m working on it.” They feel so human. And that’s good, both that they try and they’re clear they are doing so because they love their game, not just because people are complaining. It means that when people aren’t complaining, they will continue to improve, and that is what really separates developers.
And that also leads me to the way they handle characters. You can tell they love their characters. Each character is so loveable and the way they interact with each other is entertaining. Even now, after having played over 500 hours of the game, I’m not tired of any of the character’s lines. I feel like they’re always adding new lines as well. It’s something that I noticed the Path of Exile developers do. It’s not always about adding giant blocks of content or fixing bugs. Sometimes it’s about going back to old stuff and improving on it. Without prompt from the players or anything. It’s like going to an old painting and improving upon it. It shows they really care about it. Or they have extra time, heh. But even then that means they’re still thinking in their extra time, what else can I do?
Vermintide is one of the few games where I’ve played up to the hardest (non-modded) difficulty. I love Cataclysm difficulty because it’s so intense. You have to perform your best. I believe I mentioned this before when I was talking about playing to just focus on something. It really brings me out of other mindsets and just lets me focus. If I want to just not think about depressing things I can just hop on cataclysm with my friends.
Which reminds me of one last thing. This was added later in the game but the Chaos Wastes update added a roguelite campaign and that has just extended the life of the game by such a huge amount of time I really feel like the game could be endless at this point. And I don’t mind that at all. It’s one of those games where if they kept updating it for the next ten years I’d definitely be playing it for the next ten years.
I didn’t say anything about the classes or the talents. I like those too, but what I really love about Vermintide is how it mastered the core gameplay of intense co-op combat and how fun and loved the game is by the developers. I love the characters so much and I will never not enjoy this game. It’s that thing where I love games, I love when other people enjoy games, I love teaching people to play and enjoy games, and I love when people enjoy making games.
And there are all these elements about that in this game. However, there is one…caveat. And that is that this is a co-op game, and people can make or break the experience. I am very fortunate to have a group of three to play with (which is rarely the case in other games for me), and they’re a great joy to play with. I hope that if you try this game you have some friends or siblings or someone close to play with, because it’s so much better like that. Maybe the game only feels so good because I have a good group. That’s very possible. I apologize if it doesn’t end up as fun as I’ve written due to social factors.
I still think that the game design and character designs are great. And I still stand by it by putting Warhammer: Vermintide II: (Chaos Wastes) at #33 on the ULTRA. Huh, I think that’s one of the highest ranking games I’ve written a Why I Love on the ULTRA. I think I write less on the higher ranked games because it tends to be more sentimental, but I’m sure I will write about them eventually.
Thanks for reading, and I really hope you enjoy the Skulls event stuff going on today! Be safe! And happy gaming!