Before our meeting in a hotel room in Cologne we did a little research into Vermintide, a game we hadn’t heard much of before. It’s set in the ‘classic’ Warhammer universe, rather than 40K, it’s a 4-player co-op melee-focused first person ‘shooter’ and it looks a lot like Left 4 Dead. To be honest we weren’t overly excited. Then we played it.
Vermintide suddenly makes you ask the question, why haven’t many other games tried to emulate was made Left 4 Dead so successful and make it their own? Killing Floor kind of succeeded, but that’s more of an arena survival game, Left 4 Dead’s strength was it’s story-based progression and a sense of a journey while constantly being besieged by the undead. Vermintide takes that formula but adds some RPG elements into the mix as well as a great engine and an interesting new enemy, the rat-people Skaven.
In Vermintide you get to select from one of five characters. For the purposes of our demo the two of us were sat on one side, with another journalist on the other and one of the game’s devs taking the remaining place. I was cast as a kind of assassin character who had a bow (with limited arrows) and unlimited knives to throw, other characters included a kind of healer, a knight, and more of a mage character. While getting ready for the game, the lobby is an actual environment where you can run around and try out your abilities. Once we were ready we ran through some doors and into the level. We spawned into a city with the task of finding out what was going on. The tech used to build the city is very impressive, with landmarks stretching off into the distance and a real sense of place, despite being pushed down certain streets through blockades. The areas where you tend to fight are surprisingly open and unlike you, the Skaven are incredibly mobile and can climb over roofs and down walls to get to you. The first few fights were very simple affairs, we’d spot a skaven and dispatch it brutally, often dismembering limbs or heads (apparently you can cut off their tails but we didn’t see it happen in our playthrough). We went through buildings, found chests (you can find items to sell but they take up precious inventory slots, this means you might have to go without a first aid kit just so you can get something to the end of the level) and discovered the recently-deceased population. From then on we were almost constantly set upon by hordes of Skraven. The number of bodies flying around really was impressive and it was satisfying to wade into a large pack of them and send them flying. Physics-based ragdolls are working well and the battles felt appropriately bloody and brutal. At times certain ‘special’ Skraven come to attack ,such as one who throws poison bombs, blocking access to an area, or one who grabs you and drags you off to hang you from somewhere unpleasant.
We fought through these hordes until eventually we reached a tower where we had to blow a horn to alert the townspeople. This led to a wave-based horde mode style defense, with us all up on some stairs trying to block off the legions of monsters that came to kill us. It was interesting how quickly we developed strategies of blocking off the stairs with the more tanky character while I picked off any who tried to climb up the walls. By the time we prevailed it really felt like we’d been on an adventure and we were eager to play more. At the end of the level you get to roll for some loot (everyone gets their own, the roll is for quality) and the items you have carried with you to the end give you a modifier to your roll. We got our loot (weapons mostly) and prepared for the next level. Sadly the next lot of journalists were ready to have their turn and we had to leave..
We were impressed with Vermintide. There’s a lot of fun to be had fighting through waves of rodents and we can’t wait to sink our teeth into the full game when it launches.