‘Inspired by’ doesn’t even begin to describe what Warhammer End Times: Vermintide does with the material from the best co-op horde-’em-up in history, Left 4 Dead 2.
Vermintide rips Valve’s zombie butchery off so much I can’t even think of another game that does it to another in similar fashion. Not without leaving the vicious circle of one company’s eternal copy-pasting that my mind is for some reason stuck in right now. But where all Ubisoft’s inter-cloning bubble descends into science of suckage where what should suck does indeed suck, Vermintide stands tall and proud, unshaken. People love it. I love it.
I’m not going to for a fraction of time it takes one to blink suggest that Vermintide is better than Left 4 Dead 2. But it’s as good as. Come the genre, praise doesn’t get any higher than that. But why is it the case instead of anxious finger-pointing and screaming ‘shameless rip-off’?
The three dudes and one girl in Left 4 Dead 2 are diverse enough in terms of narrative, no doubt about that. But mechanically? Well, they all use the same pool of weapons, they can seamlessly adopt any team role at any given moment, they all play exactly the same. Vermintide‘s quintet is a different story entirely.
There’s a dwarf that can tank damage with a shield and sword, an elven bowman (well, she’s a… she, yeah) that can snipe from afar. There’s an area-of-effect capable fire-mage, a rather cumbersome two-handed heavy-hitting (slightly nazi) witch hunter, and all-round assault supporting buccaneer.
Yes. I’ve talked about it recently. What Vermintide sneakily brings via distinct player characterisation into the good old Left 4 Dead formula is truly meaningful choice.
If I’m brutally honest, and I am, I am a teensy-weensy split over the levelling, and perhaps loot rarity too, mechanic in a game like this. On one hand, it’s an awesome incentive to go on (re)playing. On the other, the more it compels me to keep at it, the more my thoughts tend to stray towards that dreaded word: grind.
No, no, no, being out there with friends, hacking and slashing our way through fantastic Skaven-overrun Warhammer End Times universe, never actually materialised to feel like a grind in the 35-or-so hours thus far. But giving it an actual a thought or two, or seeing those how-to-farm internet search hits all over the pages, I do find that creeping grind may be a concern.
Regardless of how that makes you feel, bottom line is that levelling adds an important pinch of pepper to Left 4 Dead. The genius is not in its sharpness though, it’s in the subtlety of its amount. It’s just right.
Gorram Gorgeous Looks
Now I’m sorry, I’m well aware that these days we have Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Crysis 3, or The Division. These few shots scattered about? Please know that they don’t really do Vermintide justice. Especially in motion, it’s bloody beautiful.
The full moon-lit End Times’ medieval suburbs, the creepy foggy marshes underneath a giant foresty ceiling, the surreal stone castles revealing themselves in the backdrop during a lightning storm.
I’m not talking about some ‘wow moments’. It is extremely hard to compete with those in Left 4 Dead 2, something that mind you, Vermintide might have just pulled off too. It’s the overall setting. The masterfully-crafted world plays a role, it’s a character in its own right.
Yeah, it’s true. Vermintide could have gone braver into and further from the chrysalis Left 4 Dead brought into the gaming meat grinder. But then it wouldn’t be what it is: an honourable knight paying homage to his king by carrying the flag, no matter what lies ahead on his serpentine journey. That is something to be proud of you know.