Unsung games of 2015: Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide
Given that I have already bored my friends, colleagues and loved ones to tears talking about Vermintide, it feels strange to be writing about it as one of the unsung gems of 2015. I have talked about this game a lot - to the point, frankly, where I feel I owe several people an apology.
I tried to rein it in, honest. I made every effort not to be that guy who describes a victory they had online last night as if it was something they achieved in real life, or delves into the minutiae of tome locations and forge plans with someone who's never even seen the game - much less started to pick at its secrets. I tried to rein it in, and I failed spectacularly.
But the reason I've been trying to convert my friends to Vermintide so earnestly is that I want them to feel the same sense of giddy excitement I did when I first realised how well made this game is. I've accompanied two different friends on their first forays into Vermintide, allowing me to witness in them the same moment of discovery I had: that moment when you realise this game is more than just a pretty Left 4 Dead reskin. It's got character, it's got balance, and it feels fantastic.
The tactility of Vermintide's melee combat is astonishing. In my experience, first-person melee tends to fall into one of two camps. Either it's sluggish and unrefined, or it's too swift and flimsy to be satisfying. Lending the proper weight to a sword swing - yet also making it sufficiently dynamic - is a real challenge, and Vermintide has it nailed.
It's also remarkably hard to walk away from. While Left 4 Dead's levels are a bit long for my taste, Vermintide's are just short enough that you can almost always find time for one more. The loot system, in which you roll dice to determine the quality of gear you receive, is quite literally a bit of a gamble, but the breadth of weapon traits is enough to always leave me wanting. It was a little limited at first, granted, but Fatshark has listened to feedback and remade the loot system into something around which one can really strategise. I could take up pages explaining the plans I have in place for improving my dwarf and waywatcher gear.
It also helps that the player community surrounding Vermintide is (for the most part) really good. While I've witnessed others arguing, I've only had one sour experience with another player. It certainly has its tedious elements, same as any other online community, but I've met more helpful, fun and supportive people playing Vermintide than in any other game. That, in turn, has made me want to be supportive of others.
By chance, I recently wound up in a game with three level zero players who were, unsurprisingly, making a lot of rookie mistakes. I was tempted to quit, but then I realised I had a chance to give them a really positive first experience with Vermintide. I could teach them a thing or two (like how to heal, for instance, which is quite important) and hopefully show them that there were some helpful people out there.
Because that's what the Vermintide community is - it's a bunch of people striving to help others enjoy the game and champion it with the same enthusiasm they do. Most likely because they've already bored their friends half to death talking about it.