WARHAMMER: VERMINTIDE – THE END TIMES
Vermintide actually makes me wish for 8 day weeks, and a 36 hour day. How else can I work the daily to slay ratmen and sing campfire songs with the GoneWithTheWin staff? Vermintide is a challenging co-op wave slasher that set the high point in cooperative play late this year. Chances are high you will enjoy it as is, simply jump into the game and join a random party. But if you love that, then playing with actual friends will transcend this experience towards digital nirvana.
Four friends taking four warriors with specific traits, into territories infested with dangerous and oversized rodent warriors. These rodents come in their own varieties, and the only sure way to survive is to depend on each other – I mean really depend on each other. Clownboats in your party can sour the experience at times. Getting your health potion swiped by someone who’s health is nearly maxed is one of the most infuriating online events in a long while (as Editor In Chief Zach Turnbull can attest to).
There is another end of that spectrum, and why banding together with friends becomes so rewarding, and those are the heroic stands. These evoke ideas of victories despite overwhelming odds, such as The Battle of Thermopylae or The Battle of Helm’s Deep. Holding fast at the edge of a dock, holed up in a tower, or setting bombs off in a constricted canyon, your band having with backs to each other, being swarmed by rat armies from every conceivable crevice. Barely any health left, cursing at the wretched rescue boat or cart as it takes eons to arrive; picking enemies off each other’s backs like fleas. That sinking feeling when a huge brute warrior arrives, or one of your friends is being dragged away via a pole mounted noose. Things can turn so very bleak in an instant. Will you stand by and let them take your comrade and friend away?Hell no. We all go down together! To arms! Moments like this are a dime a dozen in Vermintide, so how can any self-respecting PC gamer possibly miss out? (If you don’t have any friends, you may have to brave the outdoors and find a few). – Leo
I’ve already said quite a bit about Vermintide in my review, but if you haven’t read the review, here’s my short take:
Vermintide is a great single player experience, a potentially frustrating online experience, and the absolute best co-op experience of 2015, with the caveat that you are playing with a group of friends or people you feel you can trust.
It’s easy to dismiss Vermintide as a Left4Dead clone, because in many ways it shares very similar concepts and mechanics. But Vermintide surges past L4D with its intense difficulty, its translation of the pen and paper source materiel of the Warhammer Fantasy setting and its focus on providing a long-term experience for players via the rewards and potential of collecting weapons to enhance your stock character’s combat efficacy. Vermintide, like L4D, offers an enjoyable casual gameplay experience for those that want that, but for the hardcore gamer, Vermintide explores territory that L4D has never reached.
Where the game really shines is when you re playing with a group of friends using voice chat. Communication and coordination are key, the combat is unrelenting and demands attention and strategy, more so than you might think for a typical co-cop wave defense game. The pacing, the tension, the setting, the quest for loot, the replayability and the difficulty all combine to make it a superlative game and one of the best of 2015. – Zach
Confession time, I have never loved a game that also frustrated me as much as The Swindle (full review) has. I have never stolen the Basilisk, the final piece that ends this game, but I have loved the dozens and dozens of attempts. This game is as quaint and charming as tea and crumpets with Peter Sellers, in a hedge maze with bobbies chasing you. You are a fox, with a vast brier patch of elusive challenges and traps to outwit. There are no dull moments in this, even the multiple upgrades have the power to furl your brow.
The Swindle’s soundtrack was one of this year’s best, with hissing steam sounds and clunking metal pangs as the beat, never fails to raise my eyebrows and get my feet tapping. The Swindle accomplishes the same tense stealth play as any big name out there – and with far less technological flair. An evolving array of traps and enemies counter your advancing technological feats, alongside procedural generated levels combat any sense of repetitiveness. Getting to the valuable vaults requires a certain degree of patience as it is a stealth game, but many times I’ll end up closing my eyes (so to speak) and making a silent prayer before diving, sliding, jumping, whacking, through a field of spikes, traps, and guards before stopping to catch my breath on the other side. Truly, games like The Swindle prove that clever design concepts, smooth controls, aesthetic merits have less to do with funding and more to do with the high gaming standards of the person(s) behind its development.
A lot of gameplay elements seen in modern video games are derived from non-digital sources. One of the main influences would be board games. Games such as the Civilization series owe a great debt to the concepts and mechanics developed over the decades in the board and card game scene. Armello goes past lifting concepts and game elements from board games to bringing what makes a board game great to the PC, and does so with a distinct and colorful presentation.
Armello’s bright color palette and soft, rounded art style and anthropomorphic cast of characters would be right at home on a board game cover, or game pieces such as playing cards. But the setting itself resembles something darker, like Aesop’s Fables meets Machiavelli. The four player characters of any game are vying for dominion over a kingdom torn apart by the dark forces of the Rot and a king gone mad from its corrupting influence.Each of the four heroes of a game represents a different clan, with their own strengths, weaknesses and rivalries with the other clans. This is not a Disney cartoon, and more ominous events than the death of Bambi’s mother await those staking their claim to the throne.
Like the best board games, Armello uses a mix of chance and strategy, derived from playing cards that have various buffs, debuffs, global actions and other effects. Combat is ultimately resolved through dice rolls, but with strategy still being a factor, even though luck does play a significant part. One of the best parts of Armello is that each session will typically last no longer than an hour. But what an hour it is! Setbacks and triumphs will abound, and the AI is competent enough to make single player games rewarding, but multiplayer offers the most potential, including the chance of collusion between multiple players, a strategy that is viable in many board games, but has probably resulted in uncountable hurt feelings and upended game tables. Armello is a deceptively complex game with a presentation and look that belies the depth underneath and a must-play title for anyone that loves card games or board games. – Zach