We tried Warhammer Vermintide

Warhammer Vermintide

Steam had a free weekend for Warhammer Vermintide, so Graev and I gave it a shot. Turned out to be a lot of fun! Vermintide is like Left 4 Dead in a Warhammer setting. In fact… it’s pretty much a straight ripoff with a few added features. That’s not a bad thing, but it gives you an idea of the style of gameplay you can expect. There’s also this weird Warhammer Online vibe to some of the game, but that’s not necessarily founded on anything other than a “woah this feels like L4D meets WAR” feeling which is most likely driven by the setting.

Vermintide co-op

Graev searches the loot chest to decide on a weapon for this Bright Wizard.

Just like L4D, Vermintide is a co-op survival game with five heroes straight from the Warhammer setting, eat with their own unique loot and style of play. One of the key differences I see between the two games is that you can progress your character and obtain loot. Loot can be upgraded, has varying degrees of rarity, and modestly alters the way a character plays. Instead of undead and zombies, you’re escaping from the Skaven.

The Skaven comes in waves and attack you while your team of five tries to get to the objective — again, the more you think L4D the more you’ll completely get what I’m trying to explain. There’s an assassin Skavin who jumps on you and slices at you, pinning you to the ground; a Skaven that ropes you and pulls you toward him incapacitating you until you are freed; a suicidal poison skaven guy who will quickly make seeing impossible… need I go on? They’re cool, though, and they do fit the lore completely.

Vermintide is brutally hard. We struggled to not only find our way a few times, but the waves of Skaven and requirements to play really well as a team made for more than a few game overs. I like that though, and can’t imagine wanting it to be any easier. If it were any easier (even on normal difficulty) then the game would be over quickly and have almost no replay value. I didn’t find much replay value in L4D’s campaign either. In my opinion, that’s the downside of these games. They’re great fun for the first play-through, and maybe a subsequent one or two, but you can quickly find yourself desensitized to the immersion when you’ve been there and done that.

Vermintide Loot

Loot is handled by rolling dice to determine the rarity of your weapon. What you get is random.

They do a great job immersing you, though. The setting is beautifully crafted, the Skaven are seemingly intelligent (most of the time), and I like how the characters all play and feel. Melee and ranged combat both work nicely. I like hewing my axe in different directions and watching the rat pieces fly. Sniping as the Waywatcher was also a ton of fun. Oh, and I do also enjoyed the blocking mechanics and how directional dodging and swinging felt useful. Combat is solid.

One critique Graev and I both share is that we don’t understand why they decided against player-controlled Skaven. That would have been a blast, and helped with replayability. Instead, it’s simply co-op vs. Skaven AI.

All things considered, Vermintide is a fun game. We’re probably going to pick it up now since it’s on a 40% off sale for $17.99 (down from $29.99) on Steam. There are also a few DLC in the $3-$9 range. We think it’s worth the price.

Pay 2 Win

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 4 days, you probably saw something about H1Z1’s early-access launch debacle. SOE clearly stated several times that guns, ammo, etc., would not be something players could acquire with real money. They would not be purchasable from the cash shop, yada yada. Turns out that wasn’t entirely true.

In what is now being apologized for as a misspeak by a dev during an interview, SOE is cleverly getting guns into players’ hands via the cash shop … indirectly. Players can buy airdrops with a random chance of dropping these types of items.  The problem with the airdrops was that they were landing too close to where the player ordered them. Supposedly these have been tweaked for balance already.

So yes, players can get guns and ammo from the cash shop. It’s just not a direct option. You can’t go to the cash shop and buy an AR-15 with ammo. You have to order an air drop and hope no one steals it from you. I’ll let you decide for yourself if the semantics matter. Smed and his team are 100% pro-air drop, so unless they change their minds it looks like it’ll stay.

What I love about this entire affair is how hard the community policed the anti-pay-to-win philosophy. Reddit blew up on Smed, players started demanding refunds (to which SOE is currently obliging) and a massive spotlight was shined on some pretty crappy decisions and (maybe) bugs leading to a style of play that isn’t in-line with what players want these days.

If only the community would pick up on the design implications of F2P and police it just as hard. The world would be a better place.

How about a Medieval Survival Game?

Being sick for the last 4 days gave me a lot of time to do nothing but sit and watch streams on Twitch (which was just acquired by Amazon for 970 million… pretty cool it’s Amazon and not Google!). I watched a lot of open-world survival games and mods for  Arma III where people take on the role of cops and … everyone else.  It’s was fascinating to watch the dynamic nature of those games and how much more the players, rather than the game mechanics, influence everything.

All of that got me thinking about how much fun and easy it is to jump in and have a unique experience in games like this, and be able to do so at one’s leisure. There are elements of persistence, but very little permanence. That sense of ‘starting fresh’ adds something special and unique. What I’m most fascinated by, and wanting to explore further, is the idea of setting. They all seem to be either modern or post-apoc. What about a medieval setting?

Imagine a game like H1Z1, DayZ, or Arma III mods, but in a setting matching something out of Robin Hood or King Arthur. The quasi-persistent open-world could be a lot of fun in a setting with rolling hills, large forests, townships, and keeps. The idea of vehicles could easily carry over to horses, and the rest transfers just as easily.

We’re seeing a lot of copycat designs and not a whole lot being done to expand or develop the emerging genre. I’m thinking there’s still a lot that can be done to make it better. Just a thought.

Steam Summer Sale Psychology

Every year the Steam Summer Sale brings in to question a handful of troubling ideas:

  • Do I want to spend money on a bunch of games I might not play simply because I like to buy games on sale?
  • Why do I ever pay full price for a PC game?
  • What type of games do I really enjoy?

The first one is something I know many of you share. I think we can all identify with buying several games during a Steam Sale thinking, “aw heck yeah I’m going to play this one finally!” … then we never even remember we bought it.  Happens to me every year.  Not this time!  Not 2014! This year I proudly declared:


That lasted until 20 minutes after the sale began.

I bought Game Dev Tycoon and Don’t Starve + DLC 2 pack (me and Graev).  But that’s it! I swear! I’m not spending … who am I kidding?

Game Dev Tycoon seems pretty fun so far.  I’m currently in the 3rd building you can get with about 5 million in cash.  I don’t know what I’m doing wrong because sometimes I’ll make a game and get a great review, but I make it again (not twice in a row) and critics hate the game.  I think this whole experience is some kind of message from an indie dev studio on the state of the gaming industry.  It’s like one big documentary on the sad state of affairs.  Regardless, it’s addicting and I find myself wanting to start over with the hoe that I do better each time.  I’m still proud of making WarCraft 2 in my garage and making 2 million on it.

Don’t Starve has to be one of my favorite types of games ever.  I can’t believe I went this long without playing.  It’s like Island Troll Tribes, the custom map from WarCraft 3.  I love these survival games! Something about getting wood to make a fire and having to eat before you die; So pure.  Add the depth that Don’t Starve has and suddenly this is a game I can lose hours to in tiny sittings.  Graev and I are REALLY looking forward to ‘Don’t Starve Together’ which is the co-op experience coming this summer free to those who own the game.

The second point is just life.  Things drop in price.  Understanding that point doesn’t make it any less bitter.

The third point is really what brought me to the blog this evening.  I think I have more ‘fun’ playing little games in bursts.  Games like Don’t Starve, Game Dev Tycoon, etc., are starting to be more fun than these massive games like MMOs.  That’s not because I’m changing, etc., etc.  turning into a filthy casual blah blah.  I truly believe game developers are forgetting what it means to make fun games.  It’s not just MMOs either.  A lot of “AAA” games just aren’t fun.  They aren’t games.  They feel more like “projects” or “work.”  Some also like to hide the fun and make the player hunt for it or wait until later.  HORRIBLE IDEA! I should be having fun the second I boot up the game or else I already have one foot out the door.

Thoughts on State of Decay

State of Recay Review

Zombie games are rapidly approaching levels of overexposure similar to WWII games. Of course I can still enjoy them just like I could all the old WWII shooters, but even I’m starting to feel like I want something else to shoot at. State of Decay does do some interesting things to shake up the formula, though. Well, at least from my perspective. I’ve heard people mention it’s somewhat similar to Day Z but I wouldn’t know since I’ve never tried that particular game.

In State of Decay you aren’t just looking out for yourself. Sure you can run around killing zombies and collect useful weapons and supplies but you also have to help take care of the people holed up in your home base. This means keeping them stocked with food, medicine, ammo, construction supplies, etc. The numbers tick down every day and while I’m not entirely sure what happens if you run out, I do know that it obviously can’t be a good thing. You will also need to use these resources to upgrade your base and create various objects. The tricky part is that supplies don’t respawn so after you’ve already looted all the surrounding houses and sacked the local diner you are kind of a little screwed, forcing you to move on. It kind of creates the feeling that you aren’t necessarily trying to win so much as trying to hold out as long as you can before you lose. [Read more…]