Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide released in 2015 to popular and critical acclaim. Praised for its lush visual fidelity and satisfying FPS melee combat, Vermintide set a benchmark that developer Fatshark was eager to surpass. Last year players revisited The Old World in the much anticipated sequel, Warhammer: Vermintide 2, which is celebrating its one year anniversary this weekend. What many players may not realize is that Vermintide 2, like its predecessor, draws heavily from the Warhammer Fantasy tabletop RPG (WFRP).
Stem the Vermintide
Much of the Fatshark development team consists of proud WFRP fans that have been playing the RPG since its inception. WFRP is a game steeped in rich worldbuilding and over-the-top warfare, something that Fatshark has done an excellent job of conveying. Their attention to detail oozes everywhere, from the stunning visual storytelling right down to the mechanical brutality of combat. The following quote from the Warhammer Fantasy wiki perfectly embodies the spirit of Vermintide’s setting: The End Times.
The End Times have come and The Old World is constantly in flux. Nations and factions war not only for dominance, but survival. Between Vermintide 1 and 2, Fatshark successfully captures the look and feel of this war-torn universe. Their love of Warhammer Fantasy lore is clear from the very moment you start up their games. Yet, equally important as the worldbuilding is Vermintide‘s impressive execution of WFRP’s frantically gruesome combat.
There are currently four editions of the Warhammer Fantasy tabletop RPG; most important across all of them is the idea of grimdark brutality. You are not special. Every day in The Old World is a struggle to survive. There are no superpowered heroes here to save the world. Only with skill, grit, and Ranald’s favour might you live to see another day.
Fight Hard, Fight Smart
WFRP features a number of systems that have equivalent parallels within Vermintide; most obvious is the combat. WFRP’s combat is savage, capricious, and incredibly dynamic. The basic flow of fighting in the RPG is as follows: declare your target, roll dice to see if you hit, roll dice to see which body part you hit, then roll for damage. Should you bring your opponent’s health below zero, you then roll more dice to see how you dismember them. Most of the time it’s in an incredibly ferocious and excessive fashion; just the way Warhammer should be!
Vermintide captures the nuance of WFRP’s combat in the best of ways. Fatshark transposes the RPG’s mechanics into a fast-paced action game where you sweep through hordes of enemies and send dozens of limbs flying every second. Depending on your movement and button presses, your character in Vermintide performs a different attack in both direction and intensity. Sometimes it’s a flurry of blows that hacks off arms left and right; sometimes it’s a hefty charged up swing that utterly decapitates your target.
Beyond the sheer mayhem of hacking and slashing at your enemies, Fatshark also captures the more subtle aspects of combat: defensive maneuvers. While WFRP has a host of actions one can perform in battle, Vermintide uses two of the most crucial: Dodge Blow and Parry. In WFRP, the two actions are skills that allow players to completely avoid damage by dodging an attack or deflecting it with your own weapon.
That much remains the same in Vermintide, but how Fatshark implements them is nothing short of sublime. Dodging and Parrying in Vermintide are such crucial elements of combat that they’re required for higher levels of play. Like their counterparts in WFRP, they allow players to completely avoid damage. In Vermintide, because of the frenetic, fast-paced action, Dodge and Parry require an acute sense of positioning and timing. Effective use of the two can ensure that a smart player will be untouchable.
Tools of the Trade
Where Vermintide 2 draws even further from WFRP is with the career system, a defining feature of the tabletop RPG. In lieu of standard “classes”, WFRP features a diverse career system that covers the expansive lore of the Warhammer universe.
Players have access to dozens of different careers that define their progression. You may start out as a lowly shit-covered Rat-Catcher, but in due time you’ll be a battle-hardened Witch Hunter, slaying the forces of Chaos in the name of Sigmar and The Empire. Or perhaps you might start out as an apostate Hedge Wizard who, after studying the arcane mysteries of the Winds of Magic, becomes a Master Bright Wizard.
Vermintide 2 selects fifteen of the most interesting careers in WFRP and builds unique playstyles around each of them. For example, Bardin the Dwarf may don his shield, hammer, and gromril armor to become an Ironbreaker, a stalwart bastion who protects his allies. Alternatively, he can forego armor completely and wield the dual axes of a Slayer, leaping into combat with his proud warrior’s mohawk. Careers are not only a mechanical feature, they’re brimming full of lore and history.
A Game 30 Years in the Making
With sharpened blades and polished barrels, the indomitable Ubersreik Five fend off the encroaching hordes of Skaven and Chaos. Yet their legacy is one that stretches years back, to a world of paper, pencils, and dice. Vermintide was created in part as an homage to the wonderful tabletop RPG. Decades after its inception, the brutal spirit of WFRP lives on in Fatshark’s work.