Warhammer fantasy and 40k fans alike enjoy throwing around a certain word. That word, to people who are waiting with baited breath, is grimdark, it’s a word that has a lot of meaning and significance in the Warhammer community in general, fantasy and 40k players invented it and only those who’ve played the tabletop or, in my case, taken an interest in the lore and all things Warhammer related will know what it means.
Reviewed on: PC
Also Available On: PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: 10th March 2016
Put simply, grimdark is used to describe something so cataclysmically sinister, brutal and depressing that it almost starts to become a little funny. Considering how long the Warhammer franchise has been around, there might just be too many examples of grimdark to name. However, I think there is one example of grimdark which definitely upped the ante a little. I’m talking about The End Times, the most recent and easily one of the biggest changes in the Warhammer mythos.
To make an incredibly long story short, The End Times did exactly what you’d think it would, based on its name alone, the times ended, or in other words: four angry Chaos gods, with a little help from a race of giant Ratmen, blew up the world and everyone on it. Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide just so happens to deal with that subject and has as much grimdark as you’d expect from a game set during the End Times.
Those of us who’ve roamed the deserted streets of Ubersreik will know well the sound of the Skaven battle horns bellowing in the distance. Only veterans of the Vermintide will know the roar of the Rat Ogre or the echoing whispers of the Gutter Runner. Those of us who survived the onslaught of Skaven will never be the same again, and I’m sure the vast majority of us will go on to have wonderful careers in the rat extermination industry. I hope I’m painting a grim picture here, because that’s how I feel when I play Vermintide – grim. So how do you take an already dark setting and make it even darker? Simple, you put the players in a situation where the only goal is to live for as long as they can while fighting off a never ending tide of Vermin, pun very much intended. Your only option is to fight to the death. There is no escape, and you will die. That is what The Last Stand DLC is all about.
Based on that description alone, the vast majority of gamers will be familiar with the concept of The Last Stand. We have been fighting to the death for many years across many different games, so how is the most recent DLC for Vermintide any different from the myriad of last stands out there? To be quite honest, there really isn’t much that separates it from the rest of its ilk.
Yes, the Last Stand isn’t exactly the most innovative DLC that Fatshark have given us so far, but it is one that people have been asking for since the game was released. On top of that, the DLC is completely free and adds not only a completely new game mode, but a reworked section of an already existing map to fight on. Who can say no to killing Skaven for free? And if you’re so inclined, you can spend an extra £1.99 to get a completely brand new map called Schluesselschloss.
The name might be impossible to pronounce, but that doesn’t make the map any less awesome. It’s visually stunning, offering great views of Ubersreik and filled with great areas to hunker down in, giving you chance to kill off as many Skaven as you can before you die. However, the most important question is whether or not this is a fun DLC. And the answer is yes. Killing an enemy as simultaneously hilarious and terrifying as the Skaven will always be fun no matter the context, but I have to admit, the added bonus of knowing that there is no escape definitely gives the game a little more edge.
But for me, the thing I really love about The Last Stand is how much it truly epitomizes the term grimdark. This is the one thing that I believe makes this DLC stand out.
The End Times signified the complete and utter destruction of the Warhammer Fantasy world and heralded the beginning of The Age of Sigmar. Vermintide is set during The End Times, and while I hate being the bearer of some fairly obvious and bad news, that means that nothing we’ve done or will ever do in the game really matters, because we already know how it all ends. As much as I hate to say it, this also means that the fate of Saltzpyre, Kruber, Bardin, Kerillian and Fuegonasus is pretty much set in stone.
When you’re playing Vermintide, however, you always feel like there is a glimmer of hope. Every Skaven killed and every mission won feels like a victory in an otherwise hopeless world. A small part of me always thinks everything is going to be fine, and that I’ll be slaying the Skaven with my trusty rapier and dual flintlock pistols in the future when all of this has blown over. But in the Last Stand, there is no future. It’s a battle that only has one ending and, much like the End Times itself, that ending is death.