Warhammer: Vermintide

The Case for Interactive Talents

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Hello Everyone, I would like to start this little essay with the simple statement that I LOVE Vermintide 2 thus far. Fatshark are quite possibly my new favorite Game Devs, not only for the quality products they produce but for how responsive they are to our feedback as players. Playing through the various betas has been an absolute joy.

Now, with the praise out of the way, I have to say that I really dislike the current talents available. I have no problems with the existing Talent System mind you, having three choices to make at each tier is a solid way to allow for players to differentiate themselves. Additionally, having the tier 3, 4, and 5 perks basically be the same category across all careers is not a problem either. Level 15 granting a bonus to your passive, level 20 providing you with anti-attrition perks, and level 25 granting a bonus to your active skill are all perfectly acceptable.

No, my issue with the current perk system are the individual perks themselves for a number of reasons. For one, perks from the same tier are not equal to one another leading to forced choices. Secondly, identical perks from the same tier across different careers are not equal: ie, why should the Waystalker gain 10% crit when Mercenary Kruber only gains 5%? Thirdly, talents do not make consistent sense within each career. For instance, the Witch Hunter Captain can the option to gain 2 Stamina at level 5; however, his passive skill invalidates the need for Stamina since you are meant to use block angle to avoid stamina costs. Lastly, some talents are simply boring and do nothing but improve numbers that the player will not FEEL during a run. To Summerize:

  • 1: Talents unequal leading to easy choices
  • 2: Talents unequal leading to better careers than others
  • 3: Talents fail to interact with existing kit
  • 4: Talents are not noticeable in game

Now, it is my belief that talents for each class should emphasize the classes strength and provide meaningful moments of interaction. Currently, talents do very little to differentiate one class from another and instead it is the passive and active skills that make one character feel different from another. If the Talent System were to be built to emphasize the differences between classes I think that the different classes would feel more divergent and interesting from one another. To put simply, talents should

  • 1: Emphasize an aspect of the class
  • 2: Offer different styles of play within a single class
  • 3: Encourage players to interact with the game world differently
  • 4: Provide noticeable changes to runs

Now, as I have played Salty more than any of the other classes, let me demonstrate what I mean by dissecting the Witch Hunter Captain’s current skills and how they could fulfill the above ideas.

  • Witch Hunter Captain
  • Passive: Witch Hunt: Extra damage to tagged enemies, blocks within perfect block angle cost no stamina, critical hit headshots instant kill non-boss enemies.
  • Active: Animosity: 20% crit boost for the team and aoe knockback

Witch Hunt is three different passives that combine to make Salty a deadly duelist, he does additional damage to the map’s most dangerous enemies, he can block for an exceptionally long time within his perfect block angle, and he can instantly kill targets with Critical Hit Headshots. Meanwhile Animosity provides him with a small amount of CC and a team wide damage buff, and also improves his chances of instantkilling targets.

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This duelist theme does not carry over to the current talents however.

  • Tier 1: Level 5
  • Charmed Life: 10% Dodge Range
  • Unflagging Spirit: +2 Stamina
  • Always Prepared: +30% Ammunition

Now, if you look at the above talents you will notice that none of them interact with his earlier hallmarks of his kit. This class gains no benefits from ranged weapons, does not need additional stamina thanks to his perfect blocks, and barely notices the Dodge Range improvement (I swear this is bugged). In other words, these talents are barely noticeable, do not augment the experience of playing a Witch Hunter Captain, and do not impact your interactions with the game world.

There are numerous ways to fix these talents, here is an example.

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  • Charmed Life: Dodging Increases Crit Chance for 3 Seconds or until hit
  • Unflagging Spirit: Perfect Block Angle Increased
  • Always Prepared: defeating a marked target grants you +50% reload speed for 4 seconds

Now, these are interesting talents. Each talent follows one part of Witch Hunt, allowing you to choose between additional Murder, extra defense, or more special sniping potential. Choosing between these is difficult because each offers a different style of WHC, and they encourage you to play differently. Charmed Life encourages an agressive, dodge happy playstyle that fights around the edges of a battle. Unflagging Spirit encourages you to get close to the fight and tank hoards head on. Lastly, Always Prepared ensures that your weapons are always reloaded in case of specials. Unlike the previous set, each talent here provides you with a meaningful choice that will shape the way you play the game as a Witch Hunter Captain.

  • Moving onto level 10
  • Abjure Temptation: 25% power while party has a grim
  • Deathknell: 25% headshot bonus
  • Suffer No Heresy: Reduces damage while disabled by 50%

Once more, all of these options are bad. Power is a nebulous concept that, without damage numbers, is difficult to feel during a game. Deathknell has anti-synergy with our passive that instant kills enemies on crit headshots, and Suffer No Heresy provides only the most meager of protections against specials. None of these talents encourage you to alter your gameplay style, or really provide any noticeable bonus.

Now, what happens if we once again focus on our Career’s specialties of Blocking, Crits, and Special Removal?

  • Cackling Laughter: Killing tagged enemies reduces the CD of Animosity by X seconds
  • Deathknell: Killing an enemy with a crit increases your attack speed for three seconds
  • Suffer No Heresy: Can perfect block 1 heavy attack every 10 seconds

Now, once again we have some nice talents here. Suffer No Heresy allows you to occasionally tank a heavy attack against a mixed pack of enemies if you get it within the block angle. Deathknell plays to the Crit WHC, and encourages going for those headshots instead of just spamming attacks. Lastly, Cackling Laughter allows the Witch Hunter to try and pump out Animosities since the active ability isn’t nearly as powerful as some of the others in the game.

  • Level 15 is nearly a good one, lets talk about it
  • Marked for death: When a tagged enemy dies, gain attack speed
  • Justice’s Bounty: When a tagged enemy dies, the team gets health
  • Wild Fervor: When a tagged enemy dies, gain crit chance
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So close to being a good trio of perks, the odd man out here is Justice’s Bounty which I would replace with…

  • Judgement’s Shield: When a tagged enemy dies, gain block angle

The reason for this change is simple, health here doesn’t follow the career pattern. Nothing in the WHC suggests restoring health before now, so lets keep to the themes we’ve already established.

  • 20: Is fine, no need to alter these on any hero.

  • 25: Active skill buffs, lets talk about these

  • Redoubled Purpose: Reduced CDR

  • Resonating Faith: Increased duration

  • Fierce Oratory : Increased Radius

Not bad, honestly, but I would change these a little bit to fit our earlier themes.

  • Redoubled Purpose: Animosity CDR reduced by perfect blocks
  • Resonating Faith: Animosity shares Witch Hunt’s damage bonus against tagged enemies to effected allies
  • Fierce Oratory: Animosity provides even more critical hit duration

Redoubled Purpose now requires you to DO something to earn back the CD of the ability, allowing you to spam it should you wish. Resonating Faith now actually resonates your power to your allies, making you all very deadly when the ability comes up. Finally, Fierce Oratory makes the skill even better at what it already does.

The final product allows the Witch Hunter Captain to Mix and Match skills or go straight down a “tree” of crit fishing, tank, or special slayer. Each step encourages players to play a bit differently, and ultimately brings together a concept of Witch Hunter Captain that is more than just Witch Hunt and Animosity. All you needed to do was make abilities conditional, encourage the passive abilities to be used, and focus on what makes the class unique and different to play.

The neat thing is that you can do this for every career in the game, all you need to do is take the time to set aside what makes the class neat and provide players the ability to either FOCUS one aspect or MIX AND MATCH to create a more balanced option.

tldr; Talents are currently binary and uninteresting, make them interactive and based on the character’s playstyle.


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