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Call of Duty: Vanguard zombies guide — tips for fending off the horde in Der Anfang

The zombie craze in gaming is one that just doesn’t seem to die. While some games are completely dedicated to fighting off the undead, Call of Duty: Vanguard keeps this more mystic mode separate from their traditionally grounded single-player and competitive multiplayer modes. Just because it’s a side mode, though, doesn’t mean it has any less depth or work put into it. Ever since the mode was first introduced, it has only grown in scope from game to game. Call of Duty: Vanguard‘s Der Anfang mode is the most unique yet.

Call of Duty zombies fans know to expect some changes between each release. Maps, guns, and some enemy types are obvious changes, but Vanguard takes things a step further. While the entire format of the mode isn’t upended, there are enough substantial changes that even those who have put dozens of hours into past iterations will need to learn and adapt To help you understand how this new mode works, plus some tips to make your first attempts at facing the undead mobs go a bit smoother, we put together this Call of Duty: Vanguard zombies guide.

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How Der Anfang works

Zombies walking in Call of Duty: Vanguard.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

So, how does this new zombies mode, again called Der Anfang in Call of Duty: Vanguard, actually work? In short, you take the role of a soldier stuck in the ruins of Stalingrad due to Kortifex the Deathless’ magic. You have your base in Fountain Square, plus different portals around the area. Zombies will start assailing you, as they do, and you have the option of playing like a traditional survival mode, or you can go for the objectives.

Going for the objectives is the only way to make it to the later rounds in zombies. These objectives, which we’ll detail later, reward you with multiple important perks. First, they bring you to a new location that can have important upgrades to collect and purchase, but they also have rewards you need to take back to grow stronger. Your base does come with a crafting table, the mystery box, ammo chest, the Altar of Covenants, and the all-important Pack-a-Punch, but most will be useless if you stay in this area the entire game.

  • The mystery box costs 950 points and will give you a random primary weapon, which has a chance of coming already upgraded.
  • The Pack-a-punch will upgrade your weapons.
  • Use the crafting table to make usable items like armor, self revives, and tactical items that all have different costs.
  • The Altar of Covenants gives you brand new buffs that we’ll cover in more depth below.

Pick your loadout and artifact

Selecting the Frost Blast artifact.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Before you even set foot on this demonic landscape, you want to make sure you’re bringing in the right tools for the job. Your loadout will evolve as you buy and upgrade weapons during the course of the game, but what you start with can make those early waves easy or downright deadly. There are no real tricks here. The best zombie-killing tools are probably what you imagine. A strong LMG can pop tons of heads with its high ammo capacity, and shotguns are the classic for turning a crowd into a cloud of mist. Needless to say, guns like snipers and pistols aren’t going to keep you alive very long.

Another change in Call of Duty: Vanguard is that you can no longer find gun outlines on the walls to purchase. Instead, the only way to get new guns is either through the mystery box, chests, or occasionally they will drop from powerful enemies in the later waves.

Artifacts are a new mechanic in Call of Duty: Vanguard but are very easy to grasp. There are only four, and each one gives you a different buff or power, as well as connects you to a different Dark Aether that communicates with you as you play. Here are the four you have to choose from and their official descriptions:

  • Energy Mine: The Dragon of Saraxis spawns an Aethereal explosive, dealing massive damage to enemies who set it off.
  • Aether Shroud: The Mask of Bellekar cloaks you in Dark Aether, masking your presence from enemies for five seconds.
  • Ring of Fire: The Sword of Inviktor sparks a ring of Aethereal flame to boost damage for anyone within its radius for 15 seconds.
  • Frost Blast: The Horn of Norticus summons a frigid vortex, damaging enemies with the initial blast and slowing those that enter.

Pick the one that best suits your playstyle and the role you will take with your team.

Do your objectives

Starting the blitz objective in zombies.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Call of Duty zombies modes have had objectives for a long time. In the past, they were mostly optional, or even hidden as massive elaborate Easter eggs, but in Call of Duty: Vanguard, they’re front and center. Again, you could technically ignore them, but the rewards you get are non-negotiable if you plan on going for a high score. There are three objectives that spawn when you start, and only by completing them can you expand your starting area. The different objectives are:

  • Blitz: This is the most simple of the objectives. Once you enter the portal, all you need to do is survive for the time limit as zombies rush you and your team. The mini-map is your friend here since it will point out where they’re coming from on the potentially claustrophobic maps. No need to go crazy killing as many as possible here. As long as you stay alive until the timer expires, you’re good.
  • Harvest: This mode is a little bit like a zombie version of the kill confirmed game mode. What you need to do is collect five runestones that drop from zombies after they’re killed and bring them to the Sin Eater obelisk. That’s not the end of it, though, because once you drop in that first set, the obelisk will appear at a different location on the map, which is thankfully marked, and needs to be filled again. After you fulfill its runestone requirement three times, you’ll be spat back out.
  • Transmit: The final objective mode is kind of an escort mission or payload-type mode. There will be a floating zombie head called an Aether Orb that moves around the map as long as you stay within range of it. If you do go outside of the range, you will start to take damage, so it’s not really optional to leave it and explore. As the head moves, a bar will fill up based on how much it traveled. When the bar fills up and it reaches the final destination, you’re done.

Aside from opening up the map, each objective you complete will also give you an item called a Sacrificial Heart. These are the currency you will spend at the …

Use the Altar of Covenants

Choosing which covenant to buy.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Altar of Covenants is the big, scary skeleton thing with glowing eyes in the very center of Fountain Square. Here, you can trade in those Sacrificial Hearts for Covenants. You can hold up to three at once, and each one gives you a different buff. One thing to keep in mind regarding the Altar, though, is that only a few covenants will be purchasable in the early game. The longer you survive, and the more rounds of objectives you complete, the more Covenants become available. The later ones that come are some of the best, too, but don’t feel like you need to keep slots open for later. You’re completely free to swap out any Covenants with new ones, assuming you have the Sacrificial Heart to buy the new one, of course.

If you’re curious what all the Covenant options are and what they give you, here’s the full list:

  • Ammo Gremlin: Stowed weapons refill ammo from stock automatically.
  • Brain Rot: Chance to turn enemies to your side.
  • Cryofreeze: Chance to slow enemies.
  • Cull the Weak: Deal more damage to slowed or stunned enemies.
  • Dead Accurate: Consecutive hits on the same enemy do more damage.
  • Death Blow: Critical kills return bullets to the clip.
  • Mother Lode: Chance to keep Equipment after using it.
  • Resurrectionist: Revive allies faster.
  • Splatterfest: Enemies killed by explosions may explode.
  • Unholy Ground: Deal more damage while stationary.

Depending on what guns you’re using, what Covenants your team has, what other Covenants you have, and how you like to play, the best Covenants to pick will always be different. Some standouts are the ones that deal with ammo and damage, but pick what’s best for your squad.

Pack-a-Punch and perks

Upgrading a gun at the pack-a-punch.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Pack-a-Punch is back and just as crucial as ever. We did an entire guide on how it works in Call of Duty: Vanguard you should just out, but in short, this is where you upgrade your weapons. Each weapon can get upgraded three times, and each upgrade massively improves how much damage it deals. Save up your Essence for these upgrades first and foremost.

Perks are also back, but perhaps they’re even more changed than any other mechanic in zombies. Now, you can get any perk you want without having to invest any points at all. Just unlock the area with the perk fountain, take a swig, and you’ve got the perk. Where things get more interesting is that each perk, just like guns, can be upgraded up to three times by using Essence. That’s right, the same currency needed to upgrade weapons at the Pack-a-Punch. Here’s a quick rundown of all the perks available in Der Anfang:

  • Fiendish Fortitude: Increases health.
  • Diabolical Damage: Increases critical damage.
  • Venomous Vigor: Boosts health regeneration speed.
  • Demonic Frenzy: Boosts reload speed.
  • Aethereal Haste: Boosts movement speed.

Because there’s no downside, you should pick up the first level of all these perks as soon as you can. But be warned that with these perks being upgradable, the way getting downed affects them has also changed. Now when you are downed, you won’t lose any perks, but instead, you’ll lose any upgrades to perks you’ve purchased. So, the longer you go and the more you invest in perks, the more you have to lose if you get unlucky and have to get revived.

Get out alive

Approaching the exfil rune in zombies.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Finally, while not new to this entry, zombies in Call of Duty: Vanguard isn’t necessarily a death sentence. Sure, you can play like the classic games and go until you eventually get overwhelmed and your team wipes, or you can cash out and escape with your lives and some bonus XP. You do need to make it to at least round five to get the option to Exfil, so you can’t just cheese a bunch of XP by starting a game and immediately escaping, and you will have to complete a small sequence to actually make it out.

When you’re ready to get out of Stalingrad with as much progress as you think you can make, find the Exfil tablet thing marked on your map in the middle of Fountain Square. Interact with it, and a new objective will appear to kill the designated number of zombies that will start assaulting you. You don’t have any time limit at this point, so play carefully and take out these last undead ghouls to create the exit portal.

After you’ve killed the required number of zombies and the portal has opened, you now do have a time limit to escape. Your team has just 40 seconds to make it through the portal. If you fail to reach it in time, which is possible since zombies will still be attacking you, then the game will end as a failure, and you won’t get any bonus XP.

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Jesse Lennox
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