Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is the newest in a line of miniature war games made by Games Workshop. Developed by Fatshark, the same company behind Verimtide, Darktide is a multiplayer online first-person shooter set in the 40K universe. It offers fans and newbies alike a fun, immersive game with potential to offer a much deeper experience.
FatShark released the Beta version of Darktide on Steam on November 30, 2022. A port for the Xbox Series X/S is planned to be released sometime in 2023.
Games Workshop is a tabletop franchise that has spawned its fair share of video game adaptations, particularly for its Warhammer series. Both Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 have had numerous video game adaptations which mainly stick to real-time strategy or turn-based strategy.
The Warhammer universe had their two first-person role-playing games in both issues of Vermintide. Taking cues from Left 4 Dead, Vermintide combined melee combat with shooting against hordes. These two games gave players a really immersive experience that had players feeling like they came out of a Dungeons and Dragons game. Darktide takes these ideas and expands on them in exciting ways.
Darktide’s Beginning: Fighting For Survival
Darktide begins by asking the player to choose their character class from four classes: Zealot, Ogryn, Psyker, and Veteran. All of these classes are imprisoned for crimes against the Imperium of Man.
The ship that transporting you is then attacked by the forces of Chaos, leaving you and your handler as the only ones left alive. In exchange for your services to find out the reasoning behind the attack, the Inquisition pardons you.
From there, the player accepts missions to help take back the hive city of Tertrium from the followers of Nurgle…
As mentioned earlier, there are four classes to choose from to play as. like the Ogryn, the Veteran Marksman, the Psyker Psykintetic, and the Zealot Preacher. Each class has its specialties and power-ups that give them that boost they need. The Ogryn uses shotguns and brute force, while the Veteran Marksman uses a long-range rifle. The Zealot uses melees and autopistols, while the Psyker relies on magic.
The gameplay in Darktide is very similar to Vermintide. In both, players fight against hordes of enemies with melee weapons like swords, knives, axes, and hammers. However, players also have access to pistols, shotguns, lasguns, and of course, the iconic Bolter. Players and their teams have to get from one point to the next in order to complete the mission.
Darktide’s Version Of You
Everyone is the protagonist of their own universe, right? Not in Darktide’s universe. Since your character is basically a prison inmate turned conscript, you are an expendable asset. The Inquisition is sending you on a suicide mission with the idea that you’re going to die anyway. It’s not like it’ll be a major loss on their part.
Hence, the weapons players start off with are not the best quality. Combat won’t feel as satisfying for players. That is by deliberate design, however, and it gets better as the game continues.
In fact, progression through Darktide actually feels satisfying: the player is really being built up into a much more powerful soldier. Players start off wearing your prison rags and using hand-me-down weapons. Eventually, players receive new uniforms and unlock better weapons from the shop.
Beyond just progression, the player’s status as a convict also affects how people treat them during certain NPC interactions. Most NPCs really don’t care about the player in the slightest. You’re nothing special. Once the player completes missions and gains rank, thought, you start to gain their attention and earn their trust.
Chaos Is Forever Coming in Darktide
Just like Left 4 Dead, Darktide is all about fighting large hordes of enemies that are easy to kill in theory. What’s terrifying is the large number of enemies. Unlike Left 4 Dead‘s zombies, Darktide pits players against people infected by the Chaos god Nurgle. Not to worry, though, if you really like zombies. Nurgle’s infection means a lot of rotting flesh, horns, and maggots on rabid people.
They also have special variants of themselves, like an infected armored Ogryn, sharpshooters with pinpoint accuracy, mini-bosses with regenerating shields, and many others that are still in the works. This variety requires players to really mix it up with melee and shooting, and to rely on teamwork to complete their missions.
How Does Darktide Beat the FPS Curse?
There had been many attempts into bringing 40k into the first-person shooter (FPS) genre. The problem was that these attempts focused way more on the style of the game and less on the actual gameplay. For example, it’s cool when the game looks like it came out of a tabletop game. However, there needs to be a balance of style and substance.
Warhammer 40K: Fire Warriors was the first to take a stab at FPS. While the graphics were great for a Playstation 2 game, the gameplay was boring and had many technical errors to boot. Space Hulk: Deathwing was also very pleasing to the eyes and even went for a Left 4 Dead-style gameplay. Yet it also suffered from technical issues and terrible pacing.
Finally, Necromunda: Hired Gun was able to do some good by taking a page out of Doom 2016. It had fast-paced shooting and still looked great. Sounds perfect, right? The problem was that the game was just too short. It left players wanting more, but without satisfaction.
The good news is that FatShark is paying attention this time: Darktide aims to have the best of both worlds.
Darktide Has The Lore But Little Substance
While the game does have the promise of becoming a really good 40K game, there are a few things that the game seems to be missing at the moment. Casual fans will probably enjoy this as much as any Warhammer fan out there. However, hardcore fans who expected a lot of cinematics and characters to interact with won’t get that in this current build.
Outside of the opening of the game and a few moments with some NPCs, there isn’t much in terms of a solid plot. That is, at the moment, anyways. Dan Abnett, one who did all of the writing, worked on a number of Warhammer novels before this. Hence, there’s definitely potential for some solid script writing down the road.
For now though, Darktide sort of skates that thin line between being like Doom and being like Half-Life. It’s not completely devoid of a story, but there’s not enough of a story to feel like you’re playing an interactive movie. Again, for players who just want to jump into the game’s violent mayhem, this won’t be a deal-breaker.
Performance Still Needs Some Work
Since this isn’t a full release, the game is still suffering from some performance issues. Darktide runs on the Unreal 4 Engine, which has always had a bit of a mixed reputation. On medium settings, it runs just fine. When multiple enemies are charging all at once, though, the frame rank tends to really tank.
Another issue is that this is a live service game that requires internet access. For the moment, players can only play with four other players. There are no options to play solo with bots. This means that anyone can join your match, and it also means anyone can leave. This is fine for playing with friends, but feels a bit worrisome when playing with strangers.
Finally, the game’s lack of solid storyline means it could start to feel repetitive.
Darktide Is A Bloody Good Time
Darktide will still be a very enjoyable game in the coming months and years. Games like Necromunda Hired Gun and Space Hulk: Deathwing tried to capture that feeling of being in the 40K universe and ultimately came up short. However, this game definitely seems to hit all the right notes to stake Warhammer‘s claim as a solid addition to the best action-adventure game franchises.
Yes, Darktide‘s rough around the edges on a few things, but it seems likely to improve once the game gets enough attention and time for updates. Once the console versions hit, that will open up to a lot of other fans.
In terms of fun and action, you’ll get plenty in this game. Plus, Darktide shows fans thaqt there may be hope for good 40K FPSs, which offers the potential of a bright future in a grimdark universe.