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Warhammer 40,000: Darktide Review

Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is a brand new cooperative first person shooter from developer Fatshark whose previous Warhammer based games include Vermintide and Vermintide 2. Whereas those previous titles were set in Games Workshops’ fantasy Old World, Darktide instead drops players into the grimdark universe of the Warhammer 40,000 setting seeing them battle across the manufactorums, transport hubs and of the Hive City Tertium in an effort to halt the spread of Chaos corruption that is threatening to overtake the Hive. We were lucky enough to recieve a review copy of the game and having spent around 40 hours with the game now we wanted to share our thoughts so far.

Before you can jump in and start playing the game you’ll first need to create your character. Unlike the Vermintide games in which you selected from one of five ‘pre-created’ heroes Darktide allows you to first select from one of four ‘classes’ (more on these shortly) but then gives you the freedom to customise the look of your character with a fantastic range of male and female options. You’re able to adjust the size of your character, can choose from a variert of different skin tones, faces, hair and facial hair. There are plenty of options for tatoos and scars too – no two characters need look the same. In addition to customising the look of your character you are also asked to build a backstory too. During character creation the game will ask you various questions and provide you with a selection of multiple choice answers. Which homeworld does your character originate from? What was their childhood like? What was their job? What defining moment happened in their life? Where did it all go wrong? and more. You may wish for example to create an Ogryn character who grew up on a backwater agri-world as an algae farmer only to be conscripted into a mining guild and forced to toil underground until you were involved in a disasterous mining incident. You might instead wish to create a Cadian, schooled in the respected Schola Progenium and enlisted into the Astra Militarum and then later promoted for bravery in battle or perhaps you’d prefer to create Hive Ganger or servant of the Adeptus Ministorum. The backstory you create will have an impact during your games as it will determin how your character interacts with others during missions as they exchange banter, issue orders or react to events in-game.

The other element of character customisation is provided for via the class selection. Currently there are four to choose from – the ranged specialist that is the Veteran Sharpshooter, the melee specialist Zealot Preacher, an Ogryn Skullbreaker who provides muscle defence and finally the Psyker Psykinetic, a ‘spell-casting’ character with some unique mechanics. Each class offers a different playstyle and has access to various different weaponry, passive traits and active abilities. As you play the game you’ll level up your character and unlock different weapon options and passive traits allowing you to further customise your character. You may decide you want to play a Preacher who specialises in taking on hordes of Poxwalkers and Traitor guard up close and so choose to equip a flamer and the mighty eviscerator chainsword in addition to a selection of passive traits which provide bonuses whilst fighting multiple combatants at the same time. You may decide to build an Ogryn character equipped with a slab shield who is able to face off against the strongest of elite enemies, providing defensive bonuses for their nearby team mates who are then free to focus their attacks without fear of retaliation. The loadout (both equipment and passive traits) can be altered prior to each mission and if you’re playing with a group of friends you can work together to create the most optimal of kill teams.

The gameplay itself sees you transported to various sections of the Hive City Tertium and tasked with achieving a mission objective. You may be asked to assassinate a Traitor Guard commander who has been leading an assault on a supply train or perhaps you have to navigate the sweltering manufactorum districts in order to cleanse a forge of daemonic corruption to allow the production of Leman Russ battle tanks to resume. In some missions you’ll need to deploy servo skulls to locate signs of corruption or interact with consoles to re-enable some machinery whereas in others you’ll need to locate some item and bring it to a certain location. Most missions are linear in that you’ll deploy somewhere in the Hive City and then navigate a set path through to the end of the level where you’ll either complete your objective and head for the evac point or die trying. Despite that the mission objectives themselves are quite varied and replay value is increased as a result of the mission modification mechanic that Fatshark have implemented. These ‘mods’ alter the missions slightly meaning that you’ll get a different experience even though you’re playing the same objective and level. Some ‘mods’ adjust the number of enemines you’ll face, the number of supplies you’ll find throughout the level or even whether the power/lighting is working or not. This keeps the game fresh and exciting and means you’ll quite often have a completely different gameplay experience even when attempting the same mission.

Throughout the mission you’ll face a variety of different ‘common’ enemies including Poxwalkers, Cultists and Traitor Guard. Some of these enemies will try and stand back, peppering you with las fire or shotgun blasts whereas others will attempt to close the gap and attack you in melee. Often you’ll also be attacked by more elite enemines mixed in with the more common foes and these each have their own method of attack. You’ll often hear the howl of Pox-hounds in the distance a few moments before they leap across a room to tackle a player to the ground. The ‘tick-tock-tick-tock’ noise you’ll hear over the din of battle will inform you that a Poxburster is on its way and your squad’s Sharpshooter or Psykinetic will want to bring this foe down before it gets too close. There are Trappers equipped with webbers that will isolate and ensnare unlucky players (making them easy pickings for the ‘horde’), flamer equipped specialists and even Ogryns armed with massive heavy stubbers who lay down a withering hail of fire, staggering you back and forcing you to seek cover. There are scarier foes still to be encountered during missions, from the terrifying Beasts of Nurgle, who will gobble up a player and isolate them from their squad to the brutal Plague Ogryn who charges into battle knocking players back. Quite often these more elite enemies will attack just as your back is to the wall dealing with a horde of Poxwalkers forcing you to adapt and organise as a team to face these threats.

Most of the enjoyment from this game comes with the dispatching of these enemies, whether that be at range using a Lasgun, Bolter or Heavy Stubber or up close in melee with a Thunder Hammer, Power Sword or Eviserator! Either way you’re going to have a great time. The ranged combat in this game feels great, each of the weapons you’ll use has a distintive sound and feel whilst firing – it’s so satisfying to see the Boltgun kickback each time you fire and blow chunks out of the target. The Heavy Stubber can lay down a supressing hail of fire, kicking up smoke and dust everywhere. Most ranged weapons have a primary and secondary mode of fire or else provide some additional utility. The Ripper Gun for example can be fired as single shot, in bursts or even used to club an enemy that gets too close. The various different Lasguns each have different firing modes and some even come equipped with flashlights. It’s all very immersive and looks and sounds fantastic.

Melee is just as much fun and feels just as impactful as ranged combat. These weapons also often have different attack modes including light and heavy attacks, blocking and even some special effects such as activating a force weapon or revving a chainblade to inflict additional damage or cut through the more heavily armoured enemies. Again the sound and feel of each weapon has been well executed, if you’re familiar with the Vermintide games you’ll know just how fun it is to chop and cleave through the numerous enemies on screen.

I think Fatshark have done an excellent job recreating the atmosphere and environments from the 40k setting. The graphics and sound effects in the game are truly fantastic. The environments themselves are very detailed and the smoke, fire and other effects are very immersive. Even the ‘lobby’ area, the halls of the Imperial vessel the Mourningstar, is great fun to walk around and explore. Overall I’m a big fan of this game and feel like I’ve only scrathed the surface at 40 hours played. I’ve not spoken about the Penance progression system, which rewards you with cosmetic items for your character or the ‘crafting’ system which allows you to customise the stats and traits on your wargear. There is also a contract system that you can utilise to to unlock additional resources and rewards for completing certain objectives during missions (such as locating grimoires or dispatching a certain number of enemies etc) – there is plenty of gameplay here to explore and I believe there is even DLC on the way to further expand the game!

Warhammer 40,000 Darktide is currently available via Steam and Microsoft Gamepass for PC only, with console release expected in the near future.

Fatshark very kindly provided copies of the game for this review

1 Comment »

  1. This review ignores the quite glaring issues surrounding the game. Namely bugs, missing features and greatly reduced amount of narrative content compared to Vermintide. Quite many have called this a nice alpha but not a complete game at all.

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