Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is the latest in the Squad Shooter genre which was popularized by games like Left 4 Dead. Fatshark isn’t a stranger to the genre and franchise, and they’ve taken a few steps to make this game more approachable than the already popular Vermintide series.
Now Fatshark has brought their own style to the “grim darkness of the far future”, by taking a sideways step from Warhammer Fantasy to its sci-fi offshoot Warhammer 40k. Instead of the cruel Skaven, players will still be facing chaos worshippers and dispensing the emperor’s wrath across the hive city of Tertium.
So what new gameplay does Darktide bring to the table? Has Fatshark learned anything from making the Vermintide series? Or are they resting on their laurels? Find out in this Warhammer 40,000: Darktide review!
Warhammer 40,000: Darktide
Platforms: Windows PC (Reviewed), Xbox Series X/S (coming soon)
Release Date: November 30, 2022
Players: 1 (Up to 4 via Online Multiplayer)
Price: $39.99 USD ($59.99 for the Imperial Edition)
Warhammer 40k is Fatshark’s first foray into Games Workshop’s sci-fi universe; and the attention to detail given to the environments in Vermintide is even more pronounced in Darktide.
The game makes full use of raytracing and other graphical delights, so much so that some NVIDIA graphics cards even came bundled with the game to make sure players could fully appreciate the graphics.
Not only are the environments detailed, but the enemies are too. Whether it’s the pus-filled faces of Chaos corrupted cannon fodder or the rotting flesh of a Plague Ogryn, Fatshark knows how to show off just how disgusting the world of Warhammer is, especially when Papa Nurgle is involved.
Graphically the game can handle high framerates, raytracing, and that weird AI resolution enhancement on my 3080 graphics card. So if you have relatively high-ish tier graphics card you’ll be good to go (personally I don’t use the raytracing and get a consistent 60FPS).
Fatshark learned some important lessons from Vermintide and chief among them is that the player character is no longer a unique individual. What do I mean by that?
Well, in Vermintide you could play Markus Kruber, Kerillian, Victory Saltzpyre, Bardin Gorekkson, or Sienna Fuegonasus. Each character had a backstory which was elaborated on and discovered through charming quips and dialogue throughout the game.
The downside to this is that you could only have one of each character in a mission. Meaning if your teammates had dibs on Kruber, Sienna, and Saltzpyre, you’d be forced to play Bardin or Kerillian; and if you didn’t have them leveled you’d just have to find a new lobby.
In Darktide your character has no real name and you can be whatever team comp you want; four Ogryn, two Zealots and two Psykers, whatever you want.
This doesn’t mean there’s no funny dialogue or personality to the characters. You can choose a personality in character creation which will dictate your characters voice and dialogue.
Fatshark did an amazing job creating modular dialogue such that characters can sound like they’re responding to each other directly in their chatter regardless of what combination of classes and personalities you’re running. It’s a little more impersonal than Vermintide, but it’s worth not being locked out of your favorite class during routine gameplay.
Missions in Darktide are separated into a few categories but if you’ve played Left 4 Dead you’ll get the idea. You travel through the stage as “special” enemies spawn to spice things up, these specials range from Ragers which are just tough and nearly immune to hit-stun to Hounds which will pounce on and kill a player if they’re not rescued.
At about half-way and at the finale of each stage there will be an event. These events are typically time-based where you hold out against a constant onslaught while also performing a task that keeps you from entrenching yourself in a safer spot.
It could be loading ammo into a crate, clearing daemonic corruption from a forge, and so on – the point is you have to fight and move while not getting picked off by special enemies.
Stages can also have bonus objectives like finding hidden tomes and grimoires, which give bonus rewards at the end. There are also modifiers like “Endless Onslaught” which increases the spawn frequency of specials and can drastically alter the difficulty of a mission but with an appropriate reward at the end.
If there was anything to complain about in Darktide, it’s that leveling is a complete slog and the bell curve of difficulty is too steep. What I mean is that difficulties one and two can basically be completed if you have some game sense.
Difficulty three requires some gear, then difficulties four and five are basically end game; so you’ll spend levels 5 to 25 basically only doing rank 3 missions.
The game also doesn’t caution you against spending resources early on for better gear. The quality of the gear you get is largely dependent on your character level, you don’t want to be doing any crafting, enchanting, whatever until you reach level 30 because that’s when you’ll be glad you held onto all the Plasteel and Diamantine you accumulated until then.
There’s also something to be said for the difficulty of some enemies. Scab Snipers will generally be able to get an easy shot on a member of your party during a big fight and these guys can practically one-shot you.
I’m sure someone in the comments will say this is a matter of “git gud” but I still think the damage on these guys is way over-tuned for how fast they can fire and when they spawn. Conversely, enemies like the Scab Mauler are stupidly easy to handle and can just be hit-stunned forever by heavy attacks.
Ultimately, Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is a direct improvement from the Vermintide franchise and brings the 40k universe to a group of players who might have never picked up a Space Hulk or Necromunda game.
While the setting might seem a bit esoteric and strange at first, even newly initiated players to the world of 40k will learn to roll with the punches when they learn about “the warp” or ask themselves why every piece of portable technology seems to be made from a human skull.
The game is also great for a group of friends since there’s always four players in a mission. Even if you start one solo, you’ll still be rolling with four bots so if you’ve got a couple friends to fill in you’ll have a fun night ahead of you.
If you love FPS games but aren’t into PvP deathmatch style games like Halo, or you just miss the gameplay of Left 4 Dead (and Back 4 Blood wasn’t your thing), then Darktide should be right up your alley. After dozens of hours of gameplay you’ll only just be getting to the end game and the most hardcore of missions.
Warhammer 40,000: Darktide was reviewed on a PC using a personal copy. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is available now on PC and will be coming to the Xbox Series X/S at a later date.