Warhammer 40k: Darktide Review

Let no Heretic stand before you.

by J.T. Isenhour

For your crimes against the Imperium of Man, you have been sentenced to death. Or at least you should have been. For someone still so loyal to the Emperor as to choose service over freedom there might be a spot left for you. A spot in an elite unit that is sent in when a job close to home needs to be done, but you can handle that right? After all, you were a war hero that just had a minor slip-up.

That’s where the main adventure of Warhammer 40k: Darktide picks up and you really start to get into the meat of everything. Now you will be pairing up with three other ex-prisoners and being sent on missions where death awaits you around every corner. However, to earn your rations at the end of the day, you need to get the job done.

On top of fighting for survival, there is a traitor amongst your ranks that has brought the madness and the plague onboard The Mourningstar. Since you were the latest addition to the crew, all eyes are on you. This means if you don’t want to wind up back in chains and behind bars, you need to prove your innocence by completing missions and raising your trust with the rest of the crew.

Skulls for the Golden Throne… Wait What?

After your brief tutorial, you are going to be let loose on the hub of The Mourningstar to do as you see fit, which is not a lot in the beginning. All you can do is queue yourself up for whatever difficulty one or two missions are available at the time and get yourself out there.

You might end up joining a mission in progress, but more often than not you will end up in a fresh lobby that will soon fill up with three other players to keep you company on your first mission. For your first run, everything will seem so fresh and new. However, this will quickly fade as you will often find yourself running the same mission types over and over again.

Darktide-Dropship

There are seven mission types in the game with only a handful of maps to play them on. More often than not you will see a full map of Raid, Strike, or Assassinate missions with one or two missions being one of the four other types.

This can lead to you getting burnt out pretty fast on a majority of the mission in the game, as you are limited on what missions you can do by difficulty. You normally don’t go to the mission table to look for a specific mission, you normally look at the difficulty of available missions and pick from the difficulties that you know you can handle.

Since only one or two missions won’t be a part of the main three categories there is a low chance they are the difficulty level you want to play at. They will normally be either too low or too high of a difficulty. Leaving you to go run your 25 Raid mission in a row. While you can throw yourself on the mercy of quick play and hope to get something outside of what is available at the moment, you more often than not will be shoved into a filling lobby for something you could have picked yourself.

The simple addition of a mission creator or adding a more diverse catalog of missions would fix this issue. But until either of those solutions gets added to the game, you will be stuck in a loop of running the same few missions most of the time.

Let No Heretic Stand in Your Way

Of course, even running the same mission over and over can be a bit interesting with how nice the gameplay of Darktide is since Fatshark made both Vermintide games. They are well-versed in the horde shooter genre and it shows here. The melee combat feels exquisite with each of your swings properly reflecting the weight of the weapon you are swinging around.

Darktide-Review-Combat

Swinging a heavy hammer into a crowd of enemies will crush the first one you hit and knock back all the others enemies in front of you. Swords can cleave through multiple enemies like butter with your wide swing and provide a solid cut with a light attack. Daggers feel very quick and agile with you making quick stabs and dodging follow-up attacks made by anyone.

Even the new Warhammer 40k weapons that Fatshark has never worked with before feel quite nice. Revving up a chainsword or axe before cleaving a single target in half feels so satisfying. Despite being in the future and having easier access to range weapons the melee combat feels like a solid option to use and never like your last resort.

The hordes are perfectly balanced around being handled with melee combat. You never really feel overwhelmed in a horde of enemies as long as you have some space behind you to back up. Of course, getting surrounded will quickly spell your death, but that is where your team should come in to help make sure that doesn’t happen.

The major concern going into this game was how would ranged combat factor in. In the Vermintide games, ranged combat was not really the main focus of a majority of the classes, but with Darktide, all of the classes use ranged weapons. Many of them have more of a focus on their ranged weapon as something they need to use throughout the mission.

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However, the gunplay feels great in Darktide. The weapons pack the right amount of punch without feeling too overpowered. While you could go a whole mission without even pulling out a ranged weapon in Vermintide, in Darktide you can use a ranged weapon for a whole mission and still be the team carry. There are plenty of ammo pickups throughout a stage that you can use to keep yourself stocked up on ammo, even if you are not playing as a ranged-focused class.

Overall, the switch to the Warhammer 40k universe doesn’t feel too drastic from a gameplay perspective. If anything, the switch made the gameplay feel even fresher as you have many more ranged options throughout the game without the melee feeling like it was made obsolete.

The Sights and Sounds of Tertium

Nothing can make you feel cooler in a game than having a solid soundtrack to back up whatever you are currently doing. The Darktide soundtrack is perfect in that department. As you make your way through a level, the soundtrack is a low and eerie orchestral background to match the feeling of you being somewhere that you are not wanted.

As you begin to get engrossed in battle, the soundtrack will shift to match being more upbeat and action-packed to help fuel your fighting. Despite the soundtrack switching between the eerie background and the upbeat action moments, it still manages to keep a theme depending on the area you are in.

When you are fighting in refineries and metalworking factorums, the soundtrack features more sharp notes and sudden sounds. When you are in the residential districts, you have more droning and buzzing in the background like you are disturbing a hive.

No matter where you are in the game, be it slashing through a horde or prepping for your next mission on the Mourningstar, the soundtrack always manages to capture a feeling of unease which is perfect for the Warhammer 40k universe. You never really know when something could go wrong and you always want to be on high alert for the next problem you will need to overcome in order to stay alive.

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However, the sense of unease put out by the soundtrack would be nothing if the scenery didn’t match. Many of the areas you fight through look like they could collapse at any moment. Despite Tertium being championed as a city that is so pivotal for the Imperium, it looks like it has been left to rot.

The lower city shows signs of originally being well-kept and technologically advanced but has fallen into disrepair for some reason or another. Maybe because the city kept expanding upward at a rapid pace and whatever was placed underneath was left to rot.

That doesn’t make the surface levels any better as even the top levels of the city appear to have been hastily stacked on top to keep up with an ever-growing population of people looking for a better life. Shanty towns stacked up dozens of floors tall litter the surface. All were constructed out of scrap metal that was laying around and looked like they would fall over with a simple touch.

The only parts of Tertium that seem to have been taken care of are the factorums and the special Throneside district. Even though these areas have been treated much better than the other part of Tertium the battles have done their damage on them all. No matter which area you look at now, they all seem like they were never really livable and provide the feeling that utter chaos has taken hold of the whole planet.

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Climbing the Ranks of the Imperium Never is Easy

Although the gameplay may be great, there is not much the game offers to compel you to play more outside of wanting to experience more of the gameplay. The missions can get repetitive quite quickly as there are only 13 missions available for you to play in the game. Since each mission is self-contained, none of them relate to the story outside of you trying to fix problems caused by the Scabs and Dregs in Tertium.

There is no real storyline for you to experience in Darktide outside of cutscenes that play when you reach specific Trust levels with your character. These cutscenes are the same no matter which character you play, so you don’t have much of a reason to play different characters unless you want to experience their gameplay and weapons.

Really, trying new weapons and making your character stronger to make better builds are the only main driving reason for you to push through the game. Since many weapons are locked behind higher levels, you won’t be able to experience your character’s full arsenal until you hit level 20, and they won’t reach max build until you reach level 30.

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For many people, this isn’t a problem. The gameplay itself is satisfying enough for them and getting to play around with all the cool weapons that are in the game is all they need. However, outside of getting to unlock fun new toys to play around with, the only thing the game offers as an incentive to keep playing is a series of challenges for you to complete to unlock cosmetics for your character.

While the lack of a deep story is understandable for a horde shooter game, the lack of replayability is not. Although the game may feature 13 different missions for you to play, it will feel like you keep getting the same four or five on a loop with only occasionally being able to experience a different mission.

However, that is the only major issue with the game, which is easily fixable with an update by adding in more missions or a better way of selecting what missions you go on. Outside of that issue, Darktide is very solid overall. The gameplay itself is so fun and enjoyable that you can easily overlook running the same missions over and over. Fans of the Vermintide franchise will be able to enjoy a fresh new game with similar melee mechanics that they are used to and improved ranged mechanics, while Warhammer 40k fans can experience their own universe from a different perspective than they are used to.

This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.

- This article was updated on December 14th, 2022

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Warhammer 40,000: Darktide

  • Score: 4 / 5
  • Available On: PC, Xbox Series X|S
  • Published By: Fatshark
  • Developed By: Fatshark
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter
  • US Release Date: November 30, 2022
  • Reviewed On: PC
  • Quote: "The transition from killing Rats and Chaos Warriors to fighting the Scabs and Dregs couldn't have gone smoother. Warhammer 40k: Darktide adds enough new ideas to differentiate itself from the previous Vermintide games without ostracizing the fans of that franchise."
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