Warhammer 40K: Darktide Review — Gore God
I came into Warhammer 40K: Darktide neither a Vermintide fan nor a 40K fan, but just a dingus that wanted to have fun with friends. This is important to note because I'm won't compare this to Vermintide 2 or talk about how the game adds to the lore of the overall 40K universe.
What I can say is that Warhammer 40K: Darktide is a hell of a game. Its combination of melee and range-focused mission-based gameplay, incredible visuals, and eye-dilating gore are second to none. It's fun, stressful, and an amazing time with friends. But Darktide is not without its issues, some of which are hard to overlook considering the game's full release state.
There isn't a linear path to mission progression in Darktide. Instead, after you've finished the prologue and tutorial, you can choose any mission you like from the mission terminal, provided you meet the level requirement for the difficulty. Mission selection rotates, along with available difficulties for them.
Each mission takes anywhere from 20 to 30+ minutes to complete depending on difficulty and how your strike team fares. Harder missions take longer, and they are far more painful. Actually taking on the missions is, of course, the real fun of Darktide and the gameplay is exceptional. Between the four classes at launch and the myriad of weaponry, there's plenty of ranged and melee weapon variety.
The Preacher: Zealot and Veteran: Sharpshooter classes are the two most straightforward of the four. The former is most suited to melee combat, gaining additional damage as it loses health, and the latter is an exceptional elite killer through its ability to give vision on elites and deal extra ranged damage.
While Zealot and Sharpshooter are more straightforward, the Psyker: Psykinetic and Ogryn: Skullbreaker serve crowd control and diverse support roles nicely. Psykinetic can focus an enemy and brain burst them, as well as use staves to cast incredibly useful crowd control spells. The Skullbreaker, on the other hand, is larger and a little tankier than the other classes, providing knockdowns and wave clear.
All four play differently, but every one gives the immense satisfaction of tearing or blowing your enemies into bits via sheer firepower or regular, old power. Each melee weapon has its own moveset, and ranged options offer bracing or even special attacks alongside their ability to blow things to bits.
To be clear, you do blow a lot of things to bits. Or tear them to bits. Or knock them around like ragdolls, resulting in bits. All the while, you can see the flesh tear from enemy bodies where you hit them, their limbs detaching exactly where you slice them, and their bodies rending in half, spewing viscera and maggots in your destructive wake.
To say that Warhammer 40K: Darktide's combat is satisfying is a vast understatement. It's the sort of thing you encounter and can't help but cackle or giggle in delight as you see every iota of your force utterly decimate heretics. Every person I have played with in voice has laughed as they relished in their destructive power, and you'd be no different.
Fatshark also hit it out of the park with Darktide's pacing and level design. The pacing keeps you fully engaged from one encounter to the next, from one attack to the next, from one objective to the next. The only truly dull moments come from waiting for Pox Hounds, Pox Bursters, or Mutants. Though Heresy and Damnation players may scoff, citing hallways of Crushers and Maulers — that, too, is part of the perpetual engagement.
The level design isn't just a spectacle to behold — the full dreariness and grime of a hive city on display — it's intuitive. Each map is designed and railroaded in such a way that it's easy to just know where to go, and your strike team's voice lines will tell you if you're going the right way. If not? That's fine, you'll find it quickly enough.
There is no way for me to give ample credit to Darktide's soundtrack. Jesper Kyd has composed what is probably one of the best game soundtracks of 2022. It's a shame it will mostly fly under the radar due to the live service co-op nature of the game; many tracks are absolutely outstanding. There could be no better music to rip and tear to. — it's just a shame that the music doesn't get much time to shine on lower difficulties.
Despite how satisfying, fun, visually stunning, auditorily memorable, and challenging the actual game is, the non-mission portions of Darktide are an unfun, RNG-laden slog that detract from the game.
The weapons offered at the Armoury Exchange, the game's one weapon and curio shop, rotate every hour. This is a bit similar to the system seen in Back 4 Blood, but in Darktide, it's for weapons — and it's patently unfun to check the shop every hour in hopes of getting something worthwhile to upgrade.
The game's equipment improvement and customization systems compound the issue. You can upgrade weapons and curios to higher tiers using Diamantine and Plasteel, two resources you can find in missions. The problem is that the blessings and perks you get when consecrating (upgrading) a piece of equipment are random, and rerolling perks is also totally random.
Only two of the four equipment upgrade/customization options are available now, over two weeks after launch, and neither are fun or fulfilling.
These systems are blatantly designed to draw out the amount of time it takes to get an "optimal" build. None of it feels rewarding but instead lucky, and not the sort of lucky that sends your brain into any kind of dopamine frenzy. It feels lacking, and adding blessing customization isn't going to help that.
Additionally, Darktide is quite buggy. Crashes and disconnects are frequent for many players, and even those relatively free from crashing during gameplay must still contend with the game refusing to close or thinking it's crashing on close. It's not a good user experience on that front, and dealing with those problems is not a task for the impatient.
Warhammer 40K Review — The Bottom Line
- Delightfully disgusting visuals.
- Level design brings to "unlife" a 40K hive city's lower districts.
- Immensely satisfying and versatile combat between the four classes at launch.
- Amazing soundtrack.
- Being at the mercy of an hourly shop timer for weapons is not remotely fun.
- The equipment upgrade/customization systems are not satisfying.
- Darktide still crashes and lags for many players, sometimes frequently.
I very much wanted to give Warhammer 40K: Darktide a full 10, I really did. I've pumped almost 130 hours into the game since launch and obviously love it. I even bought four copies for people recently. But outside of the actual gameplay and visuals and sound design, Darktide is a flawed game.
Consistent gameplay crashes and disconnections every 15 minutes are unacceptable. And kudos to whoever doesn't dislike the equipment system, because they are more easily satisfied than I could ever be.
Darktide is a fantastic live service co-op FPS that is almost worth every penny. Almost. I love it to death, and it's ramping up to be one of my most played games of 2022, but it's not perfect. It will surely become one of the titans of the genre just like Vermintide and its sequel, but it's got a long way to go.
[Note: Fatshark provided the copy of Warhammer 40K: Darktide used for this review.]