Warhammer 40k: Darktide delivers visceral co-op action worthy of the much-loved license – Review

Purging Chaos has never felt this good.

Image via Fatshark

It’s not uncommon for games set in the Warhammer universe to be a mixed bag when it comes to quality, and having played many of them, I’m all too used to this fact. Then you get the odd gem that uses the license well and delivers a good game. Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is one of those games.

Developer Fatshark’s newest outing builds upon the great foundation of its work on Vermintide. Darktide offers a refined and evolved co-op experience with expanded, thrilling combat and more robust customization. While a lack of an engaging story and network issues hamper its potential, this co-op shooter still offers one of the best Warhammer games I’ve seen in recent years.

There is only war

Image via Fatshark

Warhammer 40k: Darktide is pretty light on narrative, which anyone familiar with Warhammer video games won’t be surprised to hear. After escaping a prison ship and saving a soldier named Explicator Zola, you’re recruited into the Inquisition, which is this universe’s pest control when it comes to all things alien. You’re then quickly sent to the monolithic hive city Tertium to purge a new plague of Nurgle before it tears the planet apart. There isn’t much more to it after those opening moments. The only other semblance of story is during the few cutscenes at specific milestones, and these only serve to showcase a new unlocked feature. Put simply, the story is for context and flavor and not much else.

However, what it may lack in the narrative, it makes up for with plenty of character. Dialogue and banter between characters is sharp with a hint of humor thrown in, and environments feel distinct, with the game oozing the gritty, gothic vibe of the Warhammer 40k universe — fans will undoubtedly appreciate Darktide’s authenticity to the source material. Fatshark’s devotion to capturing that grim, dark futuristic setting certainly shows.

Heaps of heretic smashing

Image via Fatshark

Combat has expanded from Fatshark’s previous Vermintide titles, and the melee-focused gameplay the studio is known for has evolved into the 41st millennium; with it comes a refined FPS experience, creating a hybrid combat system. 

The melee brawls are endlessly gratifying, and cleaving down a horde of Poxwalkers is always a joy as you see heads fly from bodies. It has a weighty, visceral quality that few games can create. Combat encounters keep you on your toes, as you’ll be blocking and dodging attacks while managing your space and stamina before getting overwhelmed. The gunplay proved to be just as intense. Firefights often become frantic back-and-forths thanks to enemies’ effective aim and use of cover, and the suppression system, which sees your aim deteriorate dramatically when out of cover and exposed to enemy fire. Don’t worry — you can do the same and send them scrambling. These two methods of combat work together seamlessly, and the fluid nature of swapping between the two at a moment’s notice always felt engaging and often necessary.

The superb enemy design accentuates combat. Alongside the usual cannon fodder, you’ll be dealing with multiple specialists and elite units, each with different strengths and requiring different approaches. Their variety is welcome, as is how they work together and adapt to provide a challenge that significantly adds depth and complexity. 

Last but not least, you have level design that greatly compliments these combat styles, with a healthy mixture of open multi-layered sections and tight kill corridors, and everything in between. All these pieces blend into a symbiotic mixture of layered encounters that are intense and full of action. Plus, with the co-op focus of the game, it’s made all the more fun with friends.

The only downside comes when server issues or poor connections occur. Lag spikes, the occasional disconnect, and a couple of hard crashes plagued my time with the game, and to say they dampened the experience would be underselling it.

Forged for battle

Image via Fatshark

You are practically spoilt for choices when it comes to customization. Character creation has plenty of options, both in appearance and backstory. There are the usual options like hair and eyes, as well as your planet of origin, childhood, and upbringing, all giving your character some extra spice that affects the tone and personality of dialogue between your player character with others.

Beyond appearances, there are four classes to choose from, each having distinct differences including abilities and feats that cater to various playstyles. On top of that, your equipment is all faithful to the source material while feeling incredible to use. Each weapon has enough nuance between them to make them unique, and the crafting and upgrading system adds subtleties to your combat options by letting you increase their power and unlock bonuses and perks. 

It becomes second nature to experiment with different weapons and classes. There is a great feeling of depth to each combination of class, gear, and abilities that only grows deeper as you level up and unlock more options. Alongside combat, these systems work in tandem beautifully, with a fantastic sense of approachable complexity, made all the better by these options feeling wicked to play.

The verdict

Darktide characters guide
Image via Fatshark

If one thing is clear from my time with Darktide, it’s that Fatshark loves the Warhammer universe. Everywhere you look, you can see the studio’s attention to detail and passion for the franchise, from the hybrid combat and deep customization filled with depth to the complex world dripping with authenticity, making for an incredible co-op experience.

Yes, like most other Warhammer games, it’s not perfect. Its lack of a more robust narrative is a shame, and connectivity issues were sometimes an issue. Still, those blemishes didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying my time slaying the heretic of Chaos. Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is easily Fatshark’s best work and is up there as one of Warhammer’s best releases in years.

Final Score:

8 / 10

+A lovingly faithful representation of the Warhammer 40k universe
+The mixture of melee and ranged combat is superb
+Progression and customization are plentiful and deep
A lack of an engaging narrative feels like a missed opportunity
Server and connectivity issues put a dampener on the experience
Disclosure: Gamepur was provided a game code for review purposes.