Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is finally here, well on PC at least, and it is fantastic. Developer Fatshark has struck a balance between the melee-heavy focus on the Vermintide series and adding more of a focus on shooting lots of different guns. It’s a big, bold, hilarious, fun-as-hell romp throughout the galaxy as you slay endless hordes of humans, rat men, zombies, and mutants alike. It’s out now on Game Pass for PC and on Steam, with a console port coming “soon”. There’s a lot to break down here so let’s get right into it.
Choose Your Death Sentence
The game starts out with a short but meaty character creator. There are four classes to choose from. First up was my favorite the Zealot: Preacher. They’re a maniac focused on melee and heavy hitting ranged weaponry. The Veteran: Sharpshooter is exactly what you think. Using a mix of kick-ass chainsaw swords and long-ranged guns you do your best work from afar. Next, we have the Psyker who uses powerful magic and is the most glass-cannony of the lot. Finally, the big boy Ogryn rounds things out with this 10+ foot tall monster doing his best to smash all the punies into dust. You’ll choose your home planet, voice, appearance, and just why you’re a prisoner sentenced to death as well.
The story of the game starts off with a prison break leading to you being freed and saving the life of an imperial officer. That gets you back in the government’s good graces and you start working your way up the Trust ladder. Every mission you complete, challenge you finish, and completed bounty you submit ups your trust level. At certain levels you’ll get the next bit of story as well as access to more and more of the game’s many shops, mechanics, and your character’s Feats (more on those later). To access all of this you’ll spend each mission in a small and gorgeously detailed hub world. This game is always online, and that was an issue with the Windows Store version of the game at times for me. The first day it hit Game Pass I could not connect to any servers. Thankfully I had already been playing the game for weeks on Steam and was able to hop back there.
Unfortunately, these versions do not share progression or feature any type of crossplay between each other. The Windows Store Game Pass version did however pop up with the Play Anywhere prompt when I first opened it, which makes me hope that crossplay/save/progression with the upcoming Xbox Series X|S versions will work right at the start. To finish off the story isn’t anything stellar but the in-mission writing is hilarious. Your team of four will banter in a way that is both funny and endearing. It is in stark contrast to how serious the cutscene dialogue is, though.
Murder the Night Away
Unlike Fatshark’s previous game there is a much bigger emphasis on ranged attacks and guns in this game, and I love it. That satisfying melee combat is very much a thing, of course, and you’ll be smashing heads and chopping off limbs with reckless abandon. One huge difference though is that your attacks no longer consume stamina. Stamina instead is used for blocking, pushing, and sprinting. It’s a small but massive quality-of-life improvement, and the plentiful supply of ammo throughout each level means you’ll have very little downtime where you can’t use the best attack for each situation. All four classes have their own special abilities which operate on short cooldown timers, and a Feats upgrade system that will last you through thirty trust levels before you’ve unlocked it all.
Each Feat selection offers three choices. Things such as “every heavy attack kill grants 20 toughness” vs. “every heavy swing that hits multiple enemies grants 20 toughness”. Toughness is essentially your shield, and you’ll need to use melee attacks and be near your teammates to replenish it. Once it’s down you start taking true health damage, which can only be replenished through Medicae Stations, or item drops that are rare to find mid-mission. Inventory wise you have a ranged and melee weapon slot along with three items that allow you further buffs or customization. It’s a simple system that lets you choose how you want to play without feeling overwhelmed at all.
You’ll need all the power you can muster because Darktide throws a lot of enemies at you. To choose a mission you can either go with the easy choice and let the game decide for you with matchmaking or directly choose from a pool of constantly rotating ones. There are multiple types of missions like Assassinations, Strikes, Repairs, and more that can take place on a large number of maps. Various world modifiers will be active at any time and it all requires you to be online. I did not try to play solo but bots are available and will take the place of any squad member who quits or is disconnected mid-mission. Every mission had four players and overall the community has been great to interact with so far.
Disgusting Beauty and Great Music
WH40K: Darktide is a gorgeous game thanks to its solid tech and excellent art style. There is a bug at launch that seemingly forces ray-tracing to be fully enabled but on my modest 5800x and 6700xt rig I averaged between 80 and 120 fps while running max settings. I was using AMD’s FSR 2.0 to upscale a 1080p resolution to 1440p but I honestly think it looked better than running it natively. There was a distinct and heavy shimmer to everything without FSR (FidelityFX Super Resolution) that was far less noticeable with it. Character models look great and the creation system allowed for a lot of variety in the player-made ones.
The level design is phenomenal in both looks and how they play. The game rarely needs to use waypoints as it just makes sense as to where you’re going next thanks to the clever use of lights and doors. Most of the time I could tell where I was going next just by listening to what was happening around me thanks to the spatial audio in my headset. I use Dolby Atmos for Windows and the game sounded incredible. Sound effects are hard-hitting with Lasguns and swords sounding deadly while character screams make Elite foes instantly recognizable over the din of everything else. My favorite part though is the music that kicks in during the deadliest parts of a mission. Bold, powerful, and heavy instrumentals fuel your fear and desire to kill your way through it.
As stated previously the in-mission voice acting is excellent. The mixture of humor and occasionally endearing moments of commiseration between the player characters helps carry what is otherwise an incredibly serious and dour affair. I did run into a LOT of bugs, all related to the game’s always-online nature. Error 4001 was my main nemesis, though it had a different and funnier name “hot_tub_party”. Constant disconnects mid or post-mission have been a thing since the moment I started up the pre-order beta, and they’ve only gotten worse as the many millions of Game Pass PC users have started playing the title. Hopefully, these issues are fixed soon as it is hard to recommend the game even at $40 on Steam when so many can’t actually play it passed the prologue. Now that the game has launched there are also a lot of pricey cosmetic microtransactions which feel rough to see outside of the f2p genre.
Hilarious banter, ridiculous fights, a great mission structure, and satisfying progression show that Fatshark is only getting better. Being available day one on Game Pass for PC means no one, either alone or with friends should pass on giving this one a go.
Warhammer 40,000: Darktide
- Looks Great
- Fantastic Combat
- Great Leveling System
- Solid Mission Structure
- Excellent Music
- Lots of Server Issues