Warhammer 40K: Darktide, developed by Fatshark, is a first-person PvE horde shooter where you cooperate with three teammates to overcome waves of enemies and unique bosses set in the deep, lore-driven universe of the Warhammer franchise.
There’s just something different about horde games. The exhilarating rush of innumerable raging undead sprinting toward you to rip you limb from limb is something that few other game genres can replicate. Warhammer 40K: Darktide, the newest entry in the “Tide” series by Fatshark Games, throws its pox-covered helm into the ring with a bang.
To preface this review, I’ll start by saying that I’m not really that huge of a Warhammer fan (let the hate e-mails commence). I know a lot about the universe because I was obsessed with the Total War: Warhammer series, but I never played the tabletop game, and I haven’t really educated myself on the extended lore of the universe.
That said, I am a real gamer at heart–so if you’re looking for an extended monologue about the failed exploits of the Astra Militarum or the socio-economic impacts of medicae servitor sentience, this is not the review for you. But if you’re looking for a completely unbiased and objective view of how Darktide is as a game, continue reading.
Darktide is a Fun Cooperative Romp
If you enjoyed the frenetic pace of Fatshark’s previous horde entry, Vermintide 2, then Warhammer 40K: Darktide will feel very familiar to you. Because the game is set in the 40K universe, it means you get to enjoy all the sci-fi elements this iteration of Warhammer has to offer.
In the game, players can choose from 4 classes: the Psyker Psykenetic, Zealot Preacher, Ogryn Skullbreaker, and Veteran Sharpshooter. Each class has distinct strengths and weaknesses, and each plays differently, with unique quests called Penances, a host of abilities, and a tech tree. This creates a good variety of customization for those that like to tweak their builds and appreciate creativity.
The gameplay is basic, but fun. Load into a level, complete the objectives, kill hundreds of undead Chaos-legion zombie creatures, and make it out with your life intact. This is not a stealthy affair, either. To say that you enter and leave the level “with a bang” would be an understatement.
Unlike other FPS games, Darktide heavily encourages the use of melee weapons. This will feel familiar to you if you’ve played other horde games, like the Left 4 Dead franchise. “Time to stack into a corner and spam shovels.”
However, in Darktide, there’s a unique twist–with each weapon having its own secondary special attack and certain classes, like the Psyker, getting abilities to boost the proficiency of your melee weapon.
On the same note, there are still the fantasy elements any Warhammer property brings along with it, creating new elements to what would typically just be a zombie-killing affair. The Ogryn gets a giant shield to push back enemies, Pyskers get staves to electrocute things, and Sharpshooters can deal massive damage via headshots. This all adds a unique element to the game, making each class feel less vanilla as you progress through the levels.
Oh, and did we mention it was bloody? It’s super bloody.
You can chop off limbs, decapitate heads, and generally cause a level of bodily destruction that would make a surgeon wince. As you continue to play the game, some of this starts to fade into the background as you slash your 20,000th zombie, but it remains satisfying and realistic. When you chop a head, it doesn’t chop its foot off; it actually chops a skull in half.
While people complain about the recoil and gunplay–I’ve played much worse first-person shooters. Generally, spamming left-click on a lasgun meant to be a sniper rifle shouldn’t result in pin-point precision, but who am I to say? Gunplay feels good, hitboxes feel accurate, and there are a variety of different weapons that all handle in their own unique way.
Some quests, like the scanning quest, could probably use a little more explanation, but for the most part–most of the tasks you need to do in each level feel straightforward. There will often be a literal icon pointing you where to go, so the learning curve and barrier of entry for the game are initially low.
The game gets a bit deeper, however, when talking about different builds. With 4 unique classes and various skills to choose from, class variety in Darktide is perhaps the best thing about the game. You can mix and match weapons that synergize with your specific build for unintended but fun results. This adds a layer of depth below the surface that only people who dedicate 20-30 hours to the game will start to realize.
The one main criticism that I think holds true for the game is generally a lack of content. Once you start reaching the higher levels, it will start to get old, cycling through the same maps, regardless of the difficulty. Adding more map variation & seasonal maps, and perhaps maps that can only be accomplished once reaching the max level, may help remedy this. More unique bosses could also make each experience feel more varied, even if it’s in the same mission you’ve played numerous times before.
If you’ve followed the journey of the launch of Darktide, you’ll know that there were a few problems at the start. If you don’t know, the short of it is that Fatshark announced a pre-launch beta, which many people participated in, but only a few could play because of network outages and server errors.
This bled into the actual launch of the game, with the online community ready to burn the game down via negative reviews.
That’s not discounting the issues, though. Performance issues seemed to plague community members and people I played with, even though their hardware was great. I didn’t have as many problems with performance, running at a constant 60+ frames on an RTX 3070Ti–though I did have my fair share of network issues and disconnects leading up and slightly into the official launch.
Outside of that, certain aspects of the game still are unfinished–with crafting being a primary sore spot for the community. Placeholder text where there should be some functionality is certainly still a thing, a week out from the official launch.
So, that is a decent list of cons, and I don’t blame players for giving the game a bad rating if they are unable to play the game–but early indications are pointing towards the fact that Fatshark is well aware of the issues, and are urgently working to fix them.
Warhammer 40K: Darktide is a gory, action-packed horde FPS that will deliver hours of fun for you and your friends. With a fairly straightforward premise (kill lots of things), but surprisingly deep build & skill options, Darktide will keep you playing until you’ve hit max level. Though performance and server issues hurt the game initially upon release, many of these issues have been resolved or are actively worked on by the game’s developers.
If you’re looking for a high-intensity experience with a ton of action, gore, teamwork, and character customization, Warhammer 40K: Darktide is a superb entry in the horde game genre.
Warhammer 40K Darktide Review
Warhammer 40K: Darktide is an action-packed FPS horde shooter that will keep your heart pumping as you cut through waves of undead chaos. While plagued early with server issues and some underdeveloped content, Darktide is gearing up to be one of the greatest entries in the horde game genre.
You can purchase Warhammer 40K: Darktide on Steam.
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[Reviewed on PC Review Copy]