In fact, after Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide and Warhammer: Vermintide 2, it was only a matter of time before Fatshark Studios got involved in creating games in the Warhammer 40K universe. Because Warhammer Fantasy is, of course, cool, but there are no Space Marines, Imperial Inquisition, and spaceships that look like gothic cathedrals. Well, Fatshark has heard you, so welcome – Warhammer 40,000: Darktide. Pretty much the same as Vermintide, but in the Warhammer 40K universe.

Game Warhammer 40,000: Darktide
Genre co-op shooter
Platforms Windows, Xbox Series X/S
Languages English
Developer Fatshark
Publisher Fatshark

Chmobiks 40K

I apologize for the comparison, but Warhammer 40,000: Darktide begins as the story of an average Russian chmobik. The hero is taken from the prison ship (well, he pulls himself out, saving the life of the Inquisitorial Explicator along the way), given an old sapper shovel and a rusty Kalashnikov and sent to conquer the slums of the hive city Tertium on the industrial planet Atom Prime. For the Empire, for the ever-living Emperor!

You don’t get shiny spacesuits, jetpacks and pathetic flags: you’re in the Astra Militarum now, son. Only mud, rusted innards and industrial areas of the hive city, and hordes of Chaos-corrupted creatures all around. You’ll get a bolter later if you survive, of course, but it’s not certain. And for now, quickly run to the next hole, to adjust production, burn out heresy and in general… Kill everyone, for the glory of the Emperor!

In fact, the story, factions, characters and everything else for Warhammer 40,000: Darktide was created by the famous science fiction writer Dan Abnett, who has been working with Games Workshop for more than 25 years and wrote such famous book series as Eisenhorn and Ravenor, dedicated to Inquisition. But here’s the trouble. The plot in the game is only in the prologue, which plays the role of an educational level and… in the finale. Then everything comes down to “Good job, son! Go kill 5000 more mutants! You don’t need to think!”. And repeat several times in a row until you reach level 30 and see the final cutscene.

You don’t need to understand anything to do your duty

But with the basic gameplay in Warhammer 40,000: Darktide, everything is just great. The mechanics are honed in Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide and Warhammer: Vermintide 2, just adapted to the specifics of Warhammer 40K, that is, all classes can use long-range weapons, and there is plenty of ammo. But sometimes there is simply no time to recharge, because… there are even more opponents here.

There are thousands of mutants, heretics and creatures of Chaos at each level. And this is not an exaggeration. Towards the end of the mission, the counter of killed enemies sometimes reaches four digits. Zombies, sorry, mutants and creatures come in an endless stream, and therefore sometimes even psykers are forced to take cold steel and literally cut their way. Because being surrounded in Darktide is pretty much guaranteed death, unless of course you’re a hulking ogryn with a huge shield and a heavy electrostick.

Classes complement each other well. Bonecrushing Ogryns and Zealots are needed to contain the onslaught and crowd control, while Veteran snipers and Psykers take out enemies and deal damage from a distance. Vulnerable Psykers are especially important, as they can finish off most elite opponents with one Brain Blast.

Each of the classes has its own weapon, although some types are available to all fighters. As in some Diablo, weapons differ in color, level of damage and additional bonuses. Of course, gold weapons are only available at high levels. It’s nice that all the weapons, even the most exotic ones, feel good, give a cool feedback, and in general, it’s very pleasant to shoot enemies and chop them in Darktide. Unsurprisingly, Fatshark has been honing this gameplay for over 10 years, since War of the Roses (2012).

Like any co-op shooter, Warhammer 40,000: Darktide requires you to stick together to help out comrades in trouble and hold off the hordes together.

Hunt mutants, kill mutants!

By the way, about the hordes. Yes, the main mass of opponents in Darktide are dumb “zombies” that stick out from all cracks. This has been the case since Left 4 Dead. For more drama, the appearance of the crowd in such games is controlled by the so-called AI Director, who tries to add drama to the game. Unfortunately, Warhammer 40,000: Darktide doesn’t always manage to do that.

The thing is, most of the levels in the game – incredibly large, well-made and very atmospheric – are actually linear. Yes, there are some twists and turns, but the main route is always the same. And already after 3-4 passes you will know when to expect the appearance of the horde. Press the button – get a horde, enter this hall – get a crowd, turn a corner – another crowd, and so on.

No, sometimes the game can surprise and create interesting and dangerous situations. Throwing out, for example, two Chaos Monsters with a retinue on both sides of a narrow corridor. But usually, the events in the levels are quite predictable, and with careful play, the hordes of enemies do not pose a real threat.

Elite and special opponents are another thing. Here they are, especially on the fourth and fifth difficulty levels – this is a real problem. Trappers that sneak up from behind and wrap players in an electric grid, snipers that shoot through the entire level and take off half their health in one hit, damn plague dogs that are hard to intercept, and so on. Thank God, the appearance of crowds and special enemies is signaled by a characteristic sound for each.

Gothic 40K

Warhammer 40,000: Darktide looks fantastic. This is what we love about Warhammer 40K – gigantism, megastructures and a wild mix of ecclesiastical gothic and 20th century imperial empire. Factories like Gothic cathedrals, cities like the entrails of an alien, drawn on ancient Egyptian pyramids. This is 100%, pure Warhammer 40K – pathetic, flashy, massive. Atmosphere can be cut with a knife and put into gift boxes for fans.

Along with architecture and music. Fatshark once again involved the legendary Jesper Kyd, the author of music for Hitman, Assassin’s Creed, Borderlands, Warhammer: Vermintide games. And Kyud did not disappoint, creating something like Heavy Metal chorales and oratorios with the flavor of some tribal music. Warhammer 40,000: Darktide’s soundtrack fits very well.

In fact, there is a lot of fanservice in the game that will appeal to fans of the Warhammer 40K universe and go largely unnoticed by the average player. For example, there is almost an hour of pathetic quotes on the loading screen. During character generation, you can choose the planet of birth, origin and the crime for which he went to prison. But this almost does not affect anything, except for very atmospheric phrases that the fighters exchange and comment on what they saw.

Death is better than defeat

In fact, if you play co-op shooters from time to time and love the Warhammer 40K universe, you’ll even enjoy Darktide if you use it for a mission or two a day. But otherwise, you will have a lot of questions about this game.

For example, why are there so few cosmetic items here, and they cost just stupid money? Why is it that the best costumes can only be purchased with a separate currency that cannot be earned in the game itself? Damn it, where did the end-game actually go?

What Fatshark offers, i.e. passing the same missions on a higher difficulty and mining gold weapons, is not an end-game. This is a very boring and monotonous process that no one needs. More than that. After getting one hero to level 30, you hardly want to upgrade another, going through the same missions and the same levels, killing enemies at almost the same points. This combined with the lack of story, weak AI Director and rather monotonous gameplay is a little disappointing.

But, again, if you play a little and like shooters and the Warhammer 40K universe, then you will even like the game. Because there really is no alternative to Warhammer 40,000: Darktide. Unfortunately, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine 2, due out this year, is a game by russian Saber Interactive, and buying it is disrespectful to yourself. So, despite all the flaws – only hardcore, only Warhammer 40,000: Darktide!