Warhammer 40k Darktide lets you purge heresy from the land, and it’s even better with friends. Here is our review of Darktide, keeping in mind its story and gameplay.

Darktide is a game I’ve been following ever since its first teaser two years ago. It was one of the catalysts to my deep dive into Warhammer 40k’s lore, although I still don’t plan on buying any figures. When the Closed Beta came out this year, I lost no time signing up and trying it out myself. Although there was a game-breaking bug that prevented me from fully enjoying it, the overall experience was pretty good. I then pre-purchased the game and waited for the pre-purchase beta. They were able to fix the bug I experienced, which made me keep playing the game until launch.

After spending quite some time in the game, I can give my complete thoughts on Darktide’s gameplay and story. There might be some spoilers in this review, so take care as you read through it.

Warhammer 40k Darktide Review

Darktide Background

Let’s start off with the game’s basics. Darktide is a co-op, mission-based first-person shooter. Players choose from one of four available classes, each with their own skills and specialties. After creating a character, the player can start queueing up for missions in the game’s central hub. Once the player selects a mission, matchmaking begins, placing them in teams of up to four players. If there are not enough human players, the game will fill the number with bots. The team must then go through the level, accomplishing the mission (and the occasional side mission). After finishing the mission, the players return to the hub, upgrade their weapons, and repeat. This is Darktide’s main gameplay look, which we will dive into deeper in the next section.

Darktide Gameplay

I made a Veteran Sharpshooter character hailing from the destroyed planet of Cadia. As a Veteran Sharpshooter, it’s my job to take down the elite enemies that spawn during missions. When they’re not around, I help out in clearing out the other filthy heretics. Although this game is a first-person shooter, you don’t actually shoot all the time. Fatshark, this game’s developer, also made the award-winning Vermintide series. The Vermintide series is famous for its focus on melee combat, and it shows in Darktide. Fatshark was able to carry over their experience from making Vermintide, and applied it to Darktide properly.

The melee combat in this game is, in a word, satisfying. Seeing the head and body parts of heretics fly off with every weapon swing felt really great. I never felt like my sword was useless, or that my shovel could use more damage. Each swing with my weapon had weight in it, and it felt good purging heresy from the land. Not just that, but the various melee weapons in my arsenal each felt fun and satisfying to use. I personally like the Power Sword, Claw Sword, and Combat Knife. The first let me cleave armored enemies easily, the second let me pray, and the third just felt fun to use as it lets me stab cultists quickly. I have yet to try out other classes in length, but trust me when I say that the melee combat is one of this game’s highlights.

Of course, the ranged combat is not something you should forget as well. Each of the ranged weapons in this game felt good to use, albeit in different situations. Whenever I needed to clear a mission seriously, using the automatic-firing Autogun and Recon Lasgun helped in clearing out large hordes of enemies. Now and then I would use the Helbore Lasgun to snipe out distant foes. If I felt like contributing a little more to the cleansing of filth, I would use the Emperor-blessed Boltgun, which fired mini-rockets at the heretics. That’s only for the Veteran and the Zealot. The Psyker has access to staff weapons while the Ogryn has its heavy weaponry. Although melee combat is the main focus, the game’s gunplay is still amazing, especially when fighting hordes of filthy heretical cultists.

In my opinion, even if Darktide’s gameplay felt great, it would fall flat on its face if the levels and enemies were not fun to go through. Thankfully, they were. The level designs of Darktide lend greatly to the atmosphere. Darktide’s setting, the Hive City of Tertium, is a dark and somber place, and you feel that as you roam its streets, buildings, and sewers. This is amplified by the enemies, who are mostly Nurgle cultists. Nurgle, for those not familiar with Warhammer 40k Lore, is the chaos god of disease and decay. You see this in the maggot-infested enemies, with their faces falling off as they screamed Nurgle’s name. You even fight against a best of Nurgle, a giant monster that looks a lot like Jabba the Hutt, if he vomited acid and ate up people whole.

But what really brings the game together is its music. This game’s sound design makes sure that there is never a dull moment in the game. It slows down when you’re just walking through the city, and it picks up as soon as more enemies show up. Not to mention boss battles, where the music especially goes hard. This is thanks to Jesper Kyd, who made this amazing soundtrack to kill heretics to. This is especially true for Disposal Unit (Imperium Remix), which plays during boss fights. If that doesn’t make you want to take on chaos cultists, I don’t know what will.

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Darktide Story

When I played the CBT, Darktide didn’t actually have much of a story. The only bit of lore that I had was that of my character, who was a Cadian guard imprisoned for insubordination. I also got the back-of-the-box story, which was that my character was part of a penal unit, serving the Emperor in purging and cleansing Tertium. To be honest, that’s enough for me. I wanted to get back into fighting heresy after all.

When the pre-purchase beta launched, I was surprised by the opening sequence. Apparently, this game does have a story, albeit not really compelling one. Your character was in transit to some unknown location, supposedly up for execution. Suddenly, chaos cultists hijacked your ship and rescued one of the prisoners inside. In the process, your prison cell got destroyed, and you were able to fight your way out. You help one of the crew members, Explicator Zola, escape, and she brings you along to the Mourningstar, a ship headed for Atoma Prime and its hive city Tertium.

There, Zola gives you the opportunity to redeem yourself, as the Mourningstar is in need of loyal cannon fodder to do the Emperor’s bidding. It is in this ship that you get your first glimpse at just how messed up the grimdark 41st Millenia is. For starters, you witness a scene where the players are basically indoctrinated into worshipping the Emperor and serving as his warriors. You also come to terms with the fact that as far as the Inquisition is concerned, everyone is just expendable cannon fodder. Every mission, you come face-to-face with the effects of becoming a chaos cultist, and why they must be purged with holy fire.

Every few levels, you get dragged into a cutscene, which gives you more information about just why you are trying to cleanse Atoma Prime. What’s fun is that the cutscenes aren’t the only way to get invested in the lore. During character creation, you select your character’s mannerisms, home planet, and more. This is not just flavor text and fluff, as it also affects your character’s voice lines. In every match, the interactions are randomized and change depending on each character’s backstory. I especially loved it when the characters brought up Cadia, my character’s home planet. It serves as a good reminder that the planet fell before the guard.

Darktide Points of Improvement

Darktide does a really great job at setting the tone, mood, and atmosphere for a Warhammer 40k game. I, however, have two major problems with it. The first is that after a while, the game does become a grinding game. The novelty is there, and I found myself playing it for hours at a time. Once you reach around level 20, though, the game just becomes a quest to upgrade your equipment. Every mission, I go to the shop, and I check if there are weapons stronger than my current ones. If there were, I would buy it. If I couldn’t afford it, I would run missions until I could. This just loops again and again and again. Eventually, playing it alone wasn’t as fun anymore. Playing with friends does make it more fun, but this lack of a good endgame is one of the game’s weak points.

The other major problem I have with Darktide is that the story is lacking. Yes, the cutscenes are nice and well-voiced, and the in-mission interactions were great. The problem is that they’re so spaced out that you can actually forget that the game has a story. I would be playing the game for an hour or so, and then suddenly get surprised by a cutscene. There’s so much lore and beautiful stories in 40k lore, and I wish they had tapped into it more.

Darktide Review Summary

To summarize this review, Darktide’s gameplay and story are an entry point to the Warhammer 40k universe. The game nicely represents the grimdark atmosphere of the franchise and manages to capture the brutality of that universe. Darktide’s gameplay mechanics like the combat system are amazing, but the gameplay loop does leave me wanting something more. Darktide’s story itself is nice, but it would be better if we had more of it. This game has potential, and if Fatshark gives it the same treatment it gave Vermintide, this has the potential to become even greater.

Score: 8/10

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