I’m always endlessly fascinated by the Warhammer universe, and having reviewed a few of the strategy based games in the past, I like to think I have a rough idea of what is going on. Until that is, I suddenly find my assumed understanding removed like a duvet when it’s time to get up for work.
The latest game in the vast array of Warhammer games is from Fatshark, called Warhammer 40,000: Darktide. These are the same guys who made the Vermintide series of games, and this time the action takes place in space. What could be better? So, grab your best chainsword, it is time to fight for the Emperor once again!
The story of Warhammer is too complicated to go into, but that of this particular game, thankfully, is a lot more succinct. We start Warhammer 40,000: Darktide as a convict, and the ship we are riding in is attacked by heretics. We break out and join forces with a soldier, helping her to escape. As a reward you are then given the opportunity to die trying to take back a city called Tertium, which is under threat from a Hive of Chaos. It’s up to us to stop this new force, as well as put a halt to the tide of darkness from washing all over the city. See what they did there? Basically, it is down to us and our fellow Rejects, as we are known, to serve the Inquisition and root out the heresy in the city. What could possibly go wrong?
Having covered why we are fighting, how does it look when we actually drop into the game and start fighting for our lives? Well, pretty good, all things considered.
There are two main parts to Warhammer 40,000: Darktide – there is the hub area, where we can interact with various NPCs and merchants, and this stage of the game is presented in a third person view. The design of the hub area is pretty straightforward, which contrasts nicely with the maps when we drop into missions; these are all very complicated and difficult to navigate. When we are in a mission, the viewpoint changes to a first person perspective, showing us our weapon of choice and the enemies that we need to apply it to.
And those enemies are an imaginative bunch, from tiny zombie-like creatures to the horrible Ragers, through to the bosses of the levels, which require a lot of firepower and teamwork to take down. Oh, the teamwork? This is a four player co-op experience, and Warhammer 40,000: Darktide will always match you with a group of players to take on the perils in each mission. Following higher level players around, both in order to benefit from their better gear and more helpfully their knowledge of the maps, is a tactic I soon picked up!
And alongside those visuals, the sound is very good as well. The banter between the members of the team being fully voiced, the gunshots and melee hits sounding suitably meaty, and the whole presentation is very nice indeed.
Now, gameplay is where we need to call in next, and here Warhammer 40,000: Darktide doesn’t disappoint either. When you go to the mission control in the hub level, you have a choice – you can select a mission that you want to do, or you can join a random level in the Quickplay option. The benefit to Quickplay is that it gives you a bonus to EXP and rewards collected as you play; if you need to level quickly, this is the way to go. Even if you choose a regular mission that you want to do, you will be matched with another three players in order to go on and attempt to win out. Thankfully, the game is very well populated as I write this, and there is never a wait of more than a couple of minutes to find a team. One of the benefits of launching Day One on Game Pass, I guess!
The action we have here is a lot like the Vermintide games, in that melee combat is going to be the focus of a lot of what you do. Each class of character that you can choose from has their own starting loadout, but your melee weapon will be your best friend. Chewing through hordes of heretics with a sharpened spade is pretty awesome. But don’t panic, there are firearms available to use, all ripped from the Warhammer universe. Getting your hands on a lasgun or an autogun is pretty cool. Obviously, you have to work your way up to that, but the default guns will help you in a pinch.
However, ammo is very short in supply, so looking around and exploring is pretty vital. It’s here where there is a catch – you get a buff to your toughness if you are near your teammates, but as you wander off the beaten path, it will dwindle, and only recharge when the team is back together. Also, wandering alone is risky as some enemies will try to either immobilise you, like the Moebian Trapper, or will pin you down and not let you go, like the Chaos Hounds. The only way to get free is for your team to come to the rescue, so staying close is a very good idea.
If you do get taken out, all is not lost – as long as someone is nearby, you can be resurrected. It still isn’t game over if they can’t. Should your timer run out without being rezzed, you are captured by the enemy, capable of being freed if the team can find you. However, if everyone falls, it is game over, so be careful. The co-op action is very well designed, and Warhammer 40,000: Darktide never seems to slow down or lag, so the netcode is up to the task. Think of it like Left 4 Dead in space and you won’t go far wrong.
So, we’ve seen that the gameplay and the look of the game are all great, are there any downsides? Well, there is really only one, and it is that if you want to get hold of any of the character customisation items (of which there are many, to give them their due) you have to pay real money to do so. There’s no need to buy any of these things, but the bog standard jumpsuit soon looks a bit drab alongside all the fancy outfits other players wear… Although cosmetics in an FPS is a bit of an odd choice, as only other players can see you.
All in all, Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is a very good game stuffed full to bursting with visceral melee combat and great gunplay. The enemies are evil, which always helps with motivation, and the co-op works very well. If you can avoid the costly suits, all will be golden. If I did have one little complaint, it is that the missions do get a little samey after a while – run somewhere, do something while holding off all the baddies in the world, then rinse and repeat before escaping, after taking a boss down of course. Still, there is a lot of fun to be had in Warhammer 40,000: Darktide.