Warhammer 40K: Darktide Review — Gore God
I came into Warhammer 40K: Darktide not as neither a Vermintide fan nor a 40K fan, but just a dingus that wanted to have fun with friends. This is important to note in reading this review, because I’m not going to be comparing this to Vermintide 2 or talking about the lore or any of that.
What I am going to be doing is telling you how amazing the gameplay and presentation are, while repeatedly noting how slap-shod Darktide‘s shop and crafting systems are.
Warhammer 40K: Darktide is a hell of a game, its combination of melee and range-focused mission-based gameplay, incredible visuals, and eye-dilating gore are second to none. It’s fun, stressful, and an amazing time with friends. But Darktide is not without its issues, some of which are hard to overlook considering the game’s full release state.
You do not have a linear path of mission progression in Darktide. Instead, after you’ve finished the prologue and tutorial, you can choose any mission you like from the mission terminal provided you meet the level requirement for the difficulty. Mission selection rotates, along with available difficulties for them.
Each mission takes anywhere from 20 to over 30 minutes, depending on difficulty and how your strike team fares. Harder missions take longer, and they are far more painful.
Actually taking on the missions is, of course, the real fun of Darktide and the gameplay is exceptional. Between the four classes at launch and the myriad of weaponry, there’s plenty of variety ranged and melee weapon variety.
The Preacher: Zealot and Veteran: Sharpshooter classes are the two most straightforward of the four, the former gaining additional damage as it loses health and most suited to melee combat, and the latter being an exceptional elite killer through its ability to give vision on elites and deal extra ranged damage. It lives up to its Sharpshooter name!
While Zealot and Sharpshooter are more straightforward, the Psyker: Psykinetic and Ogryn: Skullbreaker serve the crowd control and diverse support roles nicely. Psykinetic can focus an enemy and brain burst them, as well as use staves to cast incredibly useful crowd control spells. The Skullbreaker, on the other hand, is larger and a little tankier than the other classes, and provides knockdowns and wave clear.
All four play differently, but every single one gives the immense satisfaction of tearing or blowing your enemies into bits via sheer firepower or regular old power. Each melee weapon has its own moveset, and ranged offer bracing or even special attacks alongside their keen ability to blow things to bits.
To be clear, you do blow a lot of things to bits. Or tear them to bits. Or knock them around like ragdolls. All the while, you can see the flesh tear from their body where you hit them, their limbs detach exactly where you slice them, and their bodies rend in half, spewing viscera and maggots in your destructive wake.
To say that Warhammer 40K: Darktide‘s combat is satisfying is a vast understatement. It’s the sort of thing that you encounter and can’t help but cackle or giggle in delight as you see every iota of your force utterly decimate heretics. Every single person I have played with in voice has laughed as they relished in their destructive power, and you’d be no different.
Fatshark also hit it out of the park with Darktide‘s pacing and level design. The pacing keeps you fully engaged from one encounter to the next, from one attack to the next, from one objective to the next. The only truly dull moments within missions come from waiting for Pox Hounds, Pox Bursters, or Mutants are making your way to you from ages away. Otherwise, the pacing is notably exceptional. Though Heresy and Damnation players may scoff, citing hallways of Crushers and Maulers — that, too, is part of the perpetual engagement.
The level design isn’t just a spectacle to behold, the full dreariness and grime of a hive city on display, it’s intuitive. Each map is designed and railroaded in such a way that it’s easy to just know where to go, and your strike team’s voice lines will tell you if you’re going the right way. If you’re not? That’s fine, you’ll find it quickly enough.
There is no way for me to give ample credit in words to Darktide‘s soundtrack. Jesper Kyd has composed what is probably one of the best game soundtracks of 2022. It’s a shame it will mostly fly under the radar due to the live service co-op nature of the game, because many tracks are absolutely outstanding. There could be no better music to rip and tear to, it’s just a shame that the music doesn’t get much time to shine on lower difficulties.
Why I’m Not Giving This Game A 10
So we’ve covered that Warhammer 40K: Darktide plays amazingly, it looks fantastic, and has a soundtrack to die for. Why am I not giving it a perfect score?
Despite how satisfying, fun, visually stunning, auditorily memorable, and challenging the actual game is, the non-mission portions of Darktide are an unfun, RNG-laden slog and I genuinely feel they detract from the game.
The weapons offered at the Armoury Exchange, the game’s one weapon and curio shop, rotate every hour. This is a bit similar to a system seen in Back 4 Blood, but here in Darktide it’s for weapons — and it is patently not fun to check the shop every hour in hopes of getting something worthwhile to upgrade. It is the opposite of fun to not get a worthwhile weapon from a randomized shop for days.
To compound this issue are the game’s equipment improvement and customization systems. You can upgrade weapons and curios to a higher tier using Diamantine and Plasteel, two resources you can find in missions. The problem is that the blessings and perks you get when consecrating (upgrading) a piece of equipment are random, and rerolling perks is also totally random.
Only two of the four equipment upgrade / customization options are available now, over two weeks after launch, and neither are fun or fulfilling.
The problem with these systems is they are blatantly designed to draw out the amount of time that it takes for a player to get an “optimal” build, but they’re designed in such a way that none of it feels rewarding. You always feel like you just got a little lucky, not the sort of lucky that sends your brain into any kind of dopamine frenzy. It feels lacking, and adding blessing customization isn’t going to help that.
Additionally, Darktide is quite buggy and prone to crashing. Crashes and disconnects are frequent for many players, and even those relatively free from crashing during gameplay still have the game refuse to close or think it’s crashing upon close. It’s not a good user experience on that front, and dealing with those problems is not a task for the impatient.
Warhammer 40K Review — The Bottom Line
- Delightfully disgusting visuals.
- Level design brings to “unlife” a 40K hive city’s lower districts.
- Immensely satisfying and versatile combat between the four classes at launch.
- Amazing soundtrack.
- Being at the mercy of an hourly shop timer for weapons is not remotely fun.
- The equipment upgrade / customization systems are not satisfying.
- Darktide still crashes and lags for many players, in some cases those instances being frequent.
I very much wanted to give Warhammer 40K: Darktide a full 10, I really did. I’ve pumped almost 130 hours into the game now and obviously love it. Hell, I bought four copies for people recently. Outside of the actual gameplay and visuals and sound design, Darktide is a flawed game.
No one should spend full price on a game to have it crash on them every game session, or run into disconnects every fifteen minutes. Kudos to whoever doesn’t dislike the equipment system, because they are more easily satisfied than I could ever be.
Darktide is a fantastic live service co-op FPS that is almost worth every penny. Almost. I love it to death and it’s ramping up to be one of my most played games of 2022, but it is not perfect. It’s surely going to become one of the titans of the genre just like Vermintide and its sequel, but it’s got a long way to go.