Warhammer 40,000 Darktide | Review – A singsong ode to slaughter

Who I am
Pau Monfort
Author and references

That from the two Vermintide, first-person cooperative action set in the fantasy world of Warhammer, we arrived at a similar production, this time with the theater in the dark sci-fi universe of Warhammer 40,000, was something that the players hoped for. It was therefore with great satisfaction that many greeted the announcement of Warhammer 40,000 Darktide, which in the intentions of the development team, Fatshark, should have replicated the same very intense and overwhelming gameplay, with a certain focus on shooting; all, of course, embedded within the mighty mythology of Games Workshop's miniatures game and underpinned by its spectacular iconography.

It almost seemed like an easy operation, the almost reiteration of a successful formula, of that playful all action that had decreed the success of Vermintide and that it seemed could be applied to the universe of 40,000 without any effort. Evidently this was not the case and, net of the problems related to the global pandemic (the game was initially scheduled for 2021), its various postponements had somewhat anticipated it; above all, however, this is demonstrated by the not serious but widespread problems from which the production, which is now finally available, suffers.

Issues that affect the gaming experience both qualitatively and quantitatively: they don't cripple it, because the closest play, the one linked to the extermination of hordes and hordes of enemies, is always extremely glowing, excessive and enjoyable, but they limit it significantly, in a way that shouldn't belong in a finished product.

We reviewed the game with the following PC:

  • GPU: GeForce RTX 2070 Super
  • RAM: G.Skill Trident Z RGB 16GB DDR4 3200MHz
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-10750H

Expendable crew

In Fatshark's intentions, the elevation to power in Darktide of the Vermintide formula should have involved not only the gameplay, but also the outline, starting from the narrative sector. Inconvenience Dan Abnett, author of numerous novels set in the universe of 40,000, is actually served only to have vague foundations, but not a real story. It's almost all in the prologue, the one that recounts the escape of a Chaos commander from a maximum security prison: even the character you are called to impersonate is locked up there, and takes advantage of the situation to escape. However, the meeting with an Imperium officer, whose life he saves, changes his fate, and thus becomes an expendable agent. It's really all here, and from then on the evolution of the narrative canvas is practically nothing.

Here, but who are we called to impersonate? This is the first, clear difference from Vermintide, because you no longer choose between characters created specifically for the games, with well-defined aesthetics and personalities, but you create your own, using an appreciable number of options related to appearance and background. But the most important choice is, predictably, the one linked to class.

Darktide offers four, therefore already at the start one less than Vermintide, and above all there are no specializations that accompany the progression of the characters in the two fantasy games. The zealot is the most effective hand-to-hand combatant, the veteran prefers to strike from a distance, the psyker's powers allow him to kill even the most armored enemies and the ogryns can absorb quite a bit of damage: all in all, they represent a good variety of approaches to choose from, pandering to your preferred way to kill and dismember, but there are various balancing issues.

The focus is as much on the choice of the class, with related unlockable skills to choose from, as on that of the weapons (one for melee and one for range can be equipped together), since only some are exclusive. If on paper this expedient seems capable of guaranteeing even more variety, the general impression is that there are skills and weapons that are clearly more effective than others, and therefore there is a rather limited space for experimentation, regardless of which character you use, preferring a sort of power play for which, especially at higher difficulty levels, few builds are really useful.

Extermination after extermination

All of this fortunately takes a back seat when it comes to dedicating yourself to what is Darktide's most important activity, namely the shredding, shredding, piercing an immodest amount of enemies, which pours at players in overwhelming waves. These are composed of horrors well known to fans of the miniatures game, from the repulsive offspring of Chaos, simple cannon fodder, good only for numbers, to much more difficult opponents, such as armored ogryns, mutants, variously armed marauders and whoever the more he has the more he puts on.

Exterminating them alongside three other death-givers causes a visceral enjoyment, the massacre lingers with lasciviousness and cruelty, further fomented by the excellent soundtrack signed by Jesper Kyd, and in this aspect the quality of the gaming experience is even higher than the already high one of the two Vermintides. The greater use of firearms, then, adds a new dimension to the clashes, making even more varied approaches necessary, also because as the (anti)heroes are equipped, so are their enemies. At the basis of the success of each mission, however, there is cooperation with other players, because alone even the strongest character can do nothing against the enemy hordes. All it takes is minimal distraction and, especially on the higher difficulty levels, it's an instant to be blown away.

However, it is already in the medium term, after a dozen hours of play, that the limits of the structure in which the addictive gameplay is inserted emerge. The missions, although they are divided into different types, based on the objective to be achieved, are repetitive in the long run, above all because many of them share certain settings. It makes sense, because the beehive city of Tertium is the scene of the action, but differentiating them more, placing them in immediately recognizable places and not present in others, surely would have contributed to a greater feeling of variety.

The biggest problem, however, is related to the progression of the character. Up to the thirtieth level, which can be reached more or less in about twenty hours of play, new skills are unlocked (one every five levels), bits of history are revealed, new equipment becomes available in the shop. From then on there is little to do, also because some of the features that the developers had promised are missing, such as crafting.

Not only. Unlike the Vermintide, completing a mission does not result in new equipment being obtained. This can only be bought with credits you earn, but the items for sale change every hour, so if you want to try out a certain weapon and it's not available, nisba, check back later. Not exactly an elegant solution, as well as it's not at all elegant the way the real currency store is structured. Certain items are only available by spending other money, a pity that it is not possible to do it directly and it is necessary to convert real currency into a special in-game currency. Coincidentally (…) it is not possible to convert the exact amount of the cost of the most coveted items, such as bundles, and therefore it is necessary to spend more (the developers have however promised that this problem will be corrected soon).

It is a great pity therefore that Darktide lacks completeness in everything other than the extermination of enemies, which instead works very well and is almost alone worth the price of admission. Even in its sumptuous technical sector, which effectively and powerfully brings the universe of 40,000 to the screen in a practically perfect way, there are cracks, represented by an annoying stuttering both on consoles and on PC. On PC then the problem is even more relevant, given the high requirements of the game.

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