When you begin Darktide, you’ll be plopped into a rather deep character creator, choosing between classes, homeworlds, upbringings, and other defining characteristics that set you up with a very unique collection of factors that make your character stand out from the onset. These affect your stats and weaponry preferences but also how your character responds to others in the game.
One thing all results will have in common though, is the downtrodden starting point. No matter what you choose, your character is basically starting from the absolute bottom of whatever life path they’re in a.k.a. “fresh meat”. This places you in a position where you must either surprise everyone with success, or prove them right with failure.
"Darktide features guns, grenades, and more technically proficient weaponry in addition to the axes, swords, hammers, and supernatural things, and I’m happy to report they all feel absolutely fantastic to use."
Opening up with a rather convenient assault on an imperial prison, your character is able to escape and begin charting their own path. After this opening mission and some brief training, the game opens up into a hub world ties it all together where you buy and upgrade cosmetics, weapons and various abilities, deal with vendors and craftsmen, agree to special contracts, and the all-encompassing mission selection terminal where you connect with others and go about slaughtering enemies across the game’s world.
Four warriors take on hordes of enemies while accomplishing various tasks like taking an object to a certain point, defending a particular area, and of course wiping out infestations. Bolstering your team by mastering your own abilities is key here, and so is upgrading your weapons as often as you can. Even though the game only requires you to complete a small part of it, I highly recommend going through the entire training list as there are some moves you might not expect in a game like this. For instance, crouch sliding is a good way to avoid enemy fire for a couple seconds and to close the distance with a ranged enemy, only to follow up with a block push that can help you inflict you some additional damage on the enemy.
Darktide features guns, grenades, and more technically proficient weaponry in addition to the axes, swords, hammers, and supernatural things, and I’m happy to report they all feel absolutely fantastic to use. The same weight you would expect from a first person action game is still here, and even translates into the guns through bassier sound effects and a noticeable impact each bullet has on your target. With that, plus an even more refined feel to the hand-to-hand weapons, I think it’s pretty fair to say this game features some of the best first-person combat. The missions themselves don’t have a lot of different types, and mostly center around assassinations and clearing out hordes of enemies, but the side goals and difficulty options within each mission do make them very repeatable and varied. Coupling that with switching out your operative ever now and then and you’ll find just enough mission variety for the price tag.
Enemy variety is perhaps one area where Darktide can occasionally feel like a step back. Not in terms of the numbers of enemy types necessarily, but just in how they feel to fight. I certainly noticed a lot of different basic humanoid monsters in my time with Darktide, but only rarely did I ever feel like they had different attack styles for fighting me, or I needed different ones for them. Just about everybody can be blown up, shot, sliced and bludgeoned with about the same effectiveness. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy doing so, but it would have been nice to get a curveball here and there.
The biggest indicator of what an enemy is going to do isn’t so much in how they look, move or sound, but in what weapons they have, and if you go by that metric, the variety of basic enemies isn’t what I would call great. There are the expected larger brutes that require more of a team effort to take down, enemies that pin you down requiring your team to help, and mini bosses of course, but that’s something that should be expected in this genre at this point, so I can’t give too much credit there.
The visual design of Darktide’s levels make it one of the most passionately designed games from this portion of the Warhammer universe I’ve seen since Space Marine back in 2011, and that’s quite an accomplishment to my eyes. The Warhammer series has had its share of ups and downs since then, but make no mistake, there is a healthy amount of excellent representations of this unique world out there, and I know what a bold claim it is to say this is one of the best. The relentless grime, rust, and intermingling of grates, pipes and other cobbling of metal and stone in Darktide are some of the most meticulously detailed and thoughtfully constructed environments I’ve seen from this franchise.
They clearly made an effort in mixing up various color palettes and elevations, and I ultimately spend far more time marveling at what is here in Darktide than noticing what isn’t. That said, despite how large these levels are, each time you visit them, regardless of the objective, you start and end them in the same places, which is perhaps a missed opportunity to make the various returns to each zone feel just a bit more different.
"They clearly made an effort in mixing up various color palettes and elevations, and I ultimately spend far more time marveling at what is here in Darktide than noticing what isn’t. "
Thankfully, my primary concern with a game like this not running well or crashing a lot around launch was pretty quickly dashed away when everything, mostly, just worked. Don’t get me wrong, inconsistent frame-pacing and some strange glitches did occur, as is often the case with these sorts of games. In particular, one extremely frustrating instance of the ending extraction point not registering my team’s presence there was quite a bummer after spending half an hour coordinating with my team and getting to the end. Outside of that though, the game worked pretty well moment-to-moment on average. No crashes, and nothing game breaking other than that one instance. So, I fully expect Darktide to be running quite well for most people by the time they play it.
Darktide doesn’t shed the trappings of this tried-and-true formula quite enough to feel like a true evolution of the genre, but its excellent combat, a finely-detailed world, and addictive progression systems are what really count in a game like this and Darktide nails those things about as well as could be reasonably expected at this point, especially for a game that is launching at a rather low price. Some occasional technical issues and an unwillingness to truly burst out of the norms for the genre keep it from reaching enormous heights, but within the confines it sets for itself, this is about as good as it gets.
This game was reviewed on PC.
Great attention to detail; Deep customization.
Mild technical issues; Gameplay isn’t particularly forward-thinking.