In the stark darkness of the distant future, there is only war – and war often means growling work, the absolute worst performances where it’s a miracle anyone stands at the end. Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is all about these deadly missions and the doomed souls forced to navigate them.
Darktide fits right into the Left 4 Dead-alike genre, as do developer Fatshark’s previous games, Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide and Warhammer: Vermintide 2. Four players must fight their way through a level so they can restart a cooling mechanism. at a crucial factory, kill a rebel leader or otherwise purge the heretics and Chaos demons that have settled in the depths of the vast beehive city of Tertium. There are endless hordes of mutants, as well as more powerful enemies such as Trappers, Tox Blighters and Snipers, who threaten to overwhelm the heroes.
Hero is a relative term here. Before you dive into the joy of mowing down waves and waves of heretical filth with a righteous flame, you need to create a character. Darktide sticks to the four-player formula, made up of four classes: a powerful Psyker; the pious flamethrower-wielding Zealot; a deadly sharpshooter Veteran; and the hulking Ogryn.
Half the fun of Darktide is to give the characters a spin and pick your favorite. For example, each class has a grenade slot, but they manifest differently. The Psyker can blast the skulls of her enemies from afar, the Veteran has a standard explosive grenade, the Zelot prefers stun grenades, and the Ogryn just throws a whole chest of grenades at enemies. Everyone also has a melee weapon and a ranged weapon with different strengths. The Veteran clearly touts a pulse rifle, while the Psyker, for example, just uses a simple revolver.
However, unlike most Left 4 Dead-alikes, which usually have pre-determined characters with their own scripts and abilities, there’s room to maneuver within those limits.
Before jumping into the action, there’s a prelude where players select their home world, some life path choices, and one of three archetypal personalities. Is your marksman an embittered veteran, a weary patriot or a loose cannon who has certainly committed a number of kills? This isn’t a Mass Effect-style RPG where your character has a huge impact on the world around them. They are, in fact, a small and forgettable cog in a vast system built on endless war.
However, despite their relative insignificance, it’s still refreshing to be able to choose their name and past and not be stuck with a static cast. Some characters are martyrs and victims, but others deserve this horrific prison duty for their cruel acts. My Psyker was doing everything right in her life, but when she started hearing the noisy voices of the Warp, she was declared a witch. My Zealot, on the other hand, came across a cult and tried to bring it to the attention of her superiors, but was betrayed and banned.
With four classes and three archetypes, you have 12 possible personalities to bounce off each other with barking. A particularly tough Zealot won’t be nice to anyone (because they’re all heretics) and an Ogryn can be a mindless brute or a good friend. These combinations reduce boredom after completing a level dozens of times. There are also times when two members of the same class bump into each other. It’s hard to get along in the world of Warhammer 40K, especially when some of your party members can summon demon lords with their terrible powers.
Unfortunately, the aesthetic options are not that varied – they always result in wire-haired, short-haired people with deep facial folds and textured skin. Players start out in shaggy prison garb and it takes a few matches before you start unlocking some more advanced threads. This is very much in line with the Warhammer mythos; we are not really on a spa day. But the visual options are still a let down after navigating the surprisingly complex backstory selections.
It’s also not clear if any of these fun character creation options are paying off, or if they’re just there for taste. Anyway, I’m excited to dive back into Darktide when it launches on Windows PC on November 30th. I already miss my Psyker, and even if there’s no grand fate ahead of her, at least it’s fun to brainwash and blast my enemies away.