Earlier this year, we learned that Warhammer 40k: Darktide offers Left 4 Dead-style storytelling with over 75,000 lines of dialogue already written. Developed by Swedish outfit Fatshark – of War of the Roses, and Warhammer: Vermintide fame – Darktide is a gorgeous, gritty, and often grueling first-person action game that tasks four players with investigating a suspected Chaos infiltration on the planet Atoma Prime in the Hive City of Tertium.
This week at Gamescom though, I didn’t really care about any of that. Not because it wasn’t interesting – far from it, Darktide looks to be even more enthralling than the break-neck, wanton bloodshed of Vermintide before it. But during my hands-on time with Darktide at Gamescom 2022, all I cared about was blowing the hideous heads of scores of AI-controlled foes with an automatic shotgun. Even writing that sentence alone has made me smile.
Smile and die
I spent much of my 45 minutes or so of hands-on time with Darktide smiling. Because while I’m almost exclusively a magic-leaning, stealth or ranged combatant in games of this ilk, I filled the hulking boots of Ogryn class character Yarp – a bruiser tank type who you might have spied towering over his companions in the game’s promotional material. As detailed in an interview with Edge magazine (opens in new tab) back in May, Yarp’s eight feet-high frame proved such a pain in the neck for Fatshark’s environmental design team, that they ended up doubling the size of doorways and narrow walkways in order to accommodate the big lad.
I’m glad that they did, because I immediately put his credentials to the test as myself and three others were dropped into an early game level on the game’s second-of-five tier difficulty level. Flanked by each of Darktide’s other classes – Veteran, Zealot, and Psyker – I led the way, often rushing small groups of pithy foes with a flurry of shoulder charges and fatal blows from my steel blade. Navigating our way around an abandoned industrial complex, battles unfolded on narrow catwalks and walkways, and were almost always frantic and claustrophobic. On the few occasions when things did open up – if we fought our way into wider thoroughfares or, at one point, a cavernous, Bat Cave-like control room – I spearheaded our offense with a volley of automatic shotgun blasts. By holding down the right mouse button, Yarp is able to turn his firearm on its side as if it were a Gatling gun, and, well, you can just imagine how that goes. Again, just the thought of wiping the floor with such a move, painting the concrete walls red with the innards of my enemies… I dunno, call me a sicko, but I couldn’t fight the smile on my face if I tried.
Like Vermintide before it, more time spent with Warhammer 40k: Darktide will undoubtedly unlock its quirks and complexities in battle. As much as I enjoy wiping the floor as an OP tank in games of this ilk early doors, there is always an underlying and ever-present degree of strategy available to (and eventually required of) players should they choose. In one particular frantic bout of fisticuffs during my hands-on, my team and I faced a bigger, stronger baddie who, while not quite the same size as my best pal Yarp, posed a stiffer challenge than anything that’d come before. It was hardly the most sophisticated plan of attack, but I wound up baiting the foe down a narrow corridor before my team-mates circled and rained down from behind. All that was missing was the Benny Hill theme tune.
And so, what I loved about Vermintide, and what I already love about Darktide, is the ways in which it caters to all playstyles. Even across its meagre four classes (Vermintide had five), Darktide caters to stealth, magic, precision fighters, and, of course, steamroller tanks like Yarp who will invariably make heads roll. I can’t wait to sample more of Darktide’s other, more sophisticated classes come release later this year – but I can’t recommend breaking yourself in with Ogryn enough. Tanks have never been my go-to in Fatshark’s previous games, but Darktide has definitely turned my head, and my smile, in the best possible way.
Warhammer 40k: Darktide is due on PC on November 30, 2022, with a later Xbox Series X and S release to be confirmed.