The Swedish Fatshark is back with a new co-op adventure for four players. It builds on the model in Vermintide and Vermintide 2, which in turn borrowed ideas from Left 4 Dead. This time, large mutant rats, madly salivating monster beasts, or muscular angry death warriors are not used in a dark fantasy interpretation of the Warhammer universe. In Warhammer 40,000: Darktide we get to visit a gloomy, dirty, mercilessly violent and dark future where only war and total misery reign.
Traditionally in this future interpretation we usually follow the Space Marines faction with their genetically enhanced super soldiers. Your first encounter with the world is a prologue that leads you to a sort of hub world, where here you can do everything you may need before heading out on incursions. You can buy and sell weapons, visit other important buildings, and more, I don't want to reveal too much but your time will be spent well here between missions.
The best thing about Darktide as a complete package like this initially is rather the protagonists who break away a little from the pattern of the license itself and skip the genetically enhanced Space Marines super soldiers. It was a pleasure to follow more mortal individuals with different backgrounds. You can play as a regular soldier, an individual with powerful abilities (replacing magic from previous titles), a religious fanatic, and what is best described as a large troll with a grenade launcher. The latter is called the Ogryn and is a very powerful class that can withstand a lot of damage. The Zealot can use its powers to support the team and its melee ability to dominate. Psykers, as they are also called, are a very fragile but offensive class that use "magic" to dominate the battlefield. Finally we have the Veteran who is both good in close combat and with weapons to knock out enemies. The classes have great synergy, something Fatshark has clearly become better at over the years.
These characters, whose appearance you can design, are dropped into the city to carry out missions. This can involve hacking computers, killing important targets and similar things - I didn't find the quests to be very different from Fatshark's previous works. However, the classes work a little differently and the scenery differs significantly from previous titles. I like the detail in everything from sewers, train stations and churches, and when four people are working together, this is great fun.
The music and sound design really helps sell all the slaughter. I feel that Darktide has been polished well in most of areas, and does not joke around with its hordes of enemies. You can be caught off guard by infected, special monsters, and more, and just like in Vermintide, it requires the team to work together to survive, which becomes even more clear when you try slightly more difficult missions. While I have enjoyed my matches with strangers, I immediately understood that teaming up with friends is the way to go. It is possible to play alone and with bots as your companions, but make no mistake, bots cannot replace people and rarely succeed in their mission. If you wanted a single player experience, it isn't there yet.
While I love the aesthetics, the music, the cutscenes, and the framing, I've run into tons of technical issues. For the first few days, the game crashed a ton. In the time leading up to release, the situation has improved even if there are several crashes and bugs still plaguing the gameplay.
Just like in Fatshark's previous works, the repetition sets in quite early and the experience quickly becomes monotonous. Although you can increase the difficulty (via harder missions), completing challenges to unlock costumes is not enough. Speaking of costumes, I find that sometimes it takes too long between unlocking new outfits, however, you can get around this by paying real money for the clothes in a shop in the hub.
It is clear that Fatshark cares about the brand. It's just a shame that the technology was so substandard. At the moment, I am happy with the content on offer. I have also seen improvement on the technical side, thankfully. It's dark, the enemies grotesque, and the world is incredibly well done. I think that the base experience is stronger than what both Vermintide 1 and 2 brought to the table. Despite the evolution of their concept, sessions can get a bit repetitive and monotonous after a while, but I will say that I'm impressed that the developers built in a sense of weight behind the weapons. Traditionally, many developers tend to miss it in the shooter genre, but not here. Darktide proves to me that the concept Fatshark had in mind is better in a futuristic setting, rather than in the prior fantasy scenario.