Warhammer 40,000: Darktide - Better with a Partner Review

Warhammer 40,000: Darktide by developer and publisher Fatshark—PC (Steam) review written by Pierre-Yves with copies provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 15 minutes

After having faced off against the hordes of Skaven multiple times in the fantasy based Warhammer, Fatshark has taken to the stars for a new adventure under the Warhammer 40K banner. Slated for execution, you're saved by a prison break which will, regardless of past sins, gives you one more chance to serve the Emperor as you dive head first into numerous suicidal situations. 

Before diving into anything, I want to thank both Fatshark and the PRs for the codes they provided to me to play this in co-op with Marc L. I also want to thank Robert who also picked up Darktide as well as my brother’s friends J.C. and Simon for the hours that they have sunk in beside me as we battled the hordes in this 40K universe. Finally, I want to thank my brother himself for having gotten me into Fatshark’s work all of those years ago when I saw him playing the original Vermintide which I then got to cover and start to experience the wonderful work since then.

Need to catch up on Fatshark’s work? Check out our reviews of:

And our interview with the amazing team behind it all, 

Up front, while Darktide had been an absolute blast to play, literally and figuratively, Fatshark has been hard at work fixing numerous post launch issues. Some of these issues which I have experienced first hand, include various crashes to the desktop that are often not predictable but have been solved through a variety of patches. This said, Fatshark has put an amazing feature in place which allows you, regardless of why you crashed, to instantly join back up with those that you went in with as a bot keeps your seat warm. If you decide not to? Then that spot can be picked up by someone else who’s waiting to be assigned to a match.

If there's one thing that I wish could be implemented soon, it would be the upcoming private lobbies. While it is in one way nice to have a constant four person party, at the same time, to learn the flow of certain level types it would be nice to play with bots or just those that you want to play with, and bots. The reason? Some people are simply greedy and will pick up everything regardless of if they need it or not and when you're out of ammo and they are showing that they are damned near full and carrying the supplies to fill up the rest of the party? It can cause some grumbling.

Regardless of your team composition, the “how” you play does not change. Choosing from one of four characters, these will determine your class and weapon types not unlike Vermintide. Unlike Vermintide however, you don’t need to worry about what someone else picked as everyone could be the same character if they chose to, there’s nothing locking you out from this. You also get to spend some time with character customizations to adjust your hair, facial hair, scars and tattoos so that you stand out a little bit from the crowd until the good outer gear and cosmetics come into hand.

About to go on another fun mission with Robert

After either creating your character, or choosing from a line up that you may have, you load into your hub. This hub space gives you access to a merchant for your gear, a tech priest to increase its potential and grant new perks, a paid cosmetic shop and a place to check out your bounties before heading out. Once these have all been done, there’s a large central room with an interface that will showcase all of the currently available missions. Unlike Vermintide where there was a story based progression to your missions, Darktide has taken another route where each mission is independent of one another and your “story” progresses as you level up your character’s trust.

The switch in mission types is actually one that I enjoyed as it allows for players to simply jump in and not worry about what’s come before it. Missions generally take anywhere between 20-30 minutes if you’re lucky enough to survive and are ranked from 1-5 on a malice meter. Malice 1 is the easiest and a good place to start off to understand your mission types and how to survive overall while Malice 5 you may not be seeing for quite some time!

In either case, once your mission has been selected from the table, you are then brought into a matchmaking process to load up the squad of four. If you are a party of three as I often was with Marc and Robert, then the three of us played host to a random player who was along for the ride. Darktide does have a built-in communications function to chat with other players, but chances are that if you’re like us, we used the in-game pointing notifications of Ammo, Health, Strong Enemy or thanks as the rest of us were chatting away in Discord.

Choosing the next fun mission alongside Robert

Once you’re loaded into the map, it’s game time. Set in a first person shooter interface, you’ll have access to your melee weapon, a ranged weapon, a type of grenade and a special ability. Melee weapons range from a variety of different styles such as a chain sword for some and a shovel for others. Having chosen an Ogryn as my primary character to really try the brute force approach, I eventually landed up with a giant mace and shield. Did it sacrifice a bit of power? Yes. Did it mean that I could protect everyone from the onslaught of incoming fire? Yes. So it wasn’t uncommon for me to tell Robert or Marc to simply use me as a shield as I cried havoc and let slip the dogs of war. Unless the dogs of war were charging us in which case I was yelling at them to get it off of me!

From your melee weapons there’s a decent selection of ranged weapons between all of the classes. Single shot rifles, grenade launchers, flamethrowers and basically the equivalent of a minigun. As an Ogryn going from a single fire weapon to a three burst to a oh I have 100+ bullets available before reloading? Mwahahahahaha! They basically gave you a lawnmower against the enemy hordes. And you’ll need said lawnmower as unlike a lot of other four player co-ops like this, Vermintde, Left 4 Dead, and I believe Back 4 Blood, special enemy types aren’t as OMG THEY ARE COMING! They are a lot more common and not as hard to take out, but if you’re not paying attention they will take you out all the same.

Specials in Darktide have an interesting range of both ranged and melee, and how disruptive they can be to you and the rest of the party. Melee specials can range between berserkers who are relentless and won’t stop swinging to armored types that take a different kind of effort. There are also Ogryn variants that carry shields or are completely armored making you wonder just how much is it going to take for them to finally drop. Ranged specials can have shotguns, sniper rifles or flamethrowers. 

On said selected fun mission with Robert

The other special types that can be a lot more disruptive are mutants that charge you into the ground and punch the living hell out of you or dogs that will maul you until you're dead. Finally, there are the super specials such as a Plague Ogryn or a Beast of Nurgle that have health bars and will require the party to worry about them as a unit. These are a lot more rare than the others, but when will they come out? It’s basically party time and hopefully there are enough fireworks to get the job done!

Finally, there is the stage design and I know that I’m not the only one who’s mashed the screenshot button. Some stages are falling apart with holes in the walls, holes in the floors, missing railings and you just hope that you don’t take a bad step. Then you have the grand “city center” which was a marvel to look at against the nighttime sky. Each stage looks great and the flow through these stages is well paced. I had mentioned that stages take roughly 20-30 minutes to complete and I’ll be honest that I never really noticed the time until AFTER I was done. During? I would have said 5-10 minutes tops.

Now for perhaps the icing on the Darktide cake, are some of the modifications that Fatshark have done as Darktide is not Vermintide reskinned and set in the 40K universe. Some of the core mechanics carry over, like having your melee being your primary offensive while the ranged is secondary because of the ammo count. Unless your class doesn’t need ammo, which is a bonus, more for you! But some others, not only do you continue to have health segments, but you also have a toughness bar on top of those, meaning you’re not always losing health. There’s a barrier in between making it a bit easier to hold out for much longer against the hordes of every stage.

On a different fun mission with Marc while in ultrawide resolution

From there, items like “potions” aren’t exactly present. You can pick up a medkit that can be deployed for the entire party that will heal up any missing health. Otherwise? There are med stations on every stage for full heals including the portions that have been lost either from having lost all your previous health or having lost it due to a Beast of Nurgle slobbering all over you and taking chaos damage. The “fun” part here is that these healing stations may not always be powered, you may need to find power cells for them AND they may not have enough charges for the entire party. Communication is key.

Finally, the stages themselves have different goals. It’s not always about making it from A -> B. Well, it is, but on said journey you’ll need to either scan some points of interest, collect specific canisters for extraction, hunt down a particularly nasty foe or turn off the defense systems for your forces to take the place over. So yes, it is a case of going from A -> B but the premise is not always the same and it gives a bit of variety to what you’re doing as there’s always a clear goal at the end of the line. And if the current Malice level is getting too easy? Don’t get too comfortable as the next level up always tends to be a system shock.


Overall, Fatshark's latest four person co-op, first person shooter, and hack and slash Darktide is a blast. The modifications to the core gameplay design from Vermintide and Vermintide 2, as well as the support to fix unforeseen issues, continue to show Fatshark's stride for creating great gameplay experiences.

Score: 8.5 / 10



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