The feeling of tension that Warhammer 40,000: Darktide invokes when your back is against the wall and a horde of howling mutants begin to close in is second to none. Twinfinite was lucky enough to participate in the closed beta that ran for the game over the past weekend. We found ourselves in many such situations, with only a trusty blade and faith in the God-Emperor of Mankind standing between us and the many, many horrors of the Warp.
A first-person, cooperative action game in the vein of Left 4 Dead or Deep Rock Galactic, Darktide is set in the grim-dark Warhammer 40k universe and casts players in the role of Inquisitorial Agents, investigating a potential Chaos cult on the planet Atoma Prime. The game will tell an ongoing story that evolves over time in a similar fashion to Destiny 2’s continuing meta-narrative.
Players can pick one of four character archetypes, each with its unique strengths and weaknesses. The Veteran is an ex-military marksman who excels at dealing death from afar, the Zealot is a fanatical melee specialist, the Ogryn is a hulking, monstrous creature capable of withstanding terrible punishment, and the Psyker uses latent psychic powers to augment friends and annihilate foes.
With three other players (or AI-controlled bots, if players can’t be found or are dropped mid-game), you will venture into the sprawling depths beneath the Hive City of Tertium, engaging in a rotating roster of missions with a large and varied set of objectives. Successful completion will earn you experience in order to further improve your character’s skills and money with which to outfit them with better gear. It’s a simple loop but a satisfying one, and there are a variety of cool cosmetic items to work towards in addition.
We played as the Zealot primarily, and thus our experience was mostly geared towards the cut-and-thrust of melee combat, although we dabbled enough with the Psyker to know that particular character archetypes seem the most unique, with its psionic powers a genuine joy to unleash.
Darktide throws a lot at you right from the get-go. Encounters can range from small-scale skirmishes, over with a few well-placed headshots, to sprawling battles that can rage for minutes at a time. While the rank-and-file cultists you will encounter can be dispatched with a single blow, the sense of scale is quite impressive, as you will often face dozens at a time, and from a first-person perspective, it’s an exhilarating experience, especially when one of the soundtrack’s pulsing, dark synth bangers kicks in.
It is in these moments that teamwork becomes essential because many characters’ abilities can act as a force multiplier, allowing you not only to resist the onslaught of Chaos but take the fight to them, as often as not. The Psyker can stun large groups with their psionic class ability, providing the perfect opportunity for the Ogryn to throw literally an entire box of grenades in order to thin out the horde, for example.
Outside of the rank-and-file cultists, you will regularly find yourself cleaving through, there are a variety of other enemy types that make combat a kind of puzzle that needs to be solved on the fly. Some cultists will wear carapace armor, making them more resilient, and others bring ranged weaponry to bear, occupying the high ground and harassing your squad. Elite units operate in much the same fashion as other games of this ilk, like the Tracker, who will sneak up on players and immobilize them in a net, or the suicidal Bombers, who will detonate upon contact.
Gunners bear heavy ordinance into combat in the form of machine guns and flame throwers, and Plague Ogryns serve as minibosses, requiring all players’ combined efforts to lay them low. Mutant Hounds will isolate and punish players that wander away from the safety of their comrades, and the sound of one closing in from behind is guaranteed to get the blood pumping.
When a player goes down in Darktide, you will have an opportunity to revive them, but failing that, they will be captured, respawning as a captive later in the level. This led to some incredibly tense emergent gameplay moments, with the sole survivor trying (and failing, sadly) to rescue their beleaguered brethren in the face of outrageous odds.
The one cause for concern we had was the prevalence of bugs present, which resulted in the usual AI issues of enemies becoming stuck or corpses clipping through the ground. But we also experienced game crashes hourly, which will surely be fixed in coming patches, but with Darktide set to launch on 30th November, we have to wonder if these issues will be ironed out in time for launch.
Despite some technical hiccups, Warhammer 40,000: Darktide is a fantastic cooperative action game that, when firing on all cylinders, is guaranteed to quicken your heart rate and have you fist-pumping in exultation after a particularly close extraction. We can’t wait to get to grips with the full game’s library of content and purge the unbelievers in the name of the God-Emperor.